Online learning platform Class 101 bags $26M Series B to support growth

Everything is switching from offline to online mode, spurred by the pandemic, and that also has turned around things for the creative economy. Creative professionals continue to look for ways to monetize their talents and knowledge through online education platforms like Class 101 that bring stable incomes and improve opportunities.

Class 101, a Seoul-based online education platform, announced today it has closed $25.8 million (30 billion won) Series B funding to accelerate its growth in South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.

The Series B round was led by Goodwater Capital, with additional participation from previous backers Strong Ventures, KT Investment, Mirae Asset Capital and Klim Ventures.

In 2019, the company raised a $10.3 million (12 billion won) Series A round led by SoftBank Ventures Asia along with Mirae Asset Venture Investment, KT Investment, Strong Ventures and SpringCamp.

Co-founder and CEO of Class 101 Monde Ko told TechCrunch that the company will use the proceeds to focus on hiring more talent, as well as expanding domestic business and overseas markets in the U.S. and Japan.

Ko and four other co-founders established Class 101 in 2018, which was pivoted from a tutoring service platform that was founded in 2015, Ko said. It has 350 employees now.

“We will keep supporting creators to monetize their talents and we will also allow creators to expand their revenue streams by selling their goods, digital files and more products via our platform,” Ko said.

When asked about what differentiated it from other peers, Class 101 provides and ships all the necessary tools and material “Class Kit”, Ko said.

The company offers more than 2,000 classes within a raft of categories, with drawing, crafts, photography, cooking, music and more. It also provides about 230 classes in the U.S. and 220 classes in Japan. There are approximately 100,000 registered creators and 3 million registered users as of August 2021.

Class 101 launched its platform in the U.S. in 2019 and entered Japan last year. The company opened online classes for kids aged under 14 in 2020.

“Class 101 is a company that combines the advantages of Patreon and YouTube, offering tailored support for creators while fulfilling users’ learning needs,” co-founder and managing partner at Goodwater Capital Eric Kim said, adding that it is the fastest growing company “in an economic phenomenon in which individuals follow their passions and do what they really enjoy while also making a living from it.”

#class-101, #creator-economy, #e-learning, #edtech, #education, #goodwater-capital, #online-education, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Twitter rolls out paid subscription ‘Super Follows’ to let you cash in on your tweets

After opening applications in June, Twitter is rolling out Super Follows, its premium subscription option, starting today.

The feature, first revealed in February, will allow users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. For creators, Super Follows are another useful tool in the emerging patchwork of monetization options across social platforms.

Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month, prices fairly comparable to a paid newsletter. They can then choose to mark some tweets for subscribers only, while continuing to reach their unpaid follower base in regular tweets.

Twitter Super Follows

Paid subscribers will be marked with a special Super Follower badge, differentiating them from unpaid followers in the sea of tweets. The badge shows up in replies, elevating a follower’s ability to interact directly with accounts they opt to support. For accounts that have Super Follows turned on, the option will show up with a distinct button on the profile page.

Super Follows aren’t turned on for everyone. For now, the process remains application only, with a waitlist. The option lives in the Monetization options in the app’s sidebar, though users will need to be U.S.-based with 10K followers and at least 25 tweets within the last month to be eligible.

U.S. and Canada-based iOS Twitter users will be able to Super Follow some accounts starting today, with more users globally seeing the rollout in the coming weeks. On the creator side, Super Follows are only enabled in iOS for now, though support for Android and desktop are “coming soon.”

Twitter says that Super Follow income will be subject to the standard, though controversial, 30 percent in-app purchase fees collected by Apple or Google. Twitter will only take a 3 percent cut of earnings for up to the first $50,000 generated through Super Follows — a boon for smaller accounts getting off the ground or anyone who uses the paid Twitter feature as a way to supplement other creator income elsewhere. After an account hits the $50,000 earnings mark, Twitter will begin taking a 20 percent cut.

Super Follows aren’t Twitter’s first monetization experiment to make it out in the wild. In May, Twitter introduced Tip Jar, a way for accounts to receive one-time payments through integration with the Cash App and other payment platforms. The test is limited to a subset of eligible accounts including “creators, journalists, experts, and nonprofits” for the time being.

Last week Twitter rolled out Ticketed Spaces for users who applied for the paid audio room feature back in June. Twitter’s cut from Ticketed Spaces mirrors the same fee structure it uses for Super Follows and users will be able to charge anywhere from one dollar to $999 for advanced ticketing.

The product is the latest in a flurry of activity from the social platform after a lengthy period of product stagnation. But Twitter has been busy in the last twelve months, from releasing and killing its ill-fated Fleets to finally showing signs of life on the kind of anti-abuse features many people have been calling for for years.

Giving users the ability to charge for premium content is a pretty major departure for Twitter, which mostly stayed the course until activist shareholders threatened to oust CEO Jack Dorsey. It’s also a major move for the company into the white-hot creator space, as more platforms add tools to empower their users to make a living through content creation — ideally keeping them loyal and generating revenue in the process.

