2013 YouTube was a different breed. This was a time when YouTube wasn’t exactly ubiquitous but wasn’t unheard of either. Creators were frustrated because despite bringing prolific ideas to life and having hundreds of thousands of views on them, only a few hundred bucks were hitting their bank accounts. Jack Conte was one such creator working 18-hour days for months on creating music videos and maxing out his credit cards. His next big project at the time - Pedals music video - was expected to cost him thousands of dollars which would take years to recover from the little that he made from ad revenue.
So, in February 2013, Jack came up with an idea and believed that there was a small subset of his audience who would be willing to help him directly - his ‘patrons’. But he couldn’t have built a platform on his own and so he reached out to his old Stanford roommate, Sam Yam. At the time, Sam himself was tinkering with an idea for a startup after having scaled a couple of successful startups himself namely Loopt which was acquired for $43 million, and AdWhirl which was eventually acquired by Google.
March 2013, Conte and Sam are sitting in a coffee bar in San Francisco. Conte’s idea struck Sam immediately and knowing Jack was a creator himself, Sam knew that he was solving his own need, giving Jack’s entrepreneurial stride an edge. Things started to look good after Jack created his own Patreon page and uploaded his ‘Pedals’ music video on YouTube with a heartfelt message at the end urging his supporters to directly pledge some amount so he could continue pursuing his craft and still make a living.
And this was the moment. As he’d hoped for, his fans responded with encouragement and he ended up making over $5000 within the first week. This news spread like wildfire and more people signed up for the platform, eventually kickstarting the beginning of Patreon as it stands today. Soon enough, Jack and Sam - who now became equal part founders in this initiative - started discussing funding for a much larger undertaking.
In June 2013, Freestyle ventures invested $700,000 in Patreon as seed capital. A lot of other folks saw this sudden raise as a potential new wave of digital platforms that elevates the creator economy by crowdsourcing finance. The fact that Jack himself used his platform to generate thousands of dollars from his audience, gave people a sense of trust in where this startup was headed.
The founder duo quickly gained popularity in Silicon Valley, garnering the attention of top VCs and investors. Patreon ended up raising $2.1 million as a part of their Seed round alone. For quite some time, Jack and Sam were the only ones working despite having raised capital but it wasn’t long before they started building a team. Today, Patreon has close to 400 employees and has raised $413 million in 9 rounds of funding. Also, Patreon is home to over 250,000 creators supported by more than 8 million patrons who’ve helped creators earn over $3.5 billion.
Raising so much capital makes it seem like a cake walk but only the founders know what it takes. CEO Jack credits 3 major differentiators that fueled Patreon’s unprecedented growth -
A lot of creators would agree that they wouldn't still be doing what they’re doing without a platform like Patreon that directly connects them to their supporters. In a way, Patreon brings creators closer to those who mean something to them and fosters a sense of community among them. When a patron donates to their favorite creators, it’s more than just about money - it represents importance, relevance, and is a direct indicator of how much they value the creator’s work or craft. It also serves as the backbone of a creator’s inspiration to continue what they’re doing.
Patreon has an official creator community on Discord with over 13,000 members. And this is not a product support community and neither a place for creators to connect with their supporters. This is a place for creators to connect, collaborate, learn from, and support other creators on Patreon.
You can get access to some of the biggest creators on the internet who leverage Patreon to crowdsource funding. Network with them, ask questions and learn newer ways to do what you do. Also, get product announcements, attend workshops, events, and more.
It’s difficult to build a creative business that’s successful and Patreon events aim to help make it easier for creators and all those who’re aspiring to become creators. You can find events and experiences to connect with other creators, learn from industry leaders, and develop new tools to boost your business. Take part in events, demos workshops, and more.
For example, Patreon Connect is an event series designed to introduce creators to the people behind Patreon.
There’s also Patreon Pull Up where you get industry-leading creative partners who share their stories and creative journeys with you. The Pull Up sessions are full of featured guests, special performances and community connections featuring amazing creators and artists.
Patreon A. Club is an initiative of small peer groups created by creators, for creators. The “A” stands for accountability. A. Clubs are a place for creators to connect, support each other, and learn together. They are safe spaces to be authentic outside of the daily self-promotional hustle to share strategies, ask for advice, or work on projects together.
Patreon University is for all things education. Whether you’ve been creating on Patreon for years or are just getting started, you can learn anything and everything.
“Patreon is here to give control back to artists so it doesn’t need to be a hard conversation when a kid tells their parents they want to be a musician or a photographer or a comedian,” Conte says. “It should be the same as wanting to be a doctor or a lawyer. Living in that world would be an amazing, awesome thing and we’re getting there with Patreon.”
Why Patreon is trusted by hundreds of thousands of creators is because there’s a creator who’s on top of it. Conte intrinsically understands the needs of artists and does what’s best for them. Working in a capitalist-dominant world where most decisions are driven by financial gain, it’s extremely easy for an experienced engineer and an artist turned entrepreneur to turn the other way and make all the money in the world. But that’s not what they want. At heart, the fundamental of Patreon’s existence is to give creators a platform to earn a living from their fans. And the founders have stayed true to this, even after becoming a billion-dollar company. In fact, Conte still takes out time every year to play with his band 'Pomplamoose' and 'Scary Pockets' so he doesn’t lose who he really is.
For the space they’re catering to - the creator economy - community is vital for moving things forward. Patreon’s mission to inspire more creators is more than just giving them a money-making platform, but a community to learn, grow, connect, and collaborate with other creators. Content creation and content consumption will continue to dominate our digital world and community will be at the center of it.
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