The Influencers of the Creator Economy (pt.1)

Franco Varriano
March 10, 2021
 min read

While the Creator Economy isn't a completely new trend, it may be categorized differently, depending who you ask.

For instance, you might look at creators and see a new type of small business—a creative, solo founder focused on first building an audience and then iterating into a brand or business.

Or perhaps you come from a marketing background and view the next evolution of customer experience through personalization and experiential marketing.

Or maybe you take a creative technology lens and see the potential to improve human creativity using novel tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) [LINK TO RISEOF SUPERPOWER APPS], combined with the rapid adoption of new ownership models.

One thing is certain, though: there's momentum in this space. To help you navigate it, we’ve mapped the influencers and shapers in the Creator Economy.

Part one of focuses on the founders, operators, and core team members behind some of the hottest platforms and tools powering the Creator Economy.

This isn't an exhaustive list and it's sure to evolve, so please mention anyone we've missed on Twitter and LinkedIn!

Founders and operators

Here's our (ever evolving) round-up of the founders & operators building the creator economy!

Sahil Lavingia, CEO, Gumroad

Gumroad is one of the original ways to sell products (mostly digital goods) without needing a massive setup. Sahil is an exceptionally transparent founder and shares pretty much everything.

Melanie Perkins, Co-founder and CEO, Canva

Melanie launched Canva fromAustralia in 2012. It's since taken over the world and they've become a massive company. Canva enables anyone to create professional looking graphic designs.Perfect for creators and entrepreneurs!

Jack Conte, CEO, Patreon

Jack has been building for creators and entrepreneurs for many years. Patreon is one of the simplest ways of directly supporting artists and creatives in exchange for exclusive access to their creative outputs.

Gina Bianchini, CEO and Co-founder, MightyNetworks

Gina is a startup and investment veteran! With an incredibly accomplished background, she's currently focused on Mighty Networks, a platform that brings together content, community, online courses, memberships, and more all in one place.

Joseph Albanese, Co-Founder and CEO, Stir

Previously a Product Designer at Facebook and no stranger to startups and founding teams, Joseph is now the Co-founder of Stir, a back-office platform for creators.

Tiffany Zhong, Founder, Islands

Tiffany is known as the Gen Z whisperer. Previously in VC, she's now focused on building creator tools with unique insight into the Gen Z market as her secret weapon.

Hamish McKenzie, Co-founder, Substack

One of the Creator Economy's breakouts in 2020, Substack is a place for independent writing. Hamish shares thoughts around the future of work and the industry in general.

Jess Sloss, Co-founder, Seed Club

Jess has a background in crypto and blockchain industries. He's now spearheading Seed Club, a social token incubator helping creators launch tokens.

Danielle Li, Founder, Popshop Live

Danielle has focused on social commerce and "shopatainment" since 2016. She's the Founder and CEO of Popshop Live, a simple and fast way for creators and entrepreneurs to sell via fun live streams.

Ankur Nagpal, CEO, Teachable

Ankur tweets about startups, creators, and more. Teachable is the platform he's built to help others monetize their knowledge.

Ryan Gum, Growth, Teachable

Ryan shares a ton of knowledge around growth and digital marketing through Twitter.

Kayvon Tehranian, Founder, Foundation

Kayvon is the Founder ofFoundation, a digital art (NFT) marketplace. As a creator or collector, you'll want to check out this community.

Lindsay Howard, Head of Community, Foundation

Lindsay is the Head of Community atFoundation. Foundation is a creative playground for artists, curators, and collectors to experience the new creative economy. She's a curator and creative technologist who's been interested in and championing the art + tech movement for many years.

Ben Huffman, Founder, Contra

Contra is redesigning the way we look at networking and finding work. It’s like the modern, project versus role-based version of LinkedIn. This is definitely one to watch within the Creator Economy.

Alyssa X, Founder, Sonuum

Alyssa is a maker of super cool apps and tools. She's a designer, full-stack developer, and entrepreneur. Sonuum is one of her latest projects and the web-based audio editor is sure to entice creators and entrepreneurs in this space.

Janel Loi, Founder, Newsletter OS

Janel is a marketer and maker who's launched a number of products. Her first one, Newsletter OS, is a sure-fire system to help any creative develop a newsletter.

Nathan Barry, Founder and CEO, ConvertKit

Speaking of newsletters, Nathan has been working on ConvertKit, an email marketing platform for creatives, since 2014.

Joel Flory, Co-founder and CEO, VSCO

Joel is behind VSCO, a once-upon-a-time Instagram competitor, now an expressive community and lifestyle platform, especially for Gen Z creators.