#creator-economy, #creator-tools, #creators, #jack-dorsey, #mobile-applications, #monetization, #social, #tc, #twitter, #united-states

Tumblr debuts Post+, a subscription service for Gen Z creators

As Twitter launches Super Follows, YouTube adds new monetization tools and Instagram embraces e-commerce, the social media sphere is heating up with new ways for creators to make a living. Now, Tumblr is joining the fray with Post+, the platform’s first attempt at allowing users to monetize their content. Post+ is debuting today in limited beta for an exclusive selection of creators in the U.S., who were hand-picked by Tumblr.

Like Twitter’s Super Follows, Tumblr’s Post+ lets creators choose which content they want to put behind a paywall, whether that’s original artwork, personal blog posts or Destiel fanfic. Creators can set the price for their subscriber-only content starting at $3.99 per month, with additional tiers at $5.99 and $9.99. The process of making content under Post+ is the same as any other Tumblr post — all creators will have to do is check a box to indicate that the post is for paying subscribers only, whether that’s a video, audio clip, text post, image, etc.

Image Credits: Tumblr

“Not reserved only for professionals, or those with 10K followers or higher, Tumblr’s Post+ will push the boundaries of what’s considered money-making content on the internet: Shitposters, memelords, artists, fan fiction writers, all of the above and everyone in between will be able to create content while building their community of supporters, and getting paid with Post+,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch.

For millennials who live-blogged their reading of the last Hunger Games” book on its release day in 2010, Tumblr might seem like a relic of the past. Founded in 2007, the platform has gone through plenty of change over the years. In 2013, Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion, and then Yahoo was later acquired by Verizon.

Image Credits: SimilarWeb

But a massive shift came for Tumblr in December 2018, when the platform banned all sexually explicit content and pornography. A month prior, the Tumblr app had been removed from the iOS App Store after child pornography passed through the app’s filtering technology, which led the platform to ban pornography entirely. Four months after the ban, Tumblr’s monthly page views had declined by 151 million, or 29%. Since then, the platform has retained a core userbase, hovering between about 310 million and 377 million page views per month, according to SimilarWeb, though the analytics still indicate a slight downward trend. Tumblr declined to provide its monthly active user numbers, but shared that the platform has more than 11 million posts per day and 500 million blogs.

In 2019, the platform was sold to Automattic, the company that owns WordPress. Though Tumblr hasn’t exhibited significant growth since the fateful porn ban, under its new ownership, it’s exploring new ways to generate profit by creating features that appeal to its now younger demographic. According to Tumblr, over 48% of users are Gen Z. These Gen Z users spend 26% more time on the platform than older bloggers, and their average daily usage time is increasing over 100% from year to year.

#apps, #automattic, #creator-economy, #monetization, #tumblr, #verizon, #yahoo

Facebook will lure creators with $1 billion in payments

Facebook just announced plans to pay content creators more than $1 billion by the end of next year through new bonus programs designed to keep creatives plugged into its app ecosystem. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg first announced the new funding to “reward creators for great content” on his Facebook page.

The company will pay creators through a series of new bonus initiatives across Facebook and Instagram which are “seasonal, evolving and expanding over time.” The bonus programs will have a dedicated hub within the Instagram app later this summer and in the Facebook app later this year.

The company will offer the first new bonuses to creators making videos on Facebook with in-stream ads enabled. Facebook is also expanding bonuses through its Stars system, which invites viewers to send streamers tips in exchange for fan perks. Creators making videos or livestreaming games will be eligible for monthly bonuses based on how many viewers send them payments via Stars through October.

Instagram will introduce its own bonuses, which will be invite-only to begin with. Within the next few weeks, U.S. creators can collect a one-time bonus for enabling IGTV ads. Other bonuses will reward creators for making Reels, Instagram’s answer to TikTok’s short-form video success, and for hitting certain milestones in Instagram Live.

Facebook’s foray into creator payments is just the latest effort to jump-start TikTok competitor products with cold hard cash. Snapchat hands out $1 million each day to the most popular videos in its short-form video product Spotlight. YouTube has its own $100 million fund for YouTube Shorts, the company’s own TikTok clone.

TikTok itself launched a $200 million creator fund last year, though the app doesn’t seem to have much to worry about (yet, anyway). According to data from SensorTower, TikTok just surpassed 3 billion global downloads. The only other apps to have crossed that milestone are WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook and Instagram — all owned by Facebook.

 

 

#creator-economy, #creators, #facebook, #instagram, #mark-zuckerberg, #messenger, #mobile-applications, #snapchat, #social, #social-media, #stars, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #youtube

Instagram is developing its own version of Twitter’s Super Follow with ‘Exclusive Stories’

Instagram is building its own version of Twitter’s Super Follow with a feature that would allow online creators to publish “exclusive” content to their Instagram Stories that’s only available to their fans — access that would likely come with a subscription payment of some kind. Instagram confirmed the screenshots of the feature recently circulated across social media are from an internal prototype that’s now in development, but not yet being publicly tested. The company declined to share any specific details about its plans, saying the company is not at a place to talk about this project just yet.

Image Credits: Exclusive Story in development via Alessandro Paluzzi

The screenshots, however, convey a lot of about Instagram’s thinking as they show a way that creators could publish what are being called “Exclusive Stories” to their account, which are designated with a different color (currently purple). When other Instagram users come across the Exclusive Stories, they’ll be shown a message that says that “only members” can view this content. The Stories cannot be screenshot either, it appears, and they can be shared as Highlights. A new prompt encourages creators to “save this to a Highlight for your Fans,” explaining that, by doing so, “fans always have something to see when they join.”

