Download database with 300+ creator-focused startups
The creator economy consists of over 303 million creators and 300+ startups. These startups offer tools, platforms, products, and services that help creators launch their careers and turn their side hustles into businesses.
From managing finances and live stream shopping to selling courses and making music – you name it, there’s a startup for it. So let’s take a look at which startups are influencing the growth of the creator economy, both in numbers and in funding.
Top 10 Creator Economy startups in 2022 thus far
These are in no particular order.
On Komi is a fully-customizable landing page builder for creators of all niches and sizes with an additional link-in-bio tool.
Pearpop lets brands instantly collaborate with the most relevant creators across TikTok, Instagram and X at the click of a button
Creative Juice offers financing and custom-made banking tools for creators. Creators can send invoices, track their spending and earnings and get cashback when spending.
Karat offers customized financing, rewards, and support to creators so they can access and save more money as they grow.
ConvertKit is an email marketing platform where creators can promote their products and grow and monetize newsletters, books, music albums, podcasts, etc.
6.Hashtag Pay Me
Hashtag Pay Me is a dynamic sponsored post calculator. Creators can find out what brands are paying for their campaigns in real time and calculate how much they should charge.
On Kajabi, creators can build, market, and sell their online courses, coaching classes, and memberships. It provides a dashboard with the creators’ website, social media, communities, etc. all in one place.
With Discord is a messaging app where users can send text, video & voice messages privately or in communities called servers.
Spotter is a startup that gives YouTubers upfront cash for the rights to their backlog of videos for a specific period.
Kick is a rapidly growing live-streaming platform that encourages Creators to express themselves freely and produce outstanding content suitable for a thoughtful and mature audience.
A backstory: Funding in creator economy startups over time
The creator economy is far past what it was 10 years ago. Creators, startups, and the space as a whole have become a $104.2 billion industry. This has led to millions of new job positions that have never existed before.
For perspective, here’s an updated version of a chart by Gumroad of how the value of the creator economy has risen through the years. That last column wouldn’t even fit your screen if it was made realistically.
In 2012 the creator economy market was worth a “mere” $600.000. This was back when Facebook and Tumblr were amongst the only platforms that were poppin’. Instagram was just starting to make its way to the top.
New platforms had emerged over time, ones that offered more options for content creation:
- Snapchat (image and video chat app) – founded in 2011,
- Gumroad (marketplace for digital products and online courses) – founded in 2012,
- Patreon (exclusive content for users with paid subscriptions) – founded in 2013,
- Discord (chat app for building an engaged community) – founded in 2015,
- Tiktok (short-form video sharing app) – was founded in 2016, and so on.
Aside from content creation tools and social media platforms, creators needed tools that help them go from content creator to solopreneur. Content creation became only one part of the full creator success picture.
With this came the birth of platforms and tools that help creators manage projects and finances, track analytics, build communities, etc. This is where VCs took note of what was going on in the creator space.
As you can see from this chart by CBInsights, there were only 16 disclosed deals in creator economy startups in 2016, with a total valuation of $109 million. There’s a steady rise in the number of deals and the amount that was invested from that point to 2019. Then, in 2020, The Global Event That Shall Not Be Named happened and the creator economy exploded.
Among the top investors and VCs in the creator economy are:
- Next 10 Ventures – investments in Koji, Stir, Influence.co, SuperBam, Podcorn, and Kollyde;
- Index Ventures – investments in Patreon, Discord, Dubsmash, Fanbase, Gather, Creative Juice, Sanlo;
- Andreessen Horowitz – investments in Pietra, Maven, Roblox, Clubhouse Substack, Rally, and Teespring; just to name a few.
The impact of the Pandemic on Creator Economy startups
When the Pandemic hit in late 2019-early 2020 and the whole world shut down, creators and creator economy startups grew to a massive extent. With everyone being stuck at home, the usage of social media platforms grew.
Tiktok saw the most growth in monthly usage through the Pandemic with 38%, or 189 million new users joining the platform. In second and third place are Pinterest and Reddit, with 32% and 30% growth. Following in order are Facebook (19%), Snapchat (17%), Instagram (16%), LinkedIn (13%) and Twitter (8%).