Shavone Charles, Creative Partnerships, VSCO

A musician and entrepreneur, Shavone was previously part of Twitter and Instagram. She joined VSCO to help build their communications and community team.

Chris Lamontagne, CEO, Spring

Spring (formerly Teespring) is a platform that enables creators, influencers, and entrepreneurs to sell physical and digital products anywhere.

Jeremy Saenz, CPO, Kajabi

Kajabi is another pioneer in the CreatorEconomy, enabling anyone to create and sell courses, coaching sessions, and memberships.

Tim Stokely, Founder, OnlyFans

OnlyFans is another example of a breakaway hit within this category, setting record revenues and growth figures in 2020. While it enables any creator to monetize their audience in a similar way to Patreon, the platform has developed a reputation for serving the adult content market.

Milana Rabkin Lewis, Co-founder and CEO, Stem

Stem is a platform designed for musicians.

Khoi Le, Co-founder, Fanhouse

Khoi is one of the founders behind an exciting app called Fanhouse, where fans subscribe to creators to gain access to exclusive communities and get a glimpse of their behind-the-scenes lives.

Galvea Kelly, CMO, Collective

Collective is a back-office platform for creators, entrepreneurs, and other self-employed business owners.

Neal Jean, Co-founder and CEO, Beacon

Beacon is one of the newest tools enabling creators to take advantage of their "link in bio" real estate by quickly building a website based on their links. [LINK TO: LINK INBIO POST]

Courtne Smith, CEO, NewNew

Courtne is a Toronto, Canada native and was part of Drake's executive team for over a decade before diving into tech and The Creator Economy with her latest app, NewNew, a human stock market where fans pay to vote in polls to control some of a creator’s day-to-day decisions.

Sam Liebeskind, Community, Geneva

Sam is focused on building community at Geneva, a chat-based platform for creators and their audiences.

Jason Bade, Co-founder, Pico

Pico is a simple way for creators to collect emails, manage their audiences, and sell subscriptions.

Dmitry Shapiro, CEO, Koji

Koji is a pretty cool app that enables creators to create interactive posts for any social platform and to sell directly to their fans.

Austin Hallock, Founder,

Spore is one of the first tools for the next wave of audio creators, specifically those on Clubhouse. It creates a unique website and chat for your club.

Zack Hargett, Founder, Scout

Scout is a startup product studio building apps for the Creator Economy. Their main focus, Stan, is currently in private beta, but they've released other interesting products as well.

Jesse Lee, Founder, Basic.Space

Basic.Space is an ecommerce platform for creators.

Marco Marandiz, Founder, Drop Party

Drop Party is half commerce platform (for limited time drops) and half full-service agency.

Victor Pontis, CEO, Luma

Luma is a virtual event website, ticketing, and analytics platform for anyone looking to run and monetize online events. It recently introduced creator profiles and micro websites.

Sid Yadav, Co-founder and CEO, Circle

Circle is a white label community management platform for creators and brands.

Devrim Yasar, Co-founder and CEO, Superpeer

Superpeer is a video platform where creators, entrepreneurs, and experts can host paid, 1:1 video calls.

Jamie Pine, CEO, Notify

Currently in early beta, Notify enables users to subscribe directly to any creator and be notified of new content they publish anywhere on the internet.

Spencer Fry, Founder, Podia

Spencer is a serial entrepreneur who's currently working on Podia, a platform that enables creators to sell courses, digital downloads, and memberships to their audience.

Tim Salau, Founder, Guide

Guide is a platform that enables creators, entrepreneurs, and others to sell their expertise and courses.

Lan Paje, Co-founder, Stream Club

Stream Club is where creators become entrepreneurs. Creators can use the platform’s software to power live media brands.

Brendon McNerney, Founder, Clash

Brendon and Clash are focused on the Creator Economy. They recently acquired Byte app (the reboot of Vine). Look for interesting things here in the near future.

Honorable mentions:

Wes Kao (previously Seth Godin's altMBA) and Gagan Biyani (previously Co-founder, Udemy), Stealth Startup

Two veterans of the online education space have joined forces to create a new cohort-based course (CBC) platform. We’re excited to learn more!

What's next?

New needs will emerge to power the Creator Economy as more creators and entrepreneurs launch their audience-first projects and turn them into businesses.

But there is still a massive gap in overall personalized customer experience: the product creation experience.

Increasingly, savvy fans and customers are looking for unique, meaningful, and personalized products and experiences that provide a symbol of belonging, an asset, and more.

Creative Layer is on a mission to build the next generation of tools that enable entrepreneurs, creators, and their fans to create and collaborate to build truly personalized products—going beyond something that's only slightly customized.

Sign up for early access to our platform if you're passionate about these ideas and want to be part of the product personalization revolution. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn!