How Jack Conte and Sam Yam Built a $4 Billion Startup Called Patreon
Patreon is approaching a critical moment.
The online membership platform, where internet creators can run subscription services for their top fans, has raised more than $400 million since its launch in 2013. It has paid out billions of dollars to creators and has a valuation of $4 billion, as of April. Fundraising 2021.
Now, co-founders Jack Conte and Sam Yam are wrestling with whether or not to take their company public, but their story begins before Patreon has even raised its first dollar from investors. In 2012, Conte and his wife, Nataly Dawn, were known as indie music duo Pomplamoose. They brought in about $400,000 a year in revenue and even had employees to handle everything from scheduling tour dates to merchandise with 401(k) matches.
A nervous breakdown changed everything. After spending three months producing a complex music video for their song “Pedals”, maxing out his credit cards in the process, Conte found himself sitting alone, exhausted, crying with exhaustion.
“I sat there in a puddle of bottled water, crying like a baby,” he told CNBC Make It. “And that was so stupid.”
Adding insult to injury, the video generated embarrassing revenue despite millions of views, Conte says. There had to be a better way for creators to get paid for their work, he thought.
Enter Yam, Conte’s freshman roommate and fellow musician who immediately recognized the business opportunity of connecting creators directly to their fans’ wallets. Together, the duo have built one of the internet’s most popular platforms for content creators. After about a year of operation, Patreon had already helped its creators earn $1 million.
“In retrospect, you see now that we can send $3 billion to creators, like the scale was extremely rapid,” Yam says.
Now that rapid growth is bringing the company to a crossroads as it weighs an IPO
“There’s always a risk that the company will shift balance, and that’s a risk I think we’ve seen play out with many other companies. I don’t want that to happen at Patreon,” he said. Conte said. “And that’s why it’s, like, the first thing that comes to mind every morning when I get out of bed.”
Watch the video at the top of this page to learn how Conte and Yam built Patreon and how they assess the massive business decision that awaits them.
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