The New Creator Economy: A guide on Web3 creator platforms
The power structures of the creator economy are rapidly changing - creators are now in the driver’s seat, being offered the opportunity to have greater individuality than ever before through Web3 creator platforms.
When we think of content creators, examples include YouTubers and TikTokers creating content for their fans. This often results in limited revenue opportunities such as merchandise, subscriptions, ad revenue or tipping which, in practice, is only sustainable for the top 1% of creators who have amassed large followings. Today, creator platforms are taking too much income away from the actual creator - they do not provide options for creators to be discovered through their algorithms and few provide direct ownership where all stakeholders have a financial upside based on their contributions. This is, we believe, the next iteration for the category - a substantial shift since we published our first edition of the creator economy report in 2021. Creators are no longer just the product - they are the new economies.
The opinions expressed in this report are our own, a product of research and discussions with creators as well as investors. This report aims to provide readers with guidance and suggested frameworks with insights into this New Creator Economy.
In this report on the creator economy, we aim to provide a brief introduction to the history of the creator economy and an overview of its latest developments to where we are today with the introduction of Web3 creator platforms. Included in the piece is an industry mapping of 140+ of the latest creator economy platforms and in addition, a dataset of investors who are investing in creator startups within this space (including stage, geography and cheque sizes). Finally, we share some thoughts and predictions on where the creator economy might go next.
What is the creator economy?
The creator economy consists of people who, just like any of us, have a hobby that becomes monetizable. For platforms, they are the tools that allow creators to make an income from doing what they love. Since we published our first edition of the creator economy, billions of dollars have been invested in the space by some of the most prominent investors including the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, Bessemer, Northzone and Lightspeed. Additionally, creator platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and TikTok have launched their own creator funds who are providing tools as well as resources to entice creators to partner with them. However, the problem many creators have faced over the years is the ability to have stable financial upside from all the effort they have contributed towards the platforms and the millions of users they are driving to them as a result, as discussed in Antler’s recent deep-dive, The Attention Economy. However, this is now changing.
Why becoming a creator will be a career option for many
Over five billion people currently use the internet. Of those, 93% are using their mobile to access the internet, spending in the region of seven hours online daily across several different media platforms.
In addition, a staggering 29% of American high school students have “creator” as a preferred career choice - they want to be their own boss by immersing themselves in a world where they love creating content for their fans and make income from it, anywhere in the world. The 9-5 job is not as popular anymore.
Creator economy market sizing: How big is it?
Today, the creator economy market has reached an outstanding US$104.2bn. The same research also states that one billion people will self-identify as a creator over the next five years, all of which is supported by investors pouring a record US$1.3bn into the creator economy space in 2021 alone.
However, the creator economy category is still very much one-sided, where creators are not being fully compensated for their efforts. As an example, the average YouTuber with one million subscribers only earns US$60k in annual advertising revenue and only about 0.2% of the more than seven million musicians on Spotify make more than US$50,000 a year in royalties. It’s time to properly compensate creators and to make this a more transparent, fairer economy.
The New Creator Economy: A Community-owned Ecosystem
Platforms are becoming community-led where both creators and their audience members have the opportunity to have greater upside based on their contributions.
Before we start exploring the next iteration of the creator economy, through the lens of Web3 platforms, let’s take a step back and explore the history of the creator economy since the inception of the internet.
Web1 | The Information Economy → Content consumers (1985)
Web1 refers to the first version of the web: read-only. Also called ‘The Information Economy,’ Web1 examples are static web and personal sites, where the users’ role was mainly limited to reading the information provided by a few content producers, with no option for them to circle back to those creators. An example is AOL, which was consumption-only.
Web2 | Creators = Bloggers → Brand representatives (2004)
As more people started gravitating to the internet, Web2 saw the rise of influential people who started blogging, gradually amassing significant fame and online audiences on platforms such as MySpace, Blogger, Soundcloud as well as Vinyl.
Thereafter, Web2 creators started monetizing their audience primarily via advertising, becoming the channels for other brands - allowing creators to earn revenue through affiliate advertising and sponsorship agreements. However, they were just the conduits of these other brands and businesses with no loyal attachment to the company.
