Patreon Prepares For Its Close-Up
Bloomberg Businessweek|October 04, 2021
The service, which lets creators offer subscriptions, is beginning to compete more directly with tech giants
Joshua Brustein

In today’s Silicon Valley, land of buzzwords, there may be none buzzier than “creator”—the tech industry’s chosen way to refer to someone who gathers an audience by posting their words, images, or videos online. Every tech company seems to be fixated on building tools to help their super users make money through subscriptions, tips, or other direct payments from fans, whether they’re running audio streaming services like Apple and Spotify or social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

All these big companies are, in a sense, aping Patreon Inc., the tech startup that’s spent the past eight years building tools to allow content creators to accept recurring payments from their fans. Patreon is in the midst of a hiring spree, and in April it raised $155 million from investors who valued it at $4 billion, triple its valuation from an investment round in September 2020. It plans to go public in the near future, though the timeline remains uncertain.

If success has inspired others to imitate Patreon, it’s also leading the startup to become more like the competition. The company is dedicating a significant portion of its most recent investment round to finance original programming for the first time. Patreon’s plans, which haven’t been previously reported, include courting podcasters, video game live streamers, YouTubers, and major celebrities such as Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez to make content that will appear live on Patreon before showing up elsewhere.

Many other tech companies have come to the conclusion that they should start paying to produce their own content, with mixed success. The logic behind media production operations at companies such as Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. seems obvious now that they’ve become serious players in Hollywood; the strategy behind other services, like Salesforce+, the new streaming offering from the consumer relationship management company, remain baffling.

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