Former Asana employees want to take on Discord with a positive platform for creator communities

In a creator-economy world, if you’re only as good as your last YouTube video, then your next YouTube video had better be bigger and louder than the last.

Vibely, a new startup co-founded by Asana alumni Teri Yu and Theresa Lee, wants to turn the constant, and often exhausting, beast of content creation on its head. The startup has created a premium, creator-controlled community platform that allows fans to gather and be monetized in new ways, beyond what is possible on YouTube or TikTok.

The core of Vibely, and what the co-founders hope will keep users coming back, is the ability to let any creator make a challenge for their fans to enjoy. For example, a creator whose brand evokes thoughtfulness could ask fans to sketch out their personal growth goals or take action around a new year’s resolution everyday. Or a fitness influencer could motivate fans to work out for a sprint of days.

“Most people in the creator economy are thinking about how to immediately monetize and get that instant gratification of like money here,” Yu said, which is why creators sell merchandise or hop on Cameo. “We’re focusing on long-term strategic communities.” Yu describes her startup’s shift as a mindset change, from a linear relationship between creators and fans to a multi-directional relationship between fans, superfans, new fans and creators.

Image Credits: Vibely

Vibely’s pitch is two-fold. For fans, the platform gives them a chance to chat with other fans from around the world. It also lets fans participate in community challenges and have a place to plan virtual hangouts over shared love for makeup or dance. The startup helps creators simultaneously, by giving them a one-stop shop to announce plans, do call to actions and create an ambassador program. It lets the “creator scale their time and have a multi-directional relationship with the community under or beneath them.”

Notably, Vibely is trying to be different from Patreon or OnlyFans, which is basically paywalled content for fans. Vibely doesn’t need creators to post more content, it just needs them to pop into a premium community and interact with fans in a meaningful way.

The startup is formalizing a sporadic daily occurrence: When a creator posts content, their comment sections in YouTube, Instagram and TikTok light up with fans discussing every detail you can imagine, from a suggestive hair flip to if that background poster has a hidden message. Creators often pop in to respond to a spicy thread or a random compliment, which incentivizes fans to keep swarming the content section.

The startup has spent little on customer acquisition cost and relied heavily on word of mouth. In December, Vibely launched a part-in-person, part-virtual creator house to pair top TikTok creators with their followers, generating some buzz. In 2020, Vibely had more than 600 communities with 392,000 messages sent and 37,000 challenges completed. Creators include Lavendaire, with 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and Rowena Tsai, who has 520,000 subscribers.

Yu says that there is one day where Kim Kardashian might have a community on the platform, but the main “bread and butter” of Vibely is searching for creators who represent a true interest, value or belief system. This can be a book influencer or a religious creator, for example.

“[Creators] are controlling their own destiny,” Yu said. “On Instagram or Facebook, you might create content but the algorithm decides at the end of the day whether or not your audience sees it. With Vibely, they have 100% control since this is their community.” The startup is planning to make money through membership dues and in-app mechanics like social currencies and rewards.

Vibely’s moonshot goal is to be a more positive, and supportive, Discord, a platform used by gamer communities across the world. So far, Yu says that less than .1% of Vibely users have been flagged by other users, although notably would not share total user numbers. There is also an ambassador program that appoints a user to oversee a community, as well as a global community manager on the team.

“The ceiling of where [Discord] can support is really only going to be gamers,” she said. “But creators want to protect their brand right now and make sure people have a positive experience,” so they are looking for another place to set up.

Image Credits: Vibely

While moderation is apparently going well so far, Vibely will most certainly encounter problems as more and more users join its platform. In the world of challenges, craze and hype led by fanatics could potentially become harmful if someone takes it too far. While Vibely aims to be a judgement-free zone for people to connect around the world, scale has a uniquely pessimistic way of forking that from time to time. Some consumer apps have responded to this truth by aggressively hiring on-staff moderators, but that too can become grueling work.

To hit the ground running, Vibely announced today that it has raised $2 million in seed financing from backers including Steve Chen, the co-founder of YouTube; Justin Rosenstein, the co-founder of Asana and co-creator of Netflix’s “Social Dilemma” documentary; Scott Heiferman, the co-founder of Meetup; Turner Novak, formerly an investor at Gelt, and more.

 

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A new startup wants to build a network of houses for influencers across the US to film in and record podcasts

Summary List PlacementAs the influencer industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar marketing category, interest in non-celebrity, lower-follower-count creators has exploded.
These “micro” and mid-tier influencers often have just a few thousand fans. But they can still earn a full-time living (or run a lucrative side business) by posting sponsored content on apps like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. And unlike Hollywood stars, they often live in cities and towns across the US – not just in the entertainment hub of Los Angeles.
This group of less-famous creators is precisely who the startup Of Note hopes to serve with the launch of its new influencer coworking space and content studio, Note House.
Located in East Nashville, Tennessee, Note House is a professionally designed space for local influencers to visit (not live in) and create content.
Of Note charges a $75 monthly fee for members to work at the house, film in its Instagram-ready rooms, and use its production tools like a podcast studio. Of Note also offers a $25 per-diem option for creators who just want to visit the house once or twice a month, and businesses can rent out the entire house for a flat fee on select days.

The house, which opened on November 30, includes a white-box photo studio and an audio recording space for members who want to record a podcast (an increasingly popular medium among internet stars). These features offer members access to equipment that a part-time creator may not want to invest in themselves.
Read more: Some brands are hiring influencers as a ‘one-stop shop’ for video and animation as production studios shut down — and finding they’re a lot cheaper
But the company said one of the main draws of Note House is its showroom-quality living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom spaces — key set pieces for lifestyle influencers that want to promote bedding, bath products, food items, and other at-home brands on their Instagram accounts.

Of Note isn’t the first company to design a camera-friendly space for influencers.
The influencer agency Village Marketing launched its own influencer facility, “Village Studio,” in New York in 2018, expanding to Los Angeles shortly afterwards.
But Of Note’s plan to focus on servicing influencers who don’t live in coastal cities is one of its differentiators. India Mayer and Katy Shah, who cofounded and self-funded the business, told Insider that they’re eyeing Texas as their next Note House location. Whether they will have the funding to expand into other locations will depend on how 2021 goes, they said. 

“Our goal is not to have a Note House