The Exclusive Stories feature was uncovered by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who often finds unreleased features in the code of mobile apps. Over the past week, he’s published a series screenshots to an ongoing Twitter thread about his findings.

Image Credits: Instagram Exclusive Story Highlight feature in development via Alessandro Paluzzi (opens in a new window)

Exclusive Stories are only one part of Instagram’s broader plans for expanded creator monetization tools.

The company has been slowly revealing more details about its efforts in this space, with Instagram Head Adam Mosseri first telling The Information in May that the company was “exploring” subscriptions along with other new features, like NFTs.

Paluzzi also recently found references to the NFT feature, Collectibles, which shows how digital collectibles could appear on a creator’s Instagram profile in a new tab.

Image Credits: Instagram NFT feature in development via Alessandro Paluzzi (opens in a new window)

 

Instagram, so far, hasn’t made a public announcement about these specific product developments, instead choosing to speak at a high-level about its plans around things like subscriptions and tips.

For example, during Instagram’s Creator Week in early June — an event that could have served as an ideal place to offer a first glimpse at some of these ideas — Mosseri talked more generally about the sort of creator tools Instagram was interested in building, without saying which were actually in active development.

“We need to create, if we want to be the best platform for creators long term, a whole suite of things, or tools, that creators can use to help do what they do,” he said, explaining that Instagram was also working on more creative tools and safety features for creators, as well as tools that could help creators make a living.

“I think it’s super important that we create a whole suite of different tools, because what you might use and what would be relevant for you as a creator might be very different than an athlete or a writer,” he said.

“And so, largely, [the creator monetization tools] fall into three categories. One is commerce — so either we can do more to help with branded content; we can do more with affiliate marketing…we can do more with merch,” he explained. “The second is ways for users to actually pay creators directly — so whether it is gated content or subscriptions or tips, like badges, or other user payment-type products. I think there’s a lot to do there. I love those because those give creators a direct relationship with their fans — which I think is probably more sustainable and more predictable over the long run,” Mosseri said.

The third area is focused on revenue share, as with IGTV long-form video and short-form video, like Reels, he added.

Image Credits: Instagram Exclusive Story feature in development via Alessandro Paluzzi (opens in a new window)

Instagram isn’t the only large social platform moving forward with creator monetization efforts.

The membership model, popularized by platforms like OnlyFans and Patreon, has been more recently making its way to a number of mainstream social networks as the creator economy has become better established.

Twitter, for example, first announced its own take on creator subscriptions, with the unveiling of its plans for the Super Follow feature during an Analyst Day event in February. Last week, it began rolling out applications for Super Follows and Ticked Spaces — the latter, a competitor to Clubhouse’s audio social networking rooms.

Meanwhile, Facebook just yesterday launched its Substack newsletter competitor, Bulletin, which offers a way for creators to sell premium subscriptions and access member-only groups and live audio rooms. Even Spotify has launched an audio chat room and Clubhouse rival, Greenroom, which it also plans to eventually monetize.

Though the new screenshots offer a deeper look into Instagram’s product plans on this front, we should caution that an in-development feature is not necessarily representative of what a feature will look like at launch or how it will ultimately behave. It’s also not a definitive promise of a public launch — though, in this case, it would be hard to see Instagram scrapping its plans for exclusive, member-only content given its broader interest in serving creators, where such a feature is essentially part of a baseline offering.

#adam-mosseri, #apps, #creative-tools, #creator-economy, #creators, #facebook, #fans, #instagram, #instagram-stories, #media, #mobile, #online-creators, #social, #social-media, #subscriptions

Dear economy, creators aren’t fragile plants

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

For this week’s deep dive, Alex and Natasha brought on Alexis Gay, a former operator at Patreon who now makes her living as comedian and podcast host, to talk about the creator economy — including our disdain for that horrid phrasing. You may know her from her cheeky, on point shorts about tech culture (and tech Twitter).

Gay gave us an honest look into the life of creator helper turned creator actual, admitting that her current job path wasn’t possible in 2018. Somewhere, somehow, a VC in the distance heard that admittance as an opportunity to back a creator economy startup.

Here’s what we got into:

  • Gay’s experience at Patreon, and why she left. Alex had some thoughts on the theme. It appears that growing list of creator-focused tools could increase the vapor pressure of folks who write, talk, art, and otherwise create, regarding their present-day employment.
  • Why one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to the diverse world of folks engaged in creative work. We also dipped our toes into the issue of indie creators needing to be CEOs as well as artists.
  • We chatted on Vibely, a startup that wants to make interactions with creators ~ multi-directional~ and what it says about scaling time.
  • We also got into what an average day looks like for a full-time creator-comedian-podcaster, why she’s annoyed with how creators are discussed by founders and investors, and the tooling she hopes to see in the future.
  • And, well, we had to ask her if she’s starting a rolling fund too.