This was a perfect opportunity for creator economy investors to double down and start huge funding rounds.
In 2020, there were 62 disclosed funding deals, with a total value of $464 million. And in 2021, the number grew astronomically, with a total investment of $6 billion from January 2021 until today.
From that point on, the creator economy became an important part of the overall global economy.
A drop in funding: What’s happening in tech?
A big shocker for the creator economy was that funding had dropped 30% in the first quarter of 2022. Many people expressed their concerns, saying that the creator economy is dying.
This is a problem in the tech industry as a whole, not just the creator economy.
There were over 150,000 layoffs in tech in 2022. Over 55,000 people have been laid off in January of 2023 alone and this is an “optimistic” calculation.
Tech giants were the most affected. Alphabet laid off 12,000 employees, Microsoft 10,000, and Amazon 18,000.
To bring more clarity to this topic and what this means for the creator economy I talked to our Co-founder and CEO, Nikola Sokolov.
He’s been running our startup, Influencers.Club for 3 years now and has been in contact with many companies mentioned in this article.
So we have in-depth information on the subject.
Here’s what Nikola thinks this situation will bring in the future.
“I agree with everyone that yes, there will be less VC money (if any at all) in the following months BUT whoever survives will come out of this stronger. Here is why.
People cope with recessions, layoffs, and pandemics on the internet. (Source from the 2009 recession). And we all know that the majority of time spent on the internet is time spent on social media. Time spent on social media means more content consumption which means more “creator time”.
Moreover, brands will shift from FB / Insta / TikTok advertising to creator / micro-influencer marketing. If you ever tried it, it makes a TON of sense ROI-wise. Yes it’s harder, yes it takes more time to get it right but other than Google Ads, creators can make a difference in a business.
This in fact will create the game-changing part: We’ve all been saying that there is no “creator middle-class”. Well, guess what, micro-influencers will be cheaper and much more open to doing brand partnerships. And much, much more ROI positive. There is your middle class.
Now this will delay the transition to creators having their own businesses and earning money through sources other than brand partnerships but they will still get paid, and even more, if you ask me.
Finally, people who are being laid off will maybe, finally, give it a go on that YouTube channel they always wanted to start or LinkedIn posts they always wanted to write. So I expect the number of creators to rise as well.”
The economic downturn made investors pull back. Funding continued to drop throughout the year, down to 50% from the previous year.
Q4 of 2022 was by far the worst quarter, marking the sixth sequential drop in quarterly funding,totaling only $274 million.
Many creator economy startups got acquired, like merch company Spring, influencer marketing platform Dovetale, and subscription service Fanfix.
And unfortunately, some were shut down, like digital storybook platform Kangaroo, video meme app Neverthink, and fan monetization platform Notify.
Early signs in 2023 indicate a potential recovery in funding. A stable global economy and growing investor confidence are positive indicators. Adaptable startups from 2022 are now in the spotlight.
In 2023, many new startups are emerging. These startups offer a range of tools for creators, including AI-based content creation and platforms for selling products.
Big companies like Alphabet, Microsoft, and Amazon are putting more money into tools and platforms designed specifically for creators.
2023 is an important year for the creator economy. Despite challenges from 2022, there’s optimism for the future. The success of creators and their tools will define the next steps.
Which creator economy startups got funding in 2023 so far?
Even though funding had dropped, there were still some major investments that happened:
Karat Financial – $40 million Series B equity round, led by SignalFire; $30 million in debt financing from TriplePoint Capital.
KOMI – $12 million funding, led by RTP and Third Prime, with participation from Sony Music and Live Nation.
DICE – $65 million funding round led by MUSIC, with participation from Structural Capital, Ahdritz Holding LLC, Exor Ventures, and Mirabaud Lifestyle Fund.
Lex – $5.6 million seed funding round led by Stellation Capital, with participation from Slauson & Co., Hope Lab Ventures, Best Nights VC, Great Oaks, Graph Ventures, and others.
