The burgeoning landscape of creator-led enterprises has become increasingly prominent in recent years, spanning retail enterprises such as Prime Hydration and Neutonic, to the more common, digital product or service offering, such as an online course. The old model of product first, and marketing second is now being tested, with the influencer-driven model facilitating a swift market entry, enabled via a pre-established audience and brand image, thus obviating the need for substantial initial marketing expenditures. Of course, celebrities have been used as marketing tools for many years, however, it is only more recently that they have taken such an active role within the business and that the value and opportunities of a following have been realised.
This insurgence has not gone unnoticed, with Goldman Sachs publishing an article in April which predicts the creator economy to almost double in size from $250 billion to $480 billion in the next five years, fuelled by advertising expenditure. However, something overlooked by this article is the movement towards creators monetising their audience via their own products, and not relying on income from brand deals, with this movement creating huge opportunities for businesses to aid creators in doing so. The leading creator monetisation agency is called Genflow, which has worked with hundreds of creators such as KSI, Logan Paul, Mike Thurston, and Ali Abdaal to monetise their audiences via a personal venture. Their service provides fully-fledged custom businesses tailored to the creator’s desires, having created clothing brands, energy drinks, and fitness apps, Genflow currently sits at a valuation of over $100 million, highlighting the growing desire from creators to diversify their income and build out their offering.
Moreover, stemming from the growth of the Creator Economy, several venture capital-backed start-ups have emerged that focus on helping creators expand and monetise, namely Karat and Stan. Y Combinator-backed Karat has raised over $100 million in funding to date, founded on the realisation that creators were being denied credit by commercial banks due to a lack of understanding, Karat offers credit and accounting services tailored to creators' needs. Furthermore, a recent partnership with Visa signals good future growth prospects for Karat as they can expand their credit offering, allowing creators to, “build a history of credit” as the founder Eric Wei stated. Moreover, Stan offers an all-in-one monetisation solution for creators, allowing them to create a personalised, multi-faceted store including the ability to create courses, manage calendar bookings, offer coaching calls, and more all on one page you can link from your social media. Despite its nascent stage, Stan, with over $5 million in funding from Forerunner Ventures, has achieved a noteworthy $9 million ARR in profit, epitomizing the growing opportunities for both creators and businesses within this space.
Continued growth within the Creator Economy is likely to be seen over the coming years, both in businesses like Karat and Stan who are focused on aiding this industry but also in “Solopreneurs” who leverage their audiences to create a living, as doing so becomes easier with technologies like Stan and agencies such as Genflow. However, the surge in creator-led businesses could potentially breed a general distrust in creators if offerings lack meticulous consideration, differentiation, or value. Therefore, although the number of creators will increase, the biggest gains will accrue to those capable of delivering a unique, high-quality offering to their audience, whether in the form of specialized knowledge encapsulated in an e-course or a tangible product facilitated through partnerships with agencies like Genflow or entrepreneurs, such is the case of Prime Hydration.