All told, if you care about the economics of the creative world and want to add some nuance to your theories about it, it’s a fun episode.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#alexis-gay, #creator-economy, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #patreon, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #vibely

Egypt’s Minly raises $3.6M to connect celebrities and fans through personalized experiences

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a growing trend of creators adopting digital and social media, not just as a supplement to their media presence but also as a cornerstone of their personal brand.

The pandemic has surely accelerated creator economy trends. Many popular artists and figures have had to postpone concerts and live events, subsequently using social media to carry out these activities and engage their fans. Proliferating through Western and far East markets, the creator economy bug, which has made platforms like Cameo and Patreon unicorns, is beginning to take centre stage in MENA.

Today, Minly, an Egypt-based creator economy platform, is announcing that it has closed a $3.6 million seed round to allow stars across the MENA region to create authentic, personalized connections with their fans.

The round, which Minly says was oversubscribed, was co-led by 4DX Ventures, B&Y Venture Partners, and Global Ventures. It also included participation from unnamed regional funds and angel investors like Scooter Braun, founder of SB Projects and Jason Finger, co-founder of Seamless and Grubhub. 

Experts say time spent viewing social media surpassed time spent viewing TV within the MENA region. But one shortcoming with social media is that its content often feels mass-produced. When creators make posts, it’s most times void of personalization to the different categories of fans they possess. In a way, this dilutes the fan experience and limits the extent and number of ways the creator can monetize.

This is where Minly comes in. The company was founded last year by Mohamed El-Shinnawy, Tarek Hosny, and Bassel El-Toukhy. It provides tools for creators to craft what it calls ‘authentic connections’ with their superfans and audience at scale. “In short, our goal is to eventually deliver tens of millions of unique, unforgettable experiences to fans each year,” El-Shinnawy said to TechCrunch.

Shinnawy, who brings more than 15 years of media and technology experience to the table, is the chief technology officer at Minly. He sold his first company Emerge Technology to a U.S.-based media company. He has also delivered work for Hollywood’s top studios, such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, Disney, Fox, and Warner Brothers, while playing a role in the global expansion of Apple TV+, Disney+, and Netflix to the MENA region.

Minly

Mohamed El-Shinnawy (co-founder and CTO, Minly)

Minly has experienced rapid growth since launching late last year. It has more than 50,000 users along with an impressive list of popular regional celebrities.

On the platform, users can buy personalized video messages and shoutouts from their favourite celebrities, get unprecedented access to the talent they admire most, and celebrities, in turn, connect with their fans on a deeper level. Minly has also assembled a diverse roster of celebrities. They range from traditional movie and television stars and athletes to musicians and internet influencers. Some of these popular figures include Tamer Hosny, Fifi Abdou, Assala Nasri, and Mahmoud Trezeguet.

We think that we have already differentiated ourselves from other creator economy platforms in the region. We do this by offering the best catalogue of stars and user experience. And our entire team is working hard to grow this gap even further,” said El-Shinnawy on the crop of stars Minly has onboarded to the platform

The CTO further gave instances of the connection created by celebrities with their fans. Last year, Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny made a surprise appearance at two fans’ engagement party. Actress and dancer Fifi Abdou also sent a personal message to one of her biggest fans, who has Down syndrome.

Minly takes a small commission on transactions made through its platform. However, the majority of the transaction price, a figure Minly didn’t disclose, goes directly to creators. And at the same time, Minly urges celebrities to automatically donate a portion of their earnings to partner charities on the platform.

Minly’s knack for creating a personalized experience is why Pan-African VC firm 4DX Ventures invested. The firm’s co-founder and general partner Peter Orth, who will be joining Minly’s board, said the company is fundamentally changing the relationship between celebrities and fans in the MENA region. “The team has both the ambition and the expertise to build a full-stack digital interaction platform that could change the way digital content is created and consumed in the region,” he added. 

The creator economy market surpassed $100 billion in value this year and is still growing at an impressive rate. The pace of content creation will only speed up since surveys suggest that being a YouTuber or TikTokker or the most common term, a Vlogger is one the most desirable careers among Gen Zs. VC firms like a16z, Kleiner, and Tiger Global have also heralded this growth. They have considerably contributed to the more than $2 billion invested in creator economy platforms this year.

In MENA, there’s a huge opportunity for Minly. The region has over 450 million people, of which 30% are between the ages of 18 to 30. This demography is known to have a deep connection with social media, and El-Shinnawy believes MENA will soon contribute to a large part of the total creator economy. For Minly, the goal is to capture a huge portion of that spend and become a multi-billion dollar category-leading company. The creator platform has a case to do so. As it stands, the opportunity to build a creator economy one-stop-shop in MENA is huge compared to other regions that already have multiple entrenched incumbents. Also, Minly is one of the few platforms in the region with meaningful venture funding.

“The creator economy is in its infancy and growing at lightning speed. We have the opportunity to build this category’s first unicorn in MENA,” the CTO remarked.

With this investment, Minly is doubling down on building local celebrity acquisition teams in Egypt and other parts across MENA and the GCC, where it has seen significant traction. The company will also scale its engineering team to churn out more products to build a horizontal creator platform.

#africa, #cameo, #celebrity, #creator-economy, #creator-tools, #egypt, #entertainment, #funding, #media, #mena, #social, #social-media, #tc, #video

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosts first test of Live Audio Rooms in U.S.

