Patreon CEO breaks down the future of the creator economy

Membership platform Patreon tripled its valuation to $4 billion in a $155 million new funding round. Jack Conte, Patreon Co-Founder and CEO joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how the company is faring amid the pandemic and break down the outlook for the creator economy post-pandemic.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Patreon is a company that lets creators raise money from their patrons and people who like their work, whether it's music or art, or podcasts. And the company just in its latest financing round has a $4 billion valuation. Jack Conte is with us now. He's the Patreon co-founder and CEO.

Jack was with us one year ago yesterday as we were not even a month into all of this, Jack. And you already were seeing a huge uptick as I remember, in the number of people signing onto your platform, both on the creator side and on the patron side. And obviously, you've seen a lot of growth since then, talk to me about what's been going on, what the numbers look like now.

JACK CONTE: Sure. So Patreon has now over 200,000 creators that are making money on the platform. That's from about 7 million patrons. The company is now sending over a billion dollars per year to creative people, which I'm super excited about. And I think is a real marker for what's happening in the world right now. People are starting to realize that creativity is a real, viable, sustainable life for people. And that's a sea change in the world.

It used to be 10 years ago you couldn't be a small business media company, you were either Coldplay and playing at the Staples Center or you're a local band playing for beer and pizza at a bar. And that's just, we're in a different world now. There's this whole generation of professional creators that aren't just kind of getting by, they're killing it. They're making money and building businesses and building their dreams and that's just such an exciting time to be alive for creative people.

MYLES UDLAND: And Jack, your company is not a new one, you guys have been around for eight years now. How different I guess is the landscape now than it was just three or four years ago. I mean, everyone has creator economy boom on the tip of their tongues and we can go through all the different services in the space but certainly from the investor community, I mean, how many people are banging down your door over the last couple of quarters saying, please take our money because it does seem like all these trends are kind of moving in your direction.

JACK CONTE: You just named it, Myles. That's exactly what's happened. And it's been wild to live through that. I mean, years ago when Patreon was raising money, we used to structure our pitches, so the first 30 minutes of the pitch we would explain what creators were and how many creators there were and what creator meant as a word. And now it couldn't be more the opposite. You know, everybody is seeing it now, everybody's seeing the future. Everybody's seeing where this world is going.

I think what we're calling it is the second Renaissance. We are literally at the beginning of a new Renaissance, a world in which tens of millions of creative people are building businesses and building their dreams and making it happen. To a degree. I think that's going to make the first Renaissance feel like a blip. I mean, global arts and creativity, it's going to be you know, financed and celebrated to a degree that I think is very unusual and is really exciting. So yes, we couldn't be more excited about it. It couldn't be more of a change than even it was a year ago.

JULIE HYMAN: Jack, what does this picture look like as things open back up and as creators maybe can also supplement or maybe even replace some of their Patreon income with income in the real world?

JACK CONTE: I mean, I can't wait for the world to open back up. I think we're probably all there. I think it's going to be a great thing for creators when the world opens back up. Creators are going to be able to build their live businesses again, they're going to be able to go on tour again, they're going to be able to meet their fans, host in person community events. These are all things that are incredible important pieces of creators' businesses.

And we're excited for that. I mean, I think it's going to be great. Fortunately membership is a really important part and has become an even more important part of creator businesses over the last year. Creators are kind of naturally learning that it's important for them to diversify their revenue streams. So you have a membership business, you have an ad revenue business, you have a you know, an events business. And I think creators are going to continue to do that. We see the trends moving in that direction. Creators are figuring out ways to kind of put together lots of businesses. And I think that's exciting for Patreon too.

MYLES UDLAND: And Jack, because of our kind of position here in the media, obviously top of mind for us at Yahoo Finance, is what's happening in both newsletters and also in audio. So I wanted to ask you just how you see the moves that Substack's made, what Spotify is doing in podcasts, those are two areas that I very closely associate Patreon with. And sort of how I first became familiar with Patreon was you know, through podcasters who were making money through the show that way. Just curious about how those forces have maybe changed some of those businesses?

JACK CONTE: You know, what I think is happening right now is all of these things are tailwinds for creativity and for creative businesses. The amount of money being poured into this ecosystem right now is making more creators, it's making more creative businesses. Its financing creators in a way that they've never been financed before. All the companies that are now popping up you know, I'm in a Slack channel with 300 companies that are building for creators, 300 companies building for creative people to build their businesses.

These are not things that are taking away from Patreon or taking away from Spotify, these are things that are adding to the ease and capability and sustainability of being a professional creator. So all these things are pointing in this one direction of making the creator economy bigger and helping more creative people do what they do best. So yeah, I don't have I think what other folks might think is kind of a traditional view on competition here. All these things are helping creative people, building more creators making more creators in the world, and all these things are good for the creative economy.

JULIE HYMAN: So Jack, speaking of making it all bigger, so we talked in the beginning about how your valuation's now $4 billion. It was just over, I think it was $1.2 billion as recently as September. So that's a pretty amazing increase and we got to ask, I mean, as Myles said, we're watching the financial markets, we're watching all the IPOs, we're watching all of the SPAC deals, right. Are you tempted by any of that stuff, what do you think, what would convince you to enter the public markets in some way?

JACK CONTE: We're not thinking about that right now. I mean, of course, we want to grow up as a company and make sure that our finances are in shape and make sure that our accounting teams are getting ready for something like that eventually. But our number one focus right now is building for creative people and doubling down on product and engineering and hiring out those teams and making the product as good as possible.

I mean, I think you know, especially today creators have choice creators, have so much leverage, creators go wherever they want to go and whatever company serves them best is the company that's going to win the space and we're creators are going to spend their time and energy and focus and bring the fans. And so we're just, we're doubling down on the product, we're focusing on making it as good as possible. And of course, all that stuff is looming in the distance but it's just there are no plans and it's not what we're thinking about right now, it's not consuming our time or energy. There's nothing in the immediate horizon there.

JULIE HYMAN: Jack, it's great to talk to you again. Again, about one year later since we last spoke and obviously, you guys have grown quite a lot. So congratulations to you. Now I feel like I want to go make something after talking to you. Jack Conte, Patreon co-founder and CEO. Be well, Jack. Thank you.

JACK CONTE: Thank you.