Patreon Is The Unicorn Changing How Content Creators Get Paid

Patreon is the San Francisco startup that’s been helping independent content creators — from illustrators and podcasters and everyone in between — to finance their pursuits by charging fans a monthly membership to access exclusive content. Those memberships can span paywalled posts, private discussion groups, merchandise, and almost anything else creators can dream up.

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"The heart of what we do is rooted in driving the creator economy forward by giving creators the space and resources they need to create a world for their expressions and members," says Jack Conte, CEO and co-founder of Patreon. "Eight years later, The Second Renaissance is here and our creators have successfully built independent businesses generating $2 billion directly from the people who love what they do. There has never been a better time to be a creator, and we're just getting started."

Patreon has made its money by taking a cut of that revenue. In April, the eight-year-old startup announced that it had raised a Series F financing round of $155 million, led by new investor Tiger Global Management, with participation from Woodline Partners and previous investors Wellington Management, Lone Pine Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Glade Brook Capital, and DFJ Growth. This brings the company's total valuation to $4 billion. The company also ranked 48 on this year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list.

While social media influencers on platforms like Instagram and YouTube stars can receive big payouts, for most creators, Patreon enables them to connect directly with a paying audience without relying on the internet’s trillion-dollar gatekeepers like YouTube parent Alphabet and Instagram parent Facebook, which keep most of the advertising-generated revenue.

It may not come as a surprise then that Patreon was founded by former YouTube creators. The company is part of a wider trend influencing many creative endeavors, including journalism, where Substack has emerged as a way for journalists to be rewarded for their work through subscriptions and leave behind bigger media organizations.

This year, Conte also announced a slew of new changes for the platform with the appointment of Tiffany Stevenson as Chief People Officer and Julian Gutman as Chief Product Officer. Gutman is a former Instagram product lead hired to “make Patreon the best product in the world” for creators and users by overhauling the existing product and adding new features.