In April, Facebook announced a slew of new audio products, including its Clubhouse clone, called Live Audio Rooms, which will be available across both Facebook and Messenger. Since May, Facebook has been publicly testing the audio rooms feature in Taiwan with public figures, but today the company hosted its first public test of Live Audio Rooms in the U.S. The event itself was hosted by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who chatted with fellow execs and creators.

Joining Zuckerberg were Facebook VP and Head of Facebook Reality Labs Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Head of Facebook App Fidji Simo, and three Facebook Gaming creators, including StoneMountain64, QueenEliminator, and TheFierceDivaQueen.

Image Credits: Facebook screenshot

The creators used their time in the Audio Room to talk more about their gaming journeys on Facebook, what kind of games they were streaming and other gaming-related matters. Zuckerberg also briefly teased new gaming features including a new type of post, coming soon, called “Looking for Players.” This post type will help creators find others in the community to play games with while they’re streaming.

In addition, badges that are earned from live streams will now carry over to fan groups, Zuckerberg said, adding that it was a highly requested feature by creators and fans alike.

Fan groups will also now become available to all partnered creators on Facebook Gaming, starting today, and will roll out to others in the coming weeks.

Image Credits: Facebook screenshot

The experience of using the Live Audio Room is very much like what you’d expect on another platform, like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces. The event’s hosts appear in rounded profile icons at the top of the screen, while the listeners appear in the bottom half of the screen, as smaller icons. In between is a section that includes people followed by the speakers.

The active speaker is indicated with a glowing ring in shades of Facebook blue, purple and pink. If verified, a blue check appears next to their name.

Listeners can “Like” or otherwise react to the content as it streams live using the “Thumbs Up” button at the bottom of the screen. And they can choose to share the Audio Room either in a Facebook post, in a Group, with a friend directly, or through other apps.

A toggle switch under the room’s three-dot “more” menu lets you turn on or off auto-generated captions, for accessibility. From here, you can also report users or any issues or bugs you encountered.

The Live Audio Room today did not offer any option for raising your hand or joining the speakers on stage — it was more of a “few-to-many” broadcast experience.

Before today, TechCrunch received a couple of tips from users who reported seeing the Audio Rooms option appear for them in the Facebook app. However, the company told us it had only tested Live Audio Rooms in the U.S. with employees.

During the test period, Live Audio Rooms are only available on iOS and Android, we’re told.

Zuckerberg also used today’s event to talk more broadly about Facebook’s plans for the creator economy going forward.

“I think a good vision for the future is one where a lot more people get to do creative work and work that they enjoy, and fewer people have to do work that they just find a chore. And, in order to do that, a lot of what we need to do is basically build out a bunch of these different monetization tools,” explained Zuckerberg. “Not all creators are going to have the same business model. So having the ability to basically use a lot of different tools like Fiji [Simo] was talking about — for some people it might be, Stars or ad revenue share or subscriptions or selling things or different kinds of things like that — that will be important and part of making this all add up.”

He noted also that the tools Facebook is building go beyond gaming, saying that Facebook intends to support journalists, writers, and others — likely a reference to the company’s upcoming Substack clone, Bulletin, expected to launch later this month.

Zuckerberg additionally spoke about how the company won’t immediately take a cut of the revenue generated from creators’ content.

“Having this period where we’re not taking a cut and more people can get into these kinds of roles, I think is going to be a good thing to do — especially given how hard hit a lot of parts of the economy have been with COVID and the pandemic,” he said.

More realistically, of course, Facebook’s decision to not take an immediate cut of some creator revenue is a decision it’s making in order to help attract more creators to its service, in the face of so much competition across the industry.

Clubhouse, for example, is currently wooing creators with a payments feature, where creators keep 100% of their revenue. And it’s funding some creators’ shows. Twitter, meanwhile, is tying its audio product Spaces to its broader set of creator tools, which now include newsletters, tips, and soon, a subscription platform dubbed Super Follow.

Zuckerberg didn’t say during today’s event when Live Audio Rooms would be available to the public, but said the experience would roll out to “a lot more people soon.”

#audio, #audio-rooms, #broadcasting, #clubhouse, #creator-economy, #creators, #facebook, #facebook-gaming, #fidji-simo, #gaming, #live-audio, #mark-zuckerberg, #messenger, #mobile-applications, #social, #social-media, #social-software, #tc

Linkedin is the reason Apple made the M1 chip

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week was good fun not only because we had the whole team together to record, but also because we are still basking in the endless glory of our winning a Webby earlier this week. Frankly we are still shocked. But happy-shocked, like when you get a new toy and it is covered in static electricity.

Anyhoo, we had a packed show with much, much left on the floor as we tried to shoehorn the week into our time slot. Here’s what we got into:

The show flew by, much like our days recently, simply because it was so fun and jam-packed with news. And we got to make jokes about our listeners and Monday.com PR timing, so what else could we ask for? Talk soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#coinbase, #creator-economy, #criminal-justice, #decarceration, #equity-podcast, #fave, #fintech, #forbes, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #linkedin, #marqeta, #media, #monday-com, #piano, #somewhere-good, #spokn, #spot, #squarespace, #startups, #subscription, #tc, #the-hustle, #theskimm, #union, #uptrust

Pinterest to test live-streamed events this month with 21 creators

Pinterest is expanding into live events. The company is planning to host a three-day virtual event that will feature live-streamed sessions from top creators, including big names like Jonathan Van Ness and Rebecca Minkoff, among others. The virtual event will run inside the Pinterest app from May 24th through May 25th, and will serve as the company’s first public test of directly streaming creator content to its over 475 million global users.