‘’The same way that Silicon Valley became a mindset and millennials from all over the world realized that tech entrepreneurship can be a career option, Gen Z’ers for the very first time can now earn a living from their ingenuity online. We at General Catalyst are very excited about a future where ownership and the economic upside is given primarily to the creators who have, for too long, been undervalued and underpaid for their creative labor.’’ - Niko Bonatsos, Investor at General Catalyst
Web3 | No more platform monopolies → Creator Ownership (2021/2)
New types of creator platforms
In Web3, the definition of creator is changing as power dynamics shift from the platforms to the creators and their communities.
Today, the creator economy is no longer just about providing value to the platforms, it’s about new forms of direct creator-community relationships. There is an opportunity for creators not only to offer more to their fans (including financial upside) but for both creators and their communities to finally be able to participate in the collective value that they help platforms create.
“It feels pretty exciting at the moment because Web3 is still such a new and open field. It’s interesting to see the unique ways it’s enabling creators to build and own communities while bringing their creativity to broader groups of people, and really involving their community as part of the creation process. I think that the community angle is going to be the most interesting over the next little while and really brings a new lens to the creator economy. There’s a lot to figure out - but access, inclusion, and awareness feel like important next steps. I’m excited to see how things shape up!” - Silvia Oviedo Lopez, Head of Marketplace at Canva and formerly Head of Creators at Pinterest
The New Creator Economy: 140+ of the latest creator-led platforms
In this market mapping, we focus on the new Web3 creator platforms that enable creator (and community) ownership as well as the tools to enable creators to participate in this new creator economy.
*A dataset of the companies can be found below, as well as an additional dataset with investors who are actively investing in this space with their typical cheque sizes, geography and stage focus, plus much more. All of the investor data has been individually provided by the investment firms directly.
‘’It will be the Web3 Creators who will rebuild the global economy and take us into a beautiful, decentralized, free and trusting world. I can’t wait.’’ - Tim Draper, Draper Associates
We chose and selected the companies based on research, recommendations and publicly available information. Companies who have raised significant amounts of capital have not been included as the mapping aims to outline the latest startups. The mapping is not exclusive to the companies listed.
“We’ve entered the beginning of the end of the creator economy era. Creators are increasingly burnt out and turned off by endless competition, vacuous content production, and spending more time pleasing algorithms than their actual creative practices. New structures for creativity -- built around squads, collectives, and new expressions of the label model -- are emerging in Web3 and beyond. Creators are on the cusp of moving out of the individualism of the creator economy and into a new era of creativity in multiplayer mode.” — Yancey Strickler, Co-founder of Metalabel.xyz and Kickstarter
Direct Monetization Platforms
Platforms allowing creators to monetize engagement in a crypto native way
Collab.Land , Bonfire, Buildspace , Continuum, Coordinape, CrowdPad, CryptoLeague, Dime, Fave, Fold, Glow, Guild, Jadu, Jomija, Minti, Monument, Moonwalk, QuidliRabbitHole, Rally, Rare Circles, Roll, Stader Labs, Superlocal
‘’There are new startups that are attempting to solve for the problems of communities being rewarded for their contribution. The concept is that based on certain contributions (e.g. Github pull requests, voting on proposals, engaging on Discord, owning NFTs, etc) the DAO members will be rewarded with certain "perks" (e.g. tokens, other rights). The core concept is that creators can have their own social tokens that appreciate in value based on supply/ demand, which aligns their fans' interests with the creators' interests, making it a win-win for both parties.’’ - Ed Roman, Managing Director at Hack VC
Marketplaces allowing creators to monetize digital assets.
