Discover more from Consumer Startups
🎢 Newsletter #43 - Story of Stir (Square for digital creators)
+ jobs and internship opportunities!
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, investor POV, and unique behaviors in the early-stage consumer startup space.
All my previous posts can be found here.
Follow me on Twitter @_leoluo.
🍽 Today’s menu
Startup story - Stir (Square for digital creators)
What I’ve been reading - 5 articles about startups and investing
Who’s ballin’ this week - 5 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
Story of Stir
(Image credit: Stir)
With the rise of the creator economy, digital creators are building businesses around their personal brands, often monetizing on multiple platforms. For example, a video creator can make money from YouTube ads, Patreon donations, and Shopify merch sales. These multi-platform creators are most often referred to as multi-SKU creators.
Stir (backed by a16z and Homebrew) is the hottest startup helping multi-SKU creators run their businesses. Think Square for digital creators. The main product allows creators to combine multiple sources of income in one view, split revenue with other creators, and launch collectives.
I had a really fun chat with Joe, CEO & Co-Founder of Stir, to learn more about their startup journey and vision for the creator economy.
“I come from a big Italian-American family. There are about 30 of us in a group chat. My professional career is largely impacted by my family because I’ve always wanted to work on tools that bring people together.
Right out of college, I worked for a startup called Yik Yak which was a hyper-local community platform, and after, I went to Facebook, working on Messenger and Facebook Groups. To me, software has many incredible levers that bring people together.
While working on Facebook, I had two insights. First, it is easier than ever to build a great business on top of platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Second, the people starting these businesses are not traditional entrepreneurs - they are either building community or creating content. I felt that there was a whole new world that hadn’t been explored by good software and I wanted to build in that world, ” Joe elaborated.
🚗 Product journey
Joe began the journey by purchasing the usestir.com domain in order to test a bunch of ideas on top of it. The tests consisted of 10 low-fidelity, no-code experiments - exploring ideas from a marketplace aimed at connecting manufacturers to creators for branded merch, to a product that helped creators manage their taxes.
Idea selection framework -
“The single most important thing for us was that the product had to create more creators. It couldn’t be a tax product because you’d only sell it to existing audiences. You are not growing the pie. I felt that whatever we did needed to change the model and increase the odds for someone to make a living with their creativity. Also, I wanted a business with a good network effect because how you acquire customers matters.”
Stir’s MVP was prompted by a call from an accountant.
“We got a call from an accountant who asked if we could help them split money for a complex brand deal worth about $100K. We told them, ‘Yeah, we can, and we'll have it ready in two days’. We built the entire MVP in those two days.
We hadn't thought about splitting before that point, but the experience opened our eyes because of the real need for splitting. We also realized that there were a ton of additional opportunities connected to it, especially because it takes advantage of the network effect. In short, splitting creates more creators.
Joe and his team maintain close relationships with their customers. They speak to their creators every day, either through FaceTime or text.
These conversations provide the team with insights on what to build. They’ve since built out features such as a dashboard that combines a creator’s incomes from different platforms in a single view. Currently, their focus is on improving the overall experience and making sure the product is ready to scale. Hence, it is still in private Beta.
“It's not like a chat app where if we don't send a photo, you can take another one. We're moving money around and we have to verify who our customers are. We're trying to make the experience as amazing as possible so we know once we go to scale this thing, we're ready. Right now, we have incredibly loyal customers that set up their payments with Stir and use our dashboard.”
Hundreds of thousands of digital creators have used Stir’s main product and its drops. The company works with creators like Freddie Wong (9.1 million subscribers), Mythical (16.9 million subscribers), and Peter Hollens (2.6 million subscribers).
👀 The drops
Drops are the most unique part of Stir, perhaps the reason for its insane popularity on Twitter. Every month, Joe and his team launch a piece of software that’s outside of their core business. They’ve shipped seven new pieces of software so far.
“We produce one-off projects in pursuit of our mission to enable creators to run great businesses, own their content, and build direct relationships with their audience.
We helped one YouTuber [Airrack] reach one million subscribers. The software we made helped him to get 225,000 subscribers in five days.
We built a product called OnlyTweets which allows for anyone to have a premium Twitter account and pay for tweets.
We built a drop called MergWith, which brought together 22 different creators to design a COVID mask. We put them into groups of two and split the profits 50/50 to start.”
The latest drop from Stir:
1.Earning trust from creators
“Building trust with creators is difficult. Creators are naturally skeptical of people in tech because tech has changed its business model so often. We have to learn to speak their languages. I think we have made great strides towards building trust with creators through our drops and our product.”
2.Creators are decentralized
“Creators are decentralized. They hang out in different spots and there are many of them. The word ‘creators’ is a broad term, unlike ‘students’ or ‘athletes’. YouTubers are very different from Substack writers. They hang out in different places and have different problems. It’s very hard to build a one-size-fits-all solution, and we have to be aware of those nuances.”
“We want to help everyone become a business. Currently, only a small minority of the population makes money online. I fundamentally believe that is going to grow to a sizable portion, whether you are selling stuff or creating content. If people become businesses, they are going to need a new suite of tools purposefully built for them.”
Check out Stir!
👨💻 What I’ve been reading
In this essay, Paul Graham talks about projects he has worked on and how he made different decisions in his life. Did you know he wanted to be a professional painter?
Greg Isenberg talks about spontaneous internet and how the future of the social internet will be open spaces and in the moment
LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe - How the professional platform makes networking weird
Justin Kan started a YouTube channel, and in this episode, he talked about the story behind Twitch’s acquisition
The algebra of wealth - Focus on what matters. Be a Stoic in the face of temptation. Use Time to your advantage. Diversify your investments.
🏀 Who’s ballin this week
Realm raises $3M to show 87M+ Americans how much their home could be worth
Artie raises $10M for app-less mobile games
Podimo, the podcast and short-form audio subscription service, picks up €11.2M in new funding
Event networking app Grip raises $13M, as pandemic forces events to stay virtual
Social audio app Clubhouse has topped 8 million global downloads
😍 Jobs & Internships
Apply - FirstMark - Investment Associate (NYC)
Apply - Clubhouse - Community Success (SF)
Apply - Raydiant - Product Manager (Bay Area)
Apply - Tinder - Financial Analyst (LA)
Apply - BCG - PIPE Analyst (Boston)
Apply - Fast - Sales Ops Associate (SF)
Apply - Neeva - Content Creator Spring Intern (Remote)
Apply - The Yes - Software Engineering Intern (Bay Area)
Apply - Roofstock - Design Intern (Bay Area)
Apply - Loom - Software Engineering Intern (Remote)
Apply - thredUP - Product Management Intern (Remote)
Apply - On Deck Labs - Operations Intern (Remote)
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
02/14 - Story of Mutate (Figma for game creation)
02/07- Story of Boomy (AI for music creation)
01/31 - Story of Apothecary (personalized skincare marketplace) + Anne Dwane (Partner at Village Global)
Check out all the startups and investors I have featured in the past on
this Notion board