Discover more from Consumer Startups
🔑 Newsletter #34 - Shopify for content creators (story of Jemi)
+ Saar Gur (Partner at CRV)
Hey there! Welcome to my email newsletter. My name is Leo Luo, a student entrepreneur at the University of Michigan. I write about founder stories, trends, fundraising, and unique behaviors in the consumer startup space.
All my previous posts can be found here.
Follow me on Twitter @_leoluo.
🍽 Today’s menu
Startup story - Story of Jemi (Shopify for creators)
Investor POV - Saar Gur (Partner at CRV)
What I’ve been reading - 5 articles about startups and investing
Who’s ballin’ this week - 6 new fundraising/developments in B2C space
Jobs - 12 full-time jobs and internship postings
Feedback - help me to deliver better content to you
🔥 Startup Story
Shopify for content creators
(Image credit: jemi.app/leo)
The rise of the creator economy (some refer to it as the passion economy) is one of the many growing consumer trends I am most excited about. As Li Jin said in her piece on the passion economy - ‘New digital platforms enable people to earn a livelihood in a way that highlights their individuality. These platforms give providers greater ability to build customer relationships, increased support in growing their businesses, and better tools for differentiating themselves from the competition.’
However, there are many challenges that come with being an independent creator, among which monetization is often the biggest pain point. Jemi is a YC-backed startup addressing this problem. They are a SaaS platform that helps creators to build personal websites where they can sell interactions and merch to their fans. I was given the chance to chat with Annie, one of the Co-Founders of Jemi, to learn more about their startup journey and vision.
Annie met her co-founder Jason in a CS class at Harvard. They both became product managers after college, but each maintained a unique relationship with the creator economy.
Annie was a product manager on Facebook’s Creator Monetization team. Through that experience, she built deep domain knowledge in the space and learned that fans didn’t just want access to exclusive content, but craved personal connection with the very people they looked up to. Her observations only became more obvious with the rise of the celebrity shout-out platform, Cameo.
Jason, on the other hand, is a music producer on the side. He found that he and many other music producers craved a guaranteed connection with artists they liked. He knew though, that it was hard for creators to make money.
In April, they decided to take a stab at the problem by building a platform that would allow creators and artists to make money while providing personal connections to fans. And that is how Jemi was born.
🚗 Product Journey
When they started Jemi in April of this year, they were mostly focusing on getting to know more content creators. Annie reached out to people on social media to try and validate the demand for their platform idea.
“I reached out to people on Instagram and Facebook, some who I follow. For example, one of them was an Asian American Instagram and TikTok creator called Joon Lee. I just emailed him. I think for us, it was really just going out there and talking to creators, pitching them our idea, and getting their feedback.”
(Screenshot of the email between Annie and Joon)
After extensive customer discovery, Annie and Jason acquired two key insights. First, creators want to make money but oftentimes have trouble deciding where to start (e.g. video shout out, merch, etc). Second, many existing platforms do not offer creators the flexibility to explore differentiated monetization options. These two learnings led them to believe that they needed to create an immensely flexible platform allowing creators to sell anything from virtual interactions to physical items.
After validating demand, Annie and Jason decided to use the YC approach and focus first on doing things that didn’t scale. They used a website builder to create a profile for creators like Joon who could then share it with fans to charge for different offerings. Even though the website had very limited functionality, they managed to get a lot of traction with creators and manually acquired over 300 creators.
“The MVP product we had was only fan-facing. All of the backend stuff was just email. If a fan made a purchase on the website, we would just email Joon and let him know about the new request. It was very janky at the time, but it was the quickest thing we could do. We created an MVP page for many other creators and got to a point where it wasn’t scalable for us to be the ones customizing and creating these profiles for them.”
(Screenshot of MVP website)
After the MVP, they started to automate many of the processes they’d been doing manually, such as onboarding and website customization. They also built out additional features based on the creators’ needs. Right now, they are focusing on creating a membership feature to help creators monetize through a subscription model.
🤔 Failures and Challenges
Not sure about what tools to use
“One of the hardest things is finding the right tools. There are so many platforms we are using for building our product, whether it’s communicating internally with our team or communicating with creators. My co-founder and I worked at big companies like Facebook and Uber so we were spoiled with all the internal tools and we don’t have those tools right now.”
Failed to send personalized emails
“At one point, I was emailing thousands of creators a day without any personalization. The good thing about that was ease, but every creator could clearly understand that it was not personalized and it was mail merge so they would say ‘stop spamming me’. After that learning, we started to actually research each and every one of the creators we reached out to and wrote hyper-personalized emails. With this approach, our conversion has 4X-ed in terms of reach out —> sign up.”
“Two to five years from now, we are trying to be the Shopify for content creators. We hope creators think of Jemi as the first place to sell anything. For us to get there, we have to do a lot of work on the branding side and also build the best e-commerce platform for creators.”
Check out Jemi!
Feel free to reach out to me if you are an early-stage founder that is currently fundraising right now.
I would love to help and pass on the deck to investors in my network!
💡 Investor POV
Saar Gur (Partner at CRV)
(Image credit: Saar Gur)
Saar Gur is a general partner at CRV, one of the oldest and most successful venture firms in the US. He began his career in finance at Lehman Brothers as a technology analyst after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. He subsequently dove into the world of entrepreneurship and built multiple successful companies, including video advertising platform Brightroll (acquired by Yahoo for $640 million), and carebadges.com (acquired by Facebook Causes).
Saar joined CRV in 2007, and has been named one of the “Top 8 Up & Coming Venture Capitalists” by Forbes, and a “Top 10 VC Under the Age of Thirty-Six” by Venture Capital Journal. He is an early investor in companies like DoorDash, Ring, Patreon, Classpass, and many more. I was beyond thrilled to get to know Saar and learn more about his thoughts on entrepreneurship and new B2C trends.
🎢 Consumer trends that excite Saar the most
Making experiences more entertaining
“I think there is a general theme of making historically uninteresting experiences more entertaining and more aligned with people’s passions and interests. There are many of those opportunities in finance. Robinhood took day trading and made it more fun. Titanvest combined interesting content with passive investing, educating users about the reasons for owning different stocks through videos and emails. Rally is another example that allows you to invest in collective assets such as baseball cards - people can now make money doing the things that interest them the most.”
New consumer platforms
“Platforms are interesting - DoorDash is a good example. I think people still underestimate DoorDash Drive. In the past, if I wanted to launch a marektplace that had some local delivery element, I needed to build the product and also do the delivery. Today, we are seeing some really cool startups that just use the DoorDash API for delivery. DoorDash’s delivery platform allows other companies to easily bootstrap a business.”
👀 Common mistakes early-stage founders make
Fail to execute well on building the product
“It’s really hard to build a great product and truly understand the needs of the user. Many people have ideas, but they don’t have a good design or they lack the ability to truly solve a problem.”
Don’t have a unique insight
“I think a lot of people just want to start a company and they don’t really have that unique insight so it’s hard for them to build something great. When iPhone launched in 2007, every major phone manufacturer decided to make a copy of the iPhone with a touch screen, but none of them understood the core problem Apple was solving. They didn’t have the unique glass that Apple had sourced and they didn’t have great keyboard software. It is important for early-stage founders to understand the problem so deeply so that they don’t end up with a cargo cult wooden plane.”
(image of a cargo cult plane)
🤔 Key learnings from the operator days
The need to enjoy the grind
“There’s a lot of different founders out there, but I think the ones that I tend to love are just grinders that are committed to the process rather than focusing on the outcome. I love the quote ‘one man’s workout is another man’s warmup’. ”
Formula for success = amazing market + amazing team
“From DoorDash to Bird or any number of companies I’ve invested in overtime, I have found that the magic formula is having an amazing market and an amazing team. Many founders think that the product itself is going to be the magic sauce and sometimes it is, such as Snapchat; however, it’s a grind for most businesses.”
👥 Most interesting founder Saar has met
“I feel very fortunate that I seeded Jack Conte (CEO and Co-Founder of Patreon). When I funded him, he was a full-time musician and a very talented one. He didn’t take a salary for the first two and a half years that he was working on Patreon.
Music is hard and you have to put in a lot of time to learn a new instrument. You’re going to sound horrible for a long time and then you are trying to put together a band and play a lot of music together to make great music. I’ve seen Jack apply a lot of those principles to running a company [and being a great CEO]. It is impressive to watch his commitment to growth and his investment in constantly improving.”
📚 Saar’s favorite book
Victor Frankel's, Man's Search for Meaning - “The book is about how people that had a mission greater than themselves were the ones that survived the concentration camps. I think that great companies have these missions that are bigger than the people involved. What’s exciting about DoorDash’s IPO is that it is in service of the bigger mission - I think they are just getting started.
Personally, when I invest, I try to find companies that are working on impactful problems that are worth fighting for. I think there is magic in that.”
👨💻 What I’ve been reading
Automating the Andreessen Analyst
The Airbnbs by Paul Graham
Where to build your startup by NFX
Roblox Is Betting Big on the Kid Attention Economy
2021 Consumer Trends by Coefficient Capital (**Highly Recommend)
🏀 Who’s ballin this week
Facebook publicly launches its collaborative music video app, Collab
Reddit buys TikTok rival Dubsmash
Bumble reportedly filed confidentially for an IPO
Remote physical gaming site Surrogate.tv raises a $2.5M seed round
Mental wellness platform Lyra Health is raising up to $175M at a $2.25B valuation
😍 Jobs & Internships
Apply - Thrasio - Brand Ops Analyst (New York)
Apply - Insight Partners - Investment Analyst (NYC) *January 2021 start
Apply - Heartbeat - Founding Designer (Remote）
Apply - B37 - VC Analyst (Bay Area)
Apply - Hopin - Biz Ops Analyst (NYC)
Apply- Samsung Catalyst Fund - Senior VC Associate
Apply - IDEA Fund Partners - Venture Fellowship (Remote)
Apply - EVCA - Undergrad VC Fellowship (Remote)
Apply - Curated - Social Media Intern (Remote)
Apply - Bill.com - PM Intern (Palo Alto)
Apply - Chewy - Undergrad/MBA Business Analyst Intern (Boston)
Apply - West Venture Studio - Growth Intern (SF)
If you have reached this far, could you please take 30 seconds to fill out this quick survey? It will help me to improve the newsletter and deliver you more interesting content in the future. Means a lot to me ♥️.
**P.S. I have adopted many of your suggestions in the past (e.g. having more bullet points, changing the order of the content, creating an archive for all previous posts, etc) so I hear you!
↺ What you might’ve missed in the last three weeks
12/13 - Story of Geneva (Slack for private communities) + Future of Consumer Startups
12/06 - Story of Wellnest (joyful journaling app) + Matthew Hartman (Partner at Betaworks Ventures)
11/29 - Story of Carewell (e-commerce platform for caregivers) + Elizabeth Edwards(Partner at H Venture Partners)
Check out all the startups and investors I have featured in the past on
this Notion board