ArtWallStreet, Async Art, Autograph, DeFine, Ethernity, Formfunction, Fractional, Holaplex, Jambb, Kalao.io, MakersPlace, Masterpiece, Mintable, Mintdrop, OneOf, Palm, Phantom, Portion, Quantum Art, Rarible, Showtime, SuperRare, Upland, Zora
"The major shift is 'make your customers owners,' so that the early users and contributors receive part of the value they help platforms create, and eventually have governance over it and more control. We are essentially giving these companies to the users - and that's the biggest societal social shift that we're creating here. It's just a new form of capitalism, a little more egalitarian and a little more socialist, that is allowing everyone to take part in these huge wealth creations that are happening in the world versus limiting it to the elite investors or the founders. We talk about wealth disparity a lot in the world. But how are we going to combat that?" - Bradford Stephens, Co-founder & Managing Partner at Blockchain Capital
Play to earn
“Within the creator world, I am most excited about the metaverse direction we are all walking towards. Web3 is a mash-up of 3D worlds, social gaming, NFTs, and virtual goods ownership. It stands for community, brand and ownership.” - Nicole Quinn, Lightspeed
"What Web3 really does is it unlocks the possibility for creators to offer more. If we take newsletters as an example, the concept in Web3 becomes 'why subscribe when you can invest?' In the case of Mirror.xyz, you now have the opportunity to invest at the earliest stages of a publication in exchange for a token or NFTs so you effectively have ownership in that.’’ - Jarrod Dicker, Partner at TCG
Low/No Code Tools
Boardroom Labs, Boomerang, Caffeine, Calaxy, Commsor, Cooby, Cosmofeed, Disco, Dorian, Fanfix, Fanhouse, Fireside Chat, Koji, Maven, Metasky, Moment House, Orbit, Pearpop, Streamloots, Talkbase, Topia
"Seeing more value captured by users, both individually and collectively, is one of the most exciting aspects of Web3. I love that all parts of the value chain can be rewarded for their contributions, along with being a part of wider communities with common goals via collectives like DAOs and digital memberships that resonate with their own interests and passions. Web3 disintermediates traditional Web2 aggregators and gatekeepers, which is key for the democratization of income creation in the digital world." - Harry Stebbings, Founder of The Twenty Minute VC and of 20VC
‘’The creator economy began as the result of peoples’ desire to control and own their voice, creativity, and ultimately, their career. It has become evident how important it is to be providing creators, like any business, with the tools and resources they need in order to grow and have the ability to take what they are doing from hobby level to enterprise level. By providing this support through financing and other creator-specific solutions, we’ve reached the point of recognition that the creator economy is a true reformation in society and will only continue to expand.” - Aaron DeBevoise, Founder of Spotter
The opportunities investors are seeing in Web3
2021 was a pivotal year for Web3, it took all sectors by storm, and now investors are paying close attention.
What we are seeing today is an incredible combination of talent and venture capital flowing into the ecosystem, further fuelling innovation in the decentralized technology stack as well as consumer-facing applications that are now disrupting all ecosystems, evidenced by the significantly-sized rounds raised by companies including:
- Sorare, a blockchain-based fantasy football game, raised a US$680m Series B round led by SoftBank in Sep 21, valuing the company at US$4.3bn - the biggest Series B round in Europe to date
- MoonPay, a payment infrastructure provider for crypto companies, raised a US$555m Series A round led by Coatue and Tiger Global in Nov 21, valuing the company at US$3.4bn
- Forte, a platform used by gaming publishers to incorporate blockchain technology into their games, has raised a US$725bn Series B round led by Sea Capital and Kora Management in Nov-21. In May, Forte raised a US$185m Series A which valued the company at US$1bn led by Griffin Gaming Partners
- Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot and The Flow blockchain, raised a US$250m Series D round led by Coatue and saw participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Google’s GV and Version One Ventures in Sep 21, valuing the company at US$7.6bn
As new opportunities in Web3 continue to arise, we asked a few investors what they are most excited about as well as where they see the biggest opportunities unfolding:
New tools bridging Web2 engagement with Web3 loyalty
‘’Overall, stronger loyalty. Creators will have the ability to reward their most loyal fans through continuous engagement where it's not necessarily tied to $$$. I'd be interested to see tools emerge that help bridge Web2 engagement with Web3 loyalty - being able to retroactively determine your biggest fans by attendance at your events/ concerts, spend on your merch stores, engagement on socials - that can kickstart tiered loyalty on newer Web3 platforms. That way you're not starting from scratch with your fanbase and can reward folks who have been with you from Day 1.’’ - Meagan Loyst, Investor at Lerer Hippeau
‘The lifecycle of a creator’
“I'm excited about three main segments: 1) creative tooling, 2) creator discovery, and 3) creator monetization. I think of these as the lifecycle of the creator. In the first bucket are technologies that unlock new forms of expression — I'm excited by VR, AR, and low-code / no-code creation tools. In the second bucket are ways that people find an audience online; the best technologies enable better community formation. And the last bucket contains ways that creators can make money. We're seeing NFTs, social tokens, and other new Web3 innovations reinvent monetization.” - Rex Woodbury, Index Ventures
‘’I am most excited about platforms that enable creators to create meaningful engagement with their audience without having to be on an endless content hamster wheel. As a creator's audience grows, their insatiable appetite for content from the creator can become a life consuming endeavor. Platforms that enable creators to ‘monetize while they sleep’ is something I would love to see.’’ - Ann Miura-Ko, Partner at Floodgate Ventures
Who’s investing in this space?
