Despite all the hype around the “creator economy”, it’s a relatively new phenomenon, and even the multinationals with the most skin in the game are still trying to figure out where it’s all heading. In this sense, Zeev Farbman, co-founder and CEO of Lightricks, is the exception.
Digital content creators have been able to make a living since the rise of the internet, but many of the factors that make the creator economy what it is today have only been in play since 2020. With the regulations of social distancing in place, confined creators doubled down on posting original content and engaging with their audience. As people’s values have shifted, The Great Resignation has seen a shift towards self-employment, and with trust in businesses plunging, marketers have found growing success tapping into the authenticity of influencers.
Founded in 2013 and now operating in high growth mode after a $130 million Series D funding round with a $1.8 billion valuation, Lightricks has made a name for itself as a developer of hugely popular apps that help people bring their visual content ideas to life. To date, the company’s products, which include Facetune, Videoleap, Beatleap and Filtertune, have been downloaded over 500 million times.
We reached out to Farbman for his thoughts on what the future holds for the creator economy and what creators need to thrive.
- Despite all the hype surrounding the creator economy, industry data suggests that only the greatest creators are able to make a living from their work. Do you consider it important to empower the “middle class” of content creators?
Zeev Farbman: We strive to lower the entry bar for creators, giving all creators access to our tools and services, and providing opportunities for them to quickly and easily connect with platforms or brands that seek to collaborate on unique campaigns. We believe in the idea that anyone can be a creator, and strive to make our apps and services accessible to all creators across the spectrum.
The creator economy is changing rapidly before our eyes, and things are about to change drastically, especially with anything involving medium-sized or even small creators. Influencer marketing is is expected to reach some $15 billion revenue in 2022, and marketers are looking to work with creators who have 100,000 subscribers or less.
This means that a new era is dawning for the middle class of content creators, but there are still hurdles to overcome, especially issues of scale, which we at Lightricks seek to overcome with new and innovative technologies.
Prior to 2020, the biggest influencers with massive followings on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube received most of the attention, but with the rapid creation, growth in complexity of online content in just the past two years, the market has opened up and provides a great opportunity for those creators with smaller, loyal subscribers.
Empowering these growing mid-size creators is very important, as this broader pool of creators will benefit from marketing their unique skills, talents and passions through photo and video content and monetize them more easily through partnerships and brand campaigns.
- As a senior executive of a high-growth unicorn startup, your job encompasses so much. What aspects of being CEO are most important to you personally and how do you balance all of that?
Zeev Farbman: The daily life of a CEO is different in a startup made up of five friends, a company of 50 people working in the same building and a company of 600 people spread across four different countries and several time zones. And yet, the feeling of excitement when something that was just an idea becomes reality always remains the same, and that’s one of the most important things for me to see as a CEO.
Also, as a big company, I want every Lightricks employee to feel like they’re in a small startup, where their thoughts, ideas and work matter and make a difference – whether it’s changing our sheet road, releasing an exciting new feature for our users, or leading a successful new announcement.
Lightricks is a company that seeks to foster creativity, create magic, and bring life to millions and millions of people around the world, and I consider that to be part of our internal DNA as well. For me it is extremely important that the people behind the product also enjoy their travels. When your employees can fully express themselves and use their strengths in a way that helps everyone, things run better and easier.
- In its early years, Lightricks has been dedicated to developing apps that make it easier for content creators to bring their ideas to life. Now it looks like you’ve taken a broader perspective to meet the needs of the creator economy. What caused this pivot and where does it all lead?
Zeev Farbman: At Lightricks, we’ve always loved seeing how creatives use our tools. However, in recent years we have seen the mindset of these people change from being an amateur or hobbyist to more professional creators.
For example, our user research told us that three years ago, 75% used our apps for their friends and family, and only 25% considered their creations as a source of income, today this has completely changed. Today, 75% of our users want to monetize their creative content, and only 25% use apps as a pastime with friends and family.
Now, we want to continue providing these creators with all the tools and services they need to drive the creator economy forward. We had engaged creators in our apps before, and now it was also about helping and guiding them through the funnel from creation to monetization.
The next step was to figure out how to give creators more monetization opportunities and how to support them. In March, we acquired Chicago-based Popular Pays, a platform that facilitates collaboration between creators and brands on marketing and branding campaigns. This is the first step in our strategy to support and enable creators to reach their potential and monetize their talent and content.
The result is a platform that brings together our advanced tools and monetization opportunities for creators and gives brands access to the largest community of content creators around the world. Our goal is to eventually integrate the platform directly into our apps, allowing creators to easily market their content while giving brands direct access to all the types of creators and content they seek.
- As influencer marketing matures, the industry is seeing continued growth in demand for quality content generated and shared by creators. What key trends are you watching with regards to the supply – creator community?
Zeev Farbman: When we first introduced Facetune in 2013, social media was all about embracing the power of the image and showcasing the most impactful content that exemplified a creator’s passion, humor or artistry.
Many trends are worth following today, but two are of great interest to us. The first is the increased use of short videos, which are much more difficult to create than photo edits. Therefore, creators seek information from other creators on how best to leverage format or artistic effects to do so in their own content.
Second, creators understand that they can turn their hobby into a source of income and therefore they have new needs related to these monetization efforts.
- Over the past couple of years or so, all the major social platforms seem to be aggressively investing in launching monetization tools and channels aimed specifically at content creators. What do you think prompted this shift in focus and do you think it will continue?
Zeev Farbman: As the creator economy has evolved, it has become clear that creators are drivers of engagement for social media platforms. This has caused many interesting changes in the way both parties operate. Creators want to monetize their work, to be compensated for the value they give to platforms. At the same time, platforms want to make sure creators stay on their network. so that the rest of the users benefit from their navigation.
So yes, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and others all play along, and at Lightricks we prioritize alignment with the interests of creators, including small and medium-sized ones. They can use our tools to export content to any platform they choose (sometimes more than one), and we continue to create and provide them with exciting new monetization opportunities, so they can do what they do best: create exciting and engaging content. .
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