The rise of the creator economy and a pandemic-fueled demand for virtual events led Pinterest to explore the idea of live streaming. Last fall, it began testing a “class communities” feature that allowed users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators used Pinterest’s boards to organize materials, notes, and other resources. These communities also included a group chat option and shopping features.

The new live-streamed sessions will operate a bit differently.

For starters, they’re not directing users off-site to Zoom for the sessions. Instead, users will launch the live-streaming experience directly inside Pinterest mobile app and remain there during the sessions. Pinterest users can also comment to interact with the creator during their stream, but there is no longer any shopping functionality, Pinterest tells TechCrunch.

Image Credits: Pinterest

The live streams allow up to five “guests” and an unlimited number of viewers. Meanwhile, moderators — which may include Pinterest employees, during this test — will help to control the experience. They will also have the ability to remove people from the chat if they do not uphold Pinterest’s Community Standards.

The forthcoming event’s lineup will focus a variety of topics, including food, design, cooking, style, and more.

Jonathan Van Ness‘ session will discuss morning rituals and self-care routines. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff will teach Pinterest users how to style their summer wardrobe. Others featured during the event include food creators GrossyPelosi and Peter Som, who will showcase favorite recipes; Women’s Health magazine will talk about using vision boards to achieve your goals; Jennifer Alba will show how to communicate the Zodiac through sign language; and Hannah Bronfman will offer ideas for creating an at-home spa night.

In total, Pinterest will feature around 21 creators throughout the three-day event, with around 7 different session per day. Users will be directed to the live event via a new “Live” tab inside the Pinterest app for iOS and Android, where they can view the schedule and join sessions.

Image Credits: Pinterest

x”As a visual platform, people discover billions of ideas on Pinterest every day, and we’re always looking for new ways to help them bring those ideas to life,” says David Temple, Pinterest’s Head of Creators.

Temple notes Pinterest has integrated with third-party live-streaming technologies and built its own in-house messaging systems to power live interactions.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to respond to Pinner feedback for more dynamic and timely events as new interests like cooking have emerged for many in quarantine, and trends like beauty, fashion, and home renovation are on all-time highs as we move into a post-pandemic world,” Temple adds.

However, Pinterest isn’t discussing how it views the potential for live events longer-term. For the time being, it’s not offering tools that could woo creators away from other platforms where they can monetize their fans through features like donations, tips, virtual gifts, paid ticketing, subscriptions, or brand partnerships via a creator marketplace. Without such options, Pinterest could have a hard time competing for creators’ attention.

Image Credits: Pinterest

Nearly every big tech platform today is making a play for creators, and some are even willing to throw cash at them to win them over. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter are all building out features that let creators do more than build an audience to monetize through ads or brand deals. Now, fans can send creators money during or after streams, subscribe for exclusive content, pay for access and more, depending on the platform.

New types of creator services are emerging, too, including the audio chat room experience pioneered by Clubhouse (and being cloned by everyone else), as well as dozens of virtual events startups hoping to win the market.

Pinterest’s attraction among such heavy competition isn’t clear, but the company will use this experiment to learn more about what works for its own community.

Pinterest tested its live streaming technology with employees a few weeks ago, but this will be the first time the feature will be available to the public.

While the event lineup can be viewed on the web, the live streams themselves will only run inside the Pinterest app for iOS and Android starting May 24th.

#apps, #cooking, #creator, #creator-economy, #creators, #design, #digital-media, #events, #jonathan-van-ness, #live-events, #livestreaming, #mobile-applications, #mobile-apps, #pinterest, #rebecca-minkoff, #social, #social-media, #streaming, #virtual-events

Live video platform Bright lets you Zoom with your favorite creators

What if you could Zoom with your favorite creator and ask them questions? That’s the promise of Bright, the new live video platform launching today from co-founders Guy Oseary and early YouTube product manager Michael Powers. The service, built on top of Zoom, allows fans to engage in live, face-to-face video sessions with creators, ask questions and even join creators on a virtual stage for a more personal and direct learning experience.

Though the startup has some similarities to voice chat apps like Clubhouse, as it also democratizes access to big-name talent at times, the co-founders explain that Bright’s focus will be very different. Besides being a video-on experience, Bright is solely focused on educational content — that is, learning from people who are sharing their expertise with the community. In addition, the sessions hosted on Bright are ticketed events, where the creator decides how many tickets they want to sell and how much they’re charging.

Image Credits: Bright

“Twenty percent of the content on YouTube was learning. It was the second-biggest area next to music. And that was true the first year of YouTube and it’s true now at scale,” explains Bright CEO Michael Powers, as to why Bright has chosen to focus on learning. Powers knows the creator industry firsthand, having launched the YouTube Channels feature while at YouTube, and later managed YouTube’s first revenue-generating opportunities for creators. More recently, he served as SVP and GM at CBS Interactive.

Powers says he saw how powerful educational and learning content could be, but also how difficult it was for creators earning a rev share off an ad network, like YouTube’s, to become self-sustainable.

“I watched that over the past five years, especially, as the different platforms have scaled up,” Powers says, and became inspired to launch a better way for creators to monetize their expertise. “We’ve got to empower [creators] so they can go beyond just being a personal brand or social brand, and be an actual business,” he adds.

Oseary, meanwhile, was tooling around with a similar concept, having also had direct experience with creators in the music industry and through his investments. The founder of Maverick music management company, Oseary continues to manage Madonna and U2, but these days has his hands in numerous startups as the co-founder of Sound Ventures and A-Grade Investments with actor Ashton Kutcher.

Though Oseary and Powers have yet to meet in person, they connected over the web — much like Bright’s creators will now do — to get the new startup off the ground during a pandemic.

With today’s launch, Bright is promising a lineup of more than 200 prominent creators, many from the arts, including Madonna, Ashton Kutcher, Naomi Campbell, Shawn Mendes, Amy Schumer, D-Nice, the D’Amelio Sisters, Laura Dern, Judd Apatow, Deepak Chopra, Diplo, Kenny Smith, Kane Brown, Drew and Jonathan Scott (Property Brothers), Lindsey Vonn, Rachel Zoe, Diego Boneta, Tal Fishman, Ryan Prunty, Demi Skipper, Charlotte McKinney, Jason Bolden, Yris Palmer, Cat & Nat, Ronnie2K, Chef Ludo Lefebvre and Jonathan Mannion, among others.

And it has another 1,500 creators on a waitlist, ready to begin hosting their own sessions when Bright opens up further.

Image Credits: Bright session example

Although Bright’s lineup implies it’s aiming at a high-profile creator crowd, Oseary insists Bright will be for anyone with an audience of their own — not just famous names.

“This is not elitist…If you’ve got an audience and you have something to offer your audience, we would like you on the platform,” he says.

Today, creators can go to other social networks, like Facebook Live or Instagram Live, if they want to just chat with fans more casually. But people will come to Bright to be educated, Oseary notes. And short of getting a creator to FaceTime you directly, he believes this will be the next best way to reach them — and one people are familiar with using, thanks to the Zoom adoption that grew out of the pandemic’s impact to business culture and remote work.

“The best way to connect is to use a platform that we’ve all learned how to use this last year,” Oseary says, referring to Bright’s Zoom connection. “We all already have the app. We already know how to navigate through it. We’ve added a bunch of features to make it more interesting,” he adds.

Image Credits: Bright

At launch, fans will be able to visit Bright’s website, view the array of upcoming events and purchase tickets. Some of the first sessions include Laura Dern leading a “Tell Your Story” session about personal growth; Kenny Smith will interview favorite athletes and discuss their mindsets at turning points in their careers; Property Brothers Jonathan & Drew Scott will host “Room by Room,” focused on home improvement; recording artist Kane Brown will host “Record This: Nashville Edition” about the country music industry; and Ronnie2K will host a series about building a career in gaming.

Bright’s model will see it taking a 20% commission on creator revenue, which is lower than the traditional marketplace split of 30/70 (platform/creator), but higher than the commission-free payments on Clubhouse (at least for the time being!). Further down the road, Bright envisions building out more tools to help creators with other aspects of their business — like the sale of physical or digital goods, for example.

Though there are numerous creator platforms to choose from these days, Bright aims to give creators direct access to their own analytics about their biggest fans, their content and fans’ contact information, like names and emails. This allows them to continue their relationship with their community beyond Bright into other areas of their business — whether that’s email newsletters or Shopify stores.

To make all this work, LA-based Bright has recruited a team with deep expertise in both the creator economy and tech.

This includes Bright’s VP of Talent & Partnership, Kaitlyn Powell, former head of Talent at Caffeine; Bright’s lead Creator & Product Strategy, Sadia Harper, formerly a UX Strategist at Instagram; Bright’s director of Creative Programming, Jeben Berg, previously of YouTube & Maker Studios; Design lead Heather Grates, previously of Pinterest; and Bright’s finance lead Jarad Backlund, previously in roles at Apple and Facebook.

The startup has raised an undisclosed amount funding from Oseary’s own Sound Ventures, as well as RIT Capital, Norwest, Globo and other investors.

#apps, #ashton-kutcher, #bright, #creator-economy, #creators, #guy-oseary, #michael-powers, #social-media, #sound-ventures, #tc, #video, #zoom

Mighty Networks raises $50M to build a creator economy for the masses

Mighty Networks, a platform designed to give creators and brands a dedicated place to start and grow communities, has closed on $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Owl Ventures.

Ziff Capital Partners and LionTree Partners also participated in the financing, along with existing backers Intel Capital, Marie Forleo, Gretchen Rubin, Dan Rosensweig, Reid Hoffman, BBG Ventures and Lucas Venture Group. The investment brings Palo Alto-based Mighty Networks’ total raised since its 2017 inception to $67 million. 

Mighty Networks founder and CEO Gina Bianchini — who started the company with Tim Herby and Thomas Aaron — is no stranger to building nurturing environments for community building. Previously, she was the CEO and co-founder of Ning, where she led the company’s rapid growth to three million Ning Networks created and about 100 million users around the world in three years. 

