If there’s one thing Eric Wei wants people to know, it’s that creators and influencers are businesses.
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He’s right about that, as many creators who started making videos or creating other content as a hobby can now rely on their content, sponsorships and partnerships as their main source of income. The influencer marketing industry is expected to be valued at up to $15 billion by 2022, according to a 2019 Business Insider Intelligence estimate.
“Once you start to get sponsors, you’re a business,” Wei said in an interview with Crunchbase News.
The idea for Karat stems from Wei’s experience as a product manager at Instagram Live. He used to work with hundreds of creators and influencers who were skilled at growing their followings, but didn’t have traditional business products that worked for them. Banks didn’t understand the creator economy and were using traditional metrics like FICO scores to evaluate influencers, and were giving them low credit limits, Wei said.
“Influencers are actually businesses, and with the same business pain points as everybody else, but banks don’t understand them,” Wei said.
What Karat does is ask for a creator or influencer’s social media handle, then assesses their financials using Plaid. With a social media handle, Karat can evaluate a creator’s reach, engagement, type of content and platform, and other metrics. It uses that combined with financial information to determine credit limits.
The card is a starting point, but Karat eventually wants to offer a whole suite of financial tools and services for creators, such as bank accounts, help incorporating, help with taxes, etc. The fintech ecosystem has matured to the point where Karat’s able to do this, Wei explained.
And certainly niche credit cards have been well-received by Silicon Valley–just look at Brex, known for being the credit card for startups.
“We think that no matter what type of creator you are, and you could be making money any number of ways, but that financial business backbone is what we’re building,” he said.
Karat controls the underwriting, product experience, credit limits, rewards and risks, while a partner bank actually issues the card.
Through private beta Karat has signed up creators with millions of followers like TheRussianBadger, Nas Daily and TierZoo. The company has worked with more than 70 creators and influencers so far.
Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias