Li Jin has become something of a soothsayer on the creator economy. After nearly four years at Andreessen Horowitz, where she penned a much-discussed essay about the proliferation of people turning their interests into livelihoods, she founded early-stage venture firm Atelier Ventures last year and writes a newsletter on what she terms the “passion economy.”
Over the next decade, she predicts, nearly everyone will be part of it in some way. Many venture capitalists are already half-way there.
“No matter which industry you’re in, people are all going to be creators,” said Jin, who has been living in Pittsburgh during the pandemic. This embrace of virtual brand-building is already starting to happen but will accelerate in coming years, as doctors, CEOs and other established professions, including venture capitalists, realize the importance of cultivating online profiles.
“Everything will have a creator component to the job,” Jin, 30, said. “Everyone will have to build influence online, because we’re living more of our lives online … All of us will have to adopt some of the skill sets and behaviors of creators in order to be successful.”
Although internet personalities have existed for more than a decade, venture capitalists like herself have become newly interested in startups serving these entrepreneurs. Either as an angel investor or through Atelier, Jin in the last year has invested in social audio app Clubhouse and Stir Money, which provides accounting software for creators, subscription platform Patreon and Luma, which hosts virtual classes. She has also invested in newsletter platform Substack.
Jin attributes the recent flurry of VC interest to two major factors: the pandemic and the rise of TikTok, the first social platform in years to break through and rival established social networks. “TikTok made people realize that consumer was not yet won, and could never really be won,” she said. “It would come in waves and there would be generational turnover in new products.”