With Mighty Networks, Bianchini’s goal is to build “a creator middle class” founded on community memberships, events and live online courses.  

“Basically we have a platform for people to create communities the way that they would create e-commerce stores,” she told TechCrunch. “So what Shopify has done for e-commerce, we’re doing for digital subscriptions and digital payments where the value is around a community that is mastering something interesting or important together, and not just content alone.”

The company’s flagship Business Plan product is aimed at new creators with the goal of giving them an easy way to get started with digital subscriptions, Bianchini said. Established brands, organizations and successful creators use the company’s Mighty Pro plan to get everything Mighty Networks offers on their own branded iOS, iPad and Android apps. 

Mighty Networks — which operates as a SaaS business — has seen impressive growth. In 2020, ARR climbed by “2.5x” while annual customer growth climbed by 200%. Customers are defined as paying creators who host their community, courses and events on their own Mighty Network. The company also saw a 400% annual growth in payments, or rather in subscriptions and payments where a creator or brand will sell a membership or an online course.

The pandemic was actually a boon to the business, as well as the fact that it launched live events last year.

“We were able to help many businesses quickly move online — from yoga studios to leadership speakers and consultants — and now that the world is coming back, they’ll be able to use the features that we’ve built into the platform from day one around finding members, events and groups near them, as well as making everything via not just the web but mobile apps,” Bianchini said.

One of the startup’s goals is to help people understand that they don’t need massive amounts of followers (such as 1 million followers on TikTok) to be successful creators. For example, a creator charging 30 people for a subscription that amounts to around $1,000 a year can still pull in $30,000 a year. So while it’s not huge, it’s certainly still substantial — hence the company’s intent to build a “creator middle class.”

Mighty Networks has more than 10,000 paying creators, brands and coaches today. Users include established creators and brands such as YouTube star Adriene Mishler, Xprize and Singularity University founder Peter Diamandis, author Luvvie Ajayi Jones, comedian Amanda Seales, Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso and brands such as the TED conference and wellness scheduling platform MINDBODY.

“Content alone will kill the creator economy,” Bianchini said. “We can’t build a thriving creator movement on an exhausting, unfair dynamic where content creators rent audiences from big tech platforms, are required to produce a never-ending stream of content and get paid pennies for it, if they get paid at all. Creators need to own their own community on the internet, where members meet each other and get results and transformation.” 

Owl Ventures Managing Director Amit Patel said his firm was impressed by Mighty Networks before it even met the company.

“No company in this space has more loyal, passionate believers, and when we saw firsthand that creators could successfully build paid communities and online courses on a Mighty Network with as few as 30 members, we wanted to be a part of unlocking this creator middle class for a million more creators,” Patel said in a written statement.

The company plans to use its new capital on product development across media types, payment options and expansion into new markets. 

Earlier this month, Pico, a New York startup that helps online creators and media companies make money and manage their customer data, announced that it had launched an upgraded platform and raised $6.5 million in new funding. Essentially, the company is building what it considers to be an operating system for the creator market.

#amit-patel, #android, #author, #bbg-ventures, #creator-economy, #dan-rosensweig, #e-commerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gina-bianchini, #intel-capital, #ios, #ipad, #mighty-networks, #mindbody, #ning, #online-courses, #owl-ventures, #palo-alto, #recent-funding, #reid-hoffman, #saas, #shopify, #singularity-university, #software, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital, #video-hosting, #websites, #youtube

5 creator economy VCs see startup opportunities in monetization, discovery and much more

Everyone knows YouTubers and other creators are popular with internet users of all ages. But today, these influencers also have real businesses powered by a range of software tools and service providers who help weave videos, pictures, clips, memes and other types of content into sustainable success.

The pandemic added fuel to existing trends pushing growth in this category. Today, the platforms are bigger and more diverse than ever and many creators have years of experience growing audiences and monetizing online. Parallel to this industry, the rapid overall growth of enterprise technologies allow for many new types of creator-focused products to be built. Top investors in the space are seeing new opportunities for startups to build tools that help creators monetize and grow or solve needs that are specific to creator subverticals like gaming or coaching/education. 

For this particular investor survey, we dug through notes from the following:

The blank spaces in the creator economy

As with many industries that fall under the broad banner of tech, digital creators saw an acceleration from COVID-19, investors said. The simple fact that millions of us are inside and on our phones a lot has helped creators expand their audiences. (More on this in our digital media investor survey from the other week.)

More people also became creators. Jin noted that the pandemic has led to “people experimenting with creative hobbies and passions,” which smells like rising creator TAM from our perspective.

A broader definition of what constitutes a creator means more potential customers for startups looking to serve them, and perhaps a greater total revenue in the market could be an impact of COVID.

There are ample places for building in the creator economy, including discovery, which O’Malley cited as a key issue. “The best content doesn’t always rise to the top,” he said, adding that “incentives remain to create content that will be viral and get eyeballs” and to nab the content of others over creating net-new material.

#benjamin-grubbs, #brian-omalley, #creator-economy, #ec-investor-survey, #eze-vidra, #forerunner-ventures, #social, #tc