Runway – $141 million extension to their Series C, with participation from Google, NVIDIA, Salesforce Ventures, and other existing investors..
Story Protocol – $54 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Samsung Next, Hashed, Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media, and others.
FirstMate: $3.75 million in funding led by Dragonfly Capital, a tool for NFT creators.
BandLab: $25 million Series B1, led by Cercano Management
Pocket FM – $16 million debt funding from US-based Silicon Valley Bank.
TalkShopLive – $7 million additional funding at an $81 million valuation, from investors including Spero Ventures and Progress Partners.
All of these startups secured funding in 2023. Other startups on the list include influencer marketing platforms, media companies, financial services, and crypto marketplaces:
- OpenSea – $300 million Series C, led by Paradigm and Coatue Management;
- FlyFin – $8 million Seed funding, led by Accel;
- FYMP – $1.35 million Pre-seed funding;
- Impact – $150 million Series A, led by Qatar Investment Authority;
- Topia – $5.6 million Seed funding, led by Seven Seven Six;
- Genies – $150 million Series C, led by Silver Lake;
- Lumanu – $12 million Series A, led by Origin Ventures;
- Almost Friday – $6 million Seed funding, led by Tim Armstrong, Robert Greenhill, and Sharp Alpha Advisors;
- Doing Things Media – $21.5 million Series A, led by Volition Capital;
- Popchew – $3.6 million Seed funding, led by Long Journey Ventures;
- Pietra $15 million Series A, led by Founders Fund;
- Spring – $55 million Series B, led by Khosla Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
So even though things are looking bleak, no, the creator economy is not dying.
Emerging trends in creator economy startups
Amongst the many creator economy startups emerging every day, there seem to be trends that correspond with the biggest pain points of today’s creators: how to best monetize, how to best manage a creator business, and how to best distribute content.
It seems that when it comes to monetization companies have a long way to go. With all the added monetization features, creator funds, and brand deals, many creators still struggle to earn money. So much so that 46% of full-time creators make less than $1000 a year. Come on, we can do better than that!
Some creator economy companies are actually doing better, and are developing creator tools and platforms to make monetization a whole lot easier.
Platforms like Pearpop offer a Tiktok and Instagram marketplace where creators can collaborate with others on content creation, and get paid while doing it. One platform that’s allowing creators to connect with their loyal fans and earn money is Fanhouse.
As more of these creator platforms and tools emerge, creators won’t have to rely solely on big-name social platforms for their earnings. They enable creators to maximize their earnings and offer alternative ways of monetizing.
Managing the back-end of a creator business is one of the most important and challenging aspects of it. Being a creator now is so much more than just creating content.
For that reason, creators need tools to manage their finances and projects, track analytics, organize tasks, and juggle multiple platforms.
Platforms that offer financial services are becoming more and more popular as they’re closely tied with how creators make money. Monetization and financial management go hand in hand.
They are also popular among investors, as some of the biggest investments were in this type of startup.
An example of this kind of startup is Stir, a platform that lets creators track their finances and pay their collaborators and employees instantly. On the operations side, Passionfroot offers creators tools to not only manage finances but also maintain customer relations and track sales.
Content distribution tools
Content distribution has become more important as creators diversify their presence on multiple platforms. Optimizing content for different platforms, and in different formats is not as simple as people think.
One startup, Jellysmack, thought of this, and now helps Youtube creators earn additional ad revenue by redistributing their videos onto other platforms. Startups like this were created for different types of content.
UnitedMasters offers music distribution services for independent artists, Polarr provides software that enables creators to create and distribute filters to their fans, and FilmHub helps filmmakers distribute their content to streaming channels.
A final note
What we’re seeing right now is just the tip of the creator economy iceberg. As the creator’s needs and challenges change, new tools will be created. With more creators and startups joining the space, investors and VCs will follow suit, pouring even more money into this space but more carefully than before.
Who knows what will come next in the creator economy? We’re already seeing the next generation of startups take their stand. And for the foreseeable future, I believe we can expect creator economy startups to keep rising and come up with products that will make the creator space even more amazing.