Two years ago, Jack Conte seemed to have pulled off one of the most remarkable makeovers in recent Silicon Valley memory.
A musician and popular YouTuber, Conte had found his rhythm as an entrepreneur through Patreon, the startup he co-founded to help creators like himself find fans willing to support them financially. The number of creators using the site soared during the first year of the pandemic, as lockdowns left musicians and other artists dependent on online sources of income. A parade of high-profile investors such as Tiger Global Management poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the startup, giving it an eye-popping $4 billion valuation in 2021.
Now, though, Patreon’s growth has ground to a halt. The number of creators on the site with one or more patrons rose less than 2% last year compared to nearly 40% in 2020, according to Graphtreon, a site that tracks Patreon statistics. An important proxy for revenue has flatlined too, a person familiar with the company’s finances said. Last year, Patreon processed around $1.5 billion in patron membership payments—a piece of which Patreon takes as revenue—roughly the same amount it had processed the year prior, the person said. But while many tech companies have seen their pandemic growth spurts dissipate, interviews with more than 20 current and former Patreon employees say the company is also suffering from management missteps that have been going on for years.