Although the buzz around the creator economy has fizzled out and consolidation has swept through the industry, some startups are nevertheless still catching the attention of investors.

Here’s our list of top picks over the past year:

Beehiiv

Recommended by: Paige Doherty, Behind Genius Ventures; Faraz Fatemi, Lightspeed Venture Partners; Ankur Nagpal, angel investor

Relationship: Doherty has no direct relationship with the startup; Fatemi and Nagpal are investors

Total funding: $16.7 million, per the company

What it does: Beehiiv is a newsletter platform cofounded by ex-Morning Brew staffers. The startup told Insider that its users send over 650 million emails each month. Beehiiv also offers creators tools to help propel growth and monetize their audience to scale their newsletter business. It’s used by influencers including creator-duo Colin Rosenblum and Samir Chaudry and Matt Navarra.

Why it’s on the list: Doherty said “Beehiiv is crushing” and she’s fascinated by its products that help creators grow — and the startup’s investors agree. Nagpal described the startup as “likely the fastest growing company in the creator economy today” and “leaving behind incumbents like Substack and ConvertKit,” he told to Insider. Fatemi, meanwhile, highlighted the startup’s latest AI features and advertising network, particularly its recent acquisition of ad platform Swapstack.

Circle

Recommended by: Ankur Nagpal, angel investor

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $24 million, per the company

What it does: Circle is a community platform for creators, offering events and digital products for those looking to build an online community. Some of the features include group chat rooms, private messaging, paid memberships and recurring subscriptions.

The company was founded by Andrew Guttormsen and Sid Yadav, who were former Teachable employees, along with Rudy Santino. It closed in 2018 its first funding round and announced its Series A in November 2021.

Why it’s on the list: The startup will go from $8 million in annual revenue at the start of the year to $16 million by the end of 2023, which caught Nagpal’s eye.

“It’s pretty impressive growth at this scale given how slow the creator economy is growing in general,” he said.

He also highlights how quickly the range of products Circle offers has expanded, transitioning from community features to a full platform for creators.

CommunityOne

Recommended by: Haley Bryant, Hustle Fund

Relationship: No direct relationship

Total funding: Bootstrapped, per the company

What it does: For creators on Discord, managing a community can be daunting. CommunityOne is trying to alleviate that burden with an AI-powered community manager that helps creators “build their Discord communities,” founder Louisa Lu told Insider. “Rather than spending 10 hours [a] day attending to a virtual community, it now takes them half an hour per day,” Lu said. The platform also offers tools that help creators monetize their Discord communities. 

Why it’s on the list: CommunityOne isn’t just on Bryant’s radar because of how it is helping creators monetize Discord. She also said it was “founded by an exceptional team of hackers and creators.” The startup’s CTO, Bruno Alatriste, and its community manager, are former YouTube and Twitch creators.

Crate

Recommended by: Charles Hudson, Precursor Ventures

Relationship: No direct relationship

Total funding: $6 million, per the company

What it does: Crate launched this summer as a new AI platform aimed at helping creators streamline the creative process. Founded by Anna Bofa, a former Pinterest and Facebook staffer, Crate offers tools like image generation and content clustering. The Information described the new platform as an “AI-fueled version of Pinterest.”

Everyday internet users can also use Crate to organize their favorite content and sift through content they’ve saved — from which the platform’s AI learns their “content personality.”

Why it’s on the list: “I’m really excited about Anna Bofa from Crate,” Hudson told Insider. “She’s a super experienced person building some really interesting things at the intersection of creator economy and generative AI.” Before launching Crate, Bofa worked at Facebook, managing community partnerships for about four years, according to her LinkedIn. Prior to Facebook, Bofa worked at other tech giants including Pinterest, Dropbox, and Google.

Komi

Recommended by: Sven Ahrens, angel investor; Julius Dein, angel investor

Relationship: Ahrens and Dein are investors

Total funding: $18 million, per the company

What it does: Komi is one of many link-in-bio solutions for creators, who often rely on a single website to funnel fans to their various platforms and businesses. Founded by Lewis Crosbie, Ben Deigman, and Olly Hadden-Paton, Komi launched in 2021 and began working with creators, musicians, and celebrities on an invite-only basis. After closing its Series A earlier this year, the startup has focused on promoting its commerce tools, such as an on-page checkout feature. Musicians use Komi to promote new music or sell tickets, while creators promote their YouTube videos or market their paid offerings for fans, such as a fitness program.

Why it’s on the list: Ahrens, who is the director of global growth at Spotify, said Komi enables creators to “unify fan data and revenues in a simple way” that is platform agnostic. “If there’s one thing that I have learned over my nearly eight years at Spotify, this is where most aspiring and even professional creators fail to create lasting impact on their ‘business,'” Ahrens said.

Midjourney

Recommended by: Faraz Fatemi, Lightspeed Venture Partners

Relationship: none

Total funding: Bootstrapped, per the company

What it does: Midjourney is a generative AI model and content creator platform, where users can create different images directly on its Discord server. It’s processed 70 million images so far, and creators choose different pricing models according to their content needs, with features including image remixing, upscaling, and inpainting. 

Why it’s on the list: Fatemi said Midjourney stands out to him because of its incredible distribution; the platform had the largest Discord server as of May, with just under 16 million users. He also highlighted that the company is fully bootstrapped, and is expecting to bring in $200 million in annual revenue by the end of this year.

Passionfroot

Recommended by: Sven Ahrens, angel investor

Relationship: No direct relationship

Total funding: $3.4 million, according to the company

What it does: Founded in December 2021 by Jennifer Phan and Jens Mannanal, Passionfroot is a platform for creators and media companies to grow their sponsorships.

Passionfroot offers a number of services, including the ability to build a storefront, land brand partnerships, and manage payments.

Passionfroot works with creators across categories like education, marketing, AI, and finance, and across platforms including newsletters, podcasts, Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube. The company plans to release a brand marketplace to connect companies with creators.

The company is backed by content creators including YouTube stars Marina Mogilko and Ali Abdaal, who are among its investors.

Why it’s on the list: “Passionfroot helps creators to track and manage their inbound collaborations, but also provide effective tools to creators to create new partnerships with the right companies,” Ahrens said, adding that they have well-known knowledge creators and media companies on the platform.

WorkMade

Recommended by: Brent Murri, partner at M13

Relationship: Investor

Total funding: $7.5 million, according to the company

What it does: WorkMade is a fintech startup that provides business banking tools to freelancers and creators to help them keep track of their earnings and pay taxes.

A long-time freelancer, Nick Simpson founded WorkMade in 2022 after encountering a stressful tax season. Simpson has since scaled the startup to 12 employees. The platform uses AI to automate business processes, from starting a business to planning for tax season.

Why it’s on the list: “WorkMade is dramatically improving the financial operating system for creators, starting with simplifying the payment and tracking of taxes and write-offs,” said Murri. “WorkMade lets them focus on their creative abilities.” 

The mentions in this list are inspired by research conducted by Insider who asked more than a dozen venture capital and angel investors specializing in the creator economy, from firms including Hustle Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and MaC Venture Capital, about the creator startups they think are most promising this year. 

Some sources used from Business Insider.

Image source from Midjourney.

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