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Creators judging Karat's startup pitching competition. Photo: Courtesy of Karat

Creators Judge a Shark Tank-Style Contest; Instagram Tests NFTs

Photo: Creators judging Karat's startup pitching competition. Photo: Courtesy of Karat

As Neal Jean, the CEO and co-founder of link-in-bio startup Beacons, was raising his Series A round of funding, he pitched an unusual set of investors earlier this year: creators judging a Shark Tank-style competition for startups. At least three creators invested with individual checks ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, money that Jean plans will be part of a much larger round from traditional venture capitalists. “These are the people we’re actually building for, and now they’re real stakeholders in the success of the company, too,” Jean said of the creator-investors. 

The March pitching competition was arranged by Karat Financial, a startup offering corporate credit cards for creators. The judges, who had the option to invest, included YouTube creators Graham Stephan, Nate O'Brien, Wendover Productions and Marina Mogilko and Twitch streamers Alexandra Botez and JustAMinx. The live audience was also full of dozens of creators, who had an average of 500,000 followers, and who could also approach startups separately to invest. 

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