Venture

Patreon And Substack Raise Millions To Create Marketplaces For Digital Creators

Making money as an independent writer, videographer, podcaster—or just a creator of any sort—is notoriously difficult to do.

Even if a creator has a large following already, turning that into a sustainable cash source is often difficult from a technical perspective: building your own website, handling payments, creating a membership forum, and sending out promotional materials is a full-time job on top of building an audience and continually creating the content the audience wants.

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Thankfully for those creators, two popular startups that handle all the annoying, fiddly bits of making money from an audience have raised piles of fresh cash.

Patreon

Patreon, a platform that offers a paid membership program for creators, announced today a $60 million Series D. Founded in 2013, we could consider Patreon’s Series D modest compared to other startups of similar stage and age. After all, it’s not terribly uncommon for late-stage startups to raise $100 million or more. Still, Patreon, inclusive of this latest round, has racked up $165.9 million in announced venture funding, according to Crunchbase. Its last round, announced in 2017, was a $60 million Series C.

The money, according to a company blog post, will continue to expand to new product offerings, such as ensuring that those who pay for exclusive content are the only ones getting it. Furthermore, TechCrunch reports that Patreon will offer creators the ability to brand their pages, as well as a focus on international expansion by opening offices “in Dublin (Ireland), Porto (Portugal), and other locations yet to be finalized.”

According to a company blog post, Patreon has paid out over $1 billion to creators on its platform. But it’s not the only game in town for creators to mint some coin off audiences, especially if you’re a fan of emails.

Substack

Blogging platform and easy-to-use email newsletter platform Substack announced that it has raised new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. The new capital, a $15.3 million round, includes money from Y Combinator, a previous backer of the firm.

That’s a lot of money for a small team that has, per the company’s own announcement, “spent the last year working out of [a] living room in San Francisco.”

Substack claims to have 50,000 paid subscribers to the various email newsletters on its platform. Presuming a $5 per subscription average price point (we made it up), Substack is sending $3 million annually to email newsletter curators before fees and the rest. That’s modest, but I suspect growing quickly.

And given that Substack has become the defacto home of a whole crop of journalists and other writers (Twitter built a similar moat), it finds itself freshly into the middle of the conversation perhaps in a way that we haven’t seen in a publishing platform since the early days of Medium. If Medium will work out is still an unclear wager, but Substack, with its heart set on helping people make money from their writing, has a commercial theme running through its work that could help it keep monetizing as it grows.

Make that money, Substack, we dig your service. Evidence? Certainly. Here’s my personal Substack for example, and here’s Natasha’sHolden and Jason are holdouts on other services, but as we can see, the market could be tilting.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.

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