As Web3 becomes the category that encompasses Decentralized Finance (DeFi), the creator economy and other creator-led technologies, we have reached out to the wider ecosystem to provide you with a dataset of who is investing in this space.
Download our full list of investors who we have actively reached out to who have provided information on their stage, geography focus as well as their cheque sizes.
Creator economy unicorns
2021 was a huge year for unicorns in the creator economy space with eleven companies reaching this status including: Lightricks, MasterClass, Clubhouse, OpenSea, Axie Infinity, Cameo, Jellysmack, Flutterwave, LTK, PicsArt & Whatnot. Of these unicorns:
- 9/11 of the 2021 unicorns were born in the US (Axie Infinity was born out of Vietnam and Lightricks in Israel)
- Creator platforms that achieved unicorn status in 2021 raised on average $13.2m at Series A
- The average company in 2021 took roughly six years to reach unicorn status
- From the companies which became unicorns as of 2020 - March 2022, only LTK was founded by a female founder
Where might the next creator economy companies come from?
LATAM users consume almost 15 hours a day of media consumption - the highest in the world with the average spending almost 10 hours a day online (3 hours more than the average). With a number of VC’s entering LATM such as SoftBank’s dedicated LATAM fund, it’s a region we are also excited about having just launched in Brazil.
India has close to one and a half billion potential consumers in the country with a rapidly growing population of creator entrepreneurs. For example, there are now 100,000 YouTube channels in India that have over two million subscribers, contributing US$1.7bn to the Indian economy in 2021.
There are three billion gamers globally with a TAM of US$200bn. In the future, we will likely no longer have to buy multiple avatars in different games. We will have the ability to buy a handful that can be used on all the games we love to interact with. In addition, we will be able to rent our avatars to our fans creating an additional means of income for millions of creators around the world. Games will also enter the play to earn space where we are paid to play.
The opportunities and challenges creators are seeing in Web3
Finally, we turned to the main actors in this new iteration of the creator economy and this time asked a few creators what they are most excited about and what challenges they may face in the future:
Deeper and longer-lasting relationships - across platforms
“As well as the greater potential for monetisation, community ownership gives creators the opportunity to bring their audience across platforms and protocols, allowing for deeper and longer-lasting relationships.” - Caspar Lee, Co-Founder of Influencer Marketing.
A multifaceted offering of opportunities
‘’The creator economy stands at an inflexion point, as content creators are moving beyond simply working with brands and evolving their businesses by adding numerous revenue streams. As a result, platforms are moving fast to build an increasingly multifaceted offering of opportunities. In turn, creators are leveraging these new tools to connect directly with fans and build their own communities. A byproduct of this is the emergence of various content formats - both long and short-form video; spontaneous moments captured with the camera; performative content; interactive events, or vlog-style, and creators are even making their own AR.’’ Jim Shepherd, Head of Talent Partnerships at Snapchat.
Lower barriers to entry
‘’New technologies are just breaking down the barriers to entry which can only be an exciting thing. To build a huge YouTube channel now, you can do it from your smartphone. It's a cliche thing to say but it is 100% true. This same technology makes content creation a very meritocratic system and that is exciting for everybody. We are now seeing a fight between the platforms as to who can pay their creators the best. That is where the eyeballs are - wherever the creators are and so as a creator it's a very exciting time!’’ Max Fosh, YouTube Creator.
“When I speak with creators, I think there's going to be an adoption hurdle. Web3 is something some creators are aware of, but few know exactly where and how to take action and what it actually means for them.” - Blake Michael, Creator.
A long way to go for the middle class of creators
“There is still a long way to go for the growing “middle class” of creators – the top echelon of creators is earning the majority of the revenue generated in the creator economy. However, as platforms improve discovery and creators become more accustomed to owning their financial relationships with fans, the middle class of creators are set to be rewarded as well.” - Bremner Morris, CEO at Rally.io.
Sustainability and longevity
‘’Sustainability and longevity are huge pain points. 77% of creators rely on brand deals for the majority of their income, but brand deals can vary month to month. Partnerships are great income, but creators should be thinking about long term success. We are seeing a lot more creators tapping into NFT, subscription community, and building brands to increase income streams.’’ - Sandy Lin (TikTok Creator).
‘’Finding the balance of producing really good content that we love and making an income is really hard as we need to pay the bills. This sometimes leads to creators working insanely hard for not a huge amount of upside - it is important we take care of ourselves.’’ - Jade Darmawangsa, Creator and co-founder of NFT Tree Haus (a social impact NFT project).
Web3 Investment Landscape: Fundraising Guide
As founders look to build and scale their Web3 creator platforms, information and tips on what Web3 investors are looking for and on how to ace your fundraise can sometimes be overwhelming. For this reason, we asked a few investors about what they pay attention to when analyzing potential investments in the space.
1. Large TAM and Scalability Potential
Investors look for volumes at launch (transaction volume and trade volume, payments volume, search volume, developer activity, # of wallets transacting on-chain, # of mints, etc.). In particular, it is important to consider the exchange trade volume to understand what kind of liquidity there is in the market. A tool founders can use to monitor the activity is Nansen. It allows you to see which projects are taking off, right up to the minute, whilst tools like Moby, and Icy.tools can be used to track specific NFT projects.
Examples of metrics to quantify the quality of the engagement and health of a network are:
- Daily or Monthly Active Users
- Monthly Active Wallets: Unique users with active token wallets last month
- Transaction Metrics:
- Total Number of Addresses, Addresses With Balance, Zero Balance, Zero Balance Ratio: This data indicates the lifetime population of users and the protocol’s retention. Zero balance addresses are those that have transferred out all their tokens. Zero balance addresses / total addresses = Zero balance ratio.
Remember, 80% of users might just be lurkers.
3. Appeal to a Diverse Audience
The way we see it, Web3 startups should not only be able to attract and grow their existing audience by constantly engaging with it, but also be able to appeal and reach new audiences, particularly in new markets.
As an example, if we take Blockchain-based games, founders should consider whether the game is designed and built for gamers only or if it can be designedin such a way that third-party developers are incentivized to build on the platform.
4. Utility of the NFTs / Social Tokens & Fan Tokenomics
Utility NFTs or NFTs 2.0 are NFTs whose valuation is based on the access, perks, and opportunities they provide to the token holder. They have clearly defined intrinsic value on top of the usual scarcity associated with NFTs and are broadly classified into the below categories: Community, Fantasy sports, Gambling, Gaming, and Social.
Utility NFTs are believed to be the future, based on user demand, and therefore founders need to understand how to best design them. If we take Blockchain-based games and in-game NFTs as an example, game developers in Web3 not only have to worry about building a good game but also about creating good enough financial incentives to support a robust and sustainable in-game economy. Is the gameplay captivating? Does the in-game mechanics make sense, and are the NFTs functional (as opposed to collectibles)? The game has to be good after all!
What’s more, for creator social tokens and NFTs, tokenomics should be structured to create a sustainable economy (e.g., current debates around “rich-poor” divides in Web3 gaming), which is crucial for long-term creator adoption.
“Social tokens are usually a small slice of a creator’s primary source of income, so creators tend to be very downside-focused in how they look at monetising their fans via Web3. Nobody wants angry fans who’ve lost money blowing up their comments (it’s happened before…)!” - Sasha Kaletsky, Co-Founder of Creator Collective Capital
"Community is the oxygen of Web3 creator platforms. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on traditional marketing to acquire potential customers, creators and developer teams can use tokens to bring in early users, who can then be rewarded for their early contributions when network effects weren’t yet obvious or in place. Building creator platforms in Web3 also requires different skills, it's all about the community, especially social skills e.g. moderating a discussion, organizing group online events and storytelling." - Sarah Nöckel, Creator of Femstreet and Investor at Northzone
Summary: A More Sustainable Future Driven by Creativity
"Creators can move from fee-based compensation to building wealth through equity in the communities they build. Web3 enables creators to be finally compensated like the entrepreneurs they are. For the equity to sustain value for both the creators and their communities, platforms will need to help creators design tokenomics. We can look to monetary policy to understand how tokens need to be managed. In order for a currency to store value, people need to trust it, inflation needs to be watched, and the goods/ services that a consumer can receive in exchange for the currency needs to be valuable to the user." - Danielle Lay, Investor at NEA
As we look into the new direct creator-to-follower relationships and the future of the creator economy, we could not be more excited about the new ‘native’ ways in which creators can earn an income, funded by and together with their communities in what we believe to be the emergence of new and more sustainable economies.
We remain excited about how the future of the internet will evolve and remain deeply passionate about supporting the next generation of platforms.
‘’The new creator economy encompasses everything creators have always craved - ownership and community-led platforms where all community members are compensated for their time and contributions. Being a creator is enormously hard however we believe everyone will be a creator eventually in some capacity. We are so excited to see how the space evolves over the next few years in all aspects from gaming companies where you no longer need to buy multiple avatars in games, you can just have a handful that can be played on multiple platforms, community tokens that are issued based on our contributions which may just enable many of us to have an additional means of income in the future - potentially creating a new generation of wealth’’ - Ollie Forsyth, Global Community Manager at Antler
"We are very excited about the untapped potential of Web3 creator platforms, as well as the tools that are being built for mainstream creators and community builders. The new Creator Economy will not only change the way in which content is created, but also unlock a world of entirely new tech and monetization opportunities that were simply not possible with Web2. Enabling these new direct creator-to-follower relationships and bringing Web3 to the masses is one of the most exciting investment opportunities of our time." - Paola Vivoli, Investor at Speedinvest
by Ollie Forsyth, Global Community Manager at Antler
Thank you to the following contributors:
Caspar Lee (Creator, Influencer.com), Blake Michael (Creator), Bremner Morris (Rally.io), Sarah Nöckel (Northzone, Femstreet), Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Sameer Singh (Angel Investor), Jim Shepherd (Snapchat), Max Fosh (YouTube Creator), Rex Woodbury (Index Ventures), Nicole Quinn (Lightspeed Ventures), Tim Draper (Draper Associates), Sandy Lin (TikTok Creator), Meagan Loyst (Lerer Hippeau), Ann Miura-Ko (Floodgate Ventures), Danielle Lay (NEA), Harry Stebbings (20VC), Jarrod Dicker (TCG), Courtney Chow (Battery Ventures), Aaron DeBevoise, (Spotter), Ed Roman (Hack VC), Jade Darmawangsa (Creator), Yancey Strickler (Metalabel.xyz and Kickstarter)
Interested in learning more? Join us on April 20th where we will provide you an in-depth summary of the report covering the following topics:
- The history of the creator economy
- The latest 140+ platforms which we included in our annual creator economy report
- How Web3 will impact creators
- Unicorn characteristics
- The next type of platforms that may be used by billions of users
- Plus so much more!
The event will be moderated by Ollie Forsyth, author of our 2022 Creator Economy report.
We look forward to welcoming you! Register your interest here.