When you think of the consumer sector, what are some companies that cross your mind? Snapchat? Facebook? TikTok? These are usually the types of products that fall under the category of consumer. Consumer products are risky, need virality to exist, and rely on hundreds of millions of users to be meaningful to later-stage investors and the public markets. This has been the landscape for two decades it seems like. With this being the common narrative, there was one company founded in 2013 that didn’t make much noise in the tech world, but we are still surfing on the ripples it created back then, today. This company is called Patreon.
Many of you have heard of this company by now, but as a reminder, it allows creators to charge directly for their creative acts. Musicians, teachers, podcasters were all now able to make money, as consumers, selling to consumers. Although Patreon was early, many more companies followed. Teachable allowed teachers to make money by selling directly to consumers. Most recently, Substack made waves with a round led by a16z. Substack allows anyone to start a paid newsletter.
It seems that all of sudden, the advertising model wasn’t as popular as it once was. Creatives now want to charge for their worth, and they are. This is even scaled up to startups, just look at The Athletic. They charge every reader to read their publication, and it’s souring w/ $139 M is VC funding to date.
Why does any of this matter?
The reason this model matters is because it directly impacts what people DO for work. Instead of getting a 9–5 job and working on their creative endeavor on insights and weekends, a shift is coming across the world that shows that consumers are willing to pay for quality X. X could equal education, entertainment, information, etc. but this shift in the market has proven that this is occurring.
For people reading, there has never been a better time in the world to try to make money on the internet. Tools are being built left and right to help you do it. Gen Z’s average career will look completely different from ours. Gen Z sees video gaming as a viable career. The only difference between us and them is that, for them, it actually is a viable career!
Unlocking C2C and C2B
What the above unlocks is a dichotomy between consumer to business and consumer to consumer business models. For the longest time, only C2B existed, AKA freelancing. An individual sells their services to a company is a C2B model. This is the model people are most comfortable with. Any freelance developer or freelance writer is working on the C2B model. People don’t call it that because there’s never really been another option to compare it to.
With the rise of a new crop of tools that enable consumers to get paid, they are now able to sell to other consumers and make real money in the form of a subscription or transaction, not ads. This is powerful. This starts to unlock the idea of Company of One, written by Paul Jarvis. We will get to a point where single people will be able to build empires by using the C2C tools. Instead of massive companies ruling the land, it will be personal brands. A good example of one of these people is David Perell.
Who is David Perrel?
David Perrel is an SF native and NYC resident who is slowly building up his personal empire using these C2C tools very strategically. Currently, David has:
David is a brand-building master, who is using these tools that only have been created in the last decade to take advantage of this C2C age. David is not building a company and becoming CEO of the company. HE IS THE COMPANY.
Another extreme example of the C2C model is Jason Calacanis
Who is Jason Calacanis
Jason Calcanis was the 3rd investor into Uber, and one of the first checks into Robinhood, Calm, Thumbtack, and 100+ others. Although Jason’s position is unique, as he is the GP of a LAUNCH Fund, the basic fundamentals of this post still apply. Jason has been masterful about creating his brand as a consumer (vs. business). Jason has:
- An extremely popular podcast called This Week In Startups.
- Free conferences that any founder can come to
- More focused and intimate events for founders who impress him
- An accelerator for founders he wants to invest in who are pre $1M ARR
- A syndicate for larger deals than the accelerator.
This one guy. One massive personal brand. But he created a money printing machine. Note, he does have an awesome team helping them with this, but the LAUNCH public-facing brand is pretty much Jason Calcanis. This is another example of one person leveraging tools around them to create an empire as an individual.
Making a full circle
David and Jason would not have been able to do what they are doing 20 years ago. There are a particular set of tools that have only been recently developed + an overall trend that increases the willingness to pay creators directly, that early adopters are capitalizing on. In the future of work, I predict that the individual brands will grow in power while global brands will stagnate.
Joe Rogan will trounce every network in views. AOC will be the most important brand on capitol hill. Garyvee will be Gen Z’s most well-known business teacher. Tools and trends are giving the power to the people and the more people who take that power and do something with it, the most successful they will be.