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Why social media star Josh Richards focuses on larger business deals rather than 'instantaneous payouts'

Social Media star and entrepreneur Josh Richards joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss his rise to fame on social media and his latest business ventures.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: OK, some of us are still trying to figure out how to get TikTok to work on our old bell rotary phones. Bad joke. Sorry about that. Josh Richards, though, is a social media superstar and entrepreneur. And Julia La Roche is one of our superstars. They're both here to talk about what's going to happen next in the TikTok economy. But Josh, you are-- I mean, millions upon millions of followers. I don't think you're 20 yet. When I was 19 to 20, I was investing time watching MTV. How do you get millions to follow you?

JOSH RICHARDS: I mean, it's a lot of work. I've been doing it since I was 14. I've always went about at a very business-minded-- as a business-minded kid. I was hiring my sister at a 15% commission base salary. We were tackling Musical.ly in the livestream space and just slowly, but surely, building up the following.

JULIA LA ROCHE: You know, Josh, you certainly are very business-minded. And I'm going to quote an article that you published today because this part really struck me. You said, quote, "Why would I or my fellow influencers want to take an endorsement deal when I could build a company with my team, own half, and then directly benefit in its success when promoting the product?" I want to understand how you think about your role as an influencer and structuring the business deals and where you really find the upside.

JOSH RICHARDS: Yeah. I think a lot of influencers are so intrigued by the instantaneous payout or getting that cash right there in their hand on site, and they don't see the value in the longevity from equity, from doing a deal that isn't set around the cash or a pay to post. We like to focus on doing a lot larger deals, if that's either me coming in as chief strategy officer or coming in and actually cofounding the entire company from scratch, like Ani Energy.

SEANA SMITH: Josh, I'm curious to get your perspective just on why TikTok is so successful and why it works for so many users. It kind of goes back to what Adam was saying, how you've been able to build your following. But from your point of view, from the content that you created, what separates it from some of the other social media platforms?

JOSH RICHARDS: I mean, the amount of user-generated content on TikTok is absolutely crazy. You've never seen a platform like TikTok and its ability to allow every single person, whether they are living in LA or they are out in Alaska, they're able to go and post a video that can go viral and can create a following off of it. So with TikTok just allowing so many people to do that, it's giving so many people that opportunity nowadays to really strive to be a social media creator and take that as a career.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Mm-hmm, and Josh, it's, obviously, helped you launch your own business career as well. And you mentioned that Ani Energy is a beverage that-- an energy drink, I suppose-- that you co-founded, but also you've made a number of recent investments. You know, I kind of want to understand what is it that gets your attention when it comes to investment.

One, for example, you're reviving, I guess, the craze around Silly Bandz, but also looking at financial literacy as an investment. Walk us through your process and what is it that makes you want to kind of put your name behind it and your, I guess kind of, your own experience and really drive returns.

JOSH RICHARDS: Yeah, when I'm looking at investments, a lot of the times, it will have to do if I have some high conviction or passion towards it. So when you're talking about financial literacy, and then you go and look at investments like Step, I mean, they're really the only banking product that is marketing-- or is built for teens. And it's allowing them to build credit before they're 18 years old. It enables them to actually earn money by referring friends. And they can use the app to start sharpening their personal finance skills.

And when I'm a social media creator preaching day in and day out about not spending your money on the clothes and the cars and all these luxurious items, and I'm talking about the investments I'm making, I need to be able to actually show that and practice what I preach. And with Step, that's able to be done.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Josh, I think when we had the graphic up, 24 million followers on TikTok. I was curious because I have relatives in your neck of the woods in Toronto and Montreal, but is this a global phenomenon? Are your followers global or North America? Because if you're not global yet, you're going to be a billionaire when you do go global.

JOSH RICHARDS: No, it's definitely global. There is a large, actually, following over in Europe, the UK, and Brazil. I actually see a lot of followers from those locations. And I believe on Instagram, there's actually up to about 4% to 5% of my followers from Brazil alone.

JULIA LA ROCHE: OK, I'll go with the last one here--

SEANA SMITH: So as we just wrap this up, when you think about your next steps-- and Julia kind of hinted at this when you identify some of the investments, some of the attractive investments-- when you were then-- when you would then potentially transition that to starting your own companies, I guess, what does that look like for you? And how are you charting that path? Because you're so young.

JOSH RICHARDS: Yeah, I mean, when I go to co-found a company or I go to do an investment, I'm going in there with the mindset not that I'm too young to do this, or I just feel like a lot of people will look at me being 19, and they think, oh, he's not able to do everything that he's doing, or he hasn't been able to learn enough yet. He's too young for this.

And a lot of people see that as either a disadvantage or some sort of luggage I'm carrying along with me. But I see that as a huge advantage. I mean, I'm able to get into those meetings and get into those rooms and go and meet with those people because of that young age and that sense of intrigue they have of me.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Josh Richards, I feel like I've wasted part of my life, but you can find me on LinkedIn if you're looking to hire. Josh Richards, social media superstar and entrepreneur, thank you for being here. Julia La Roche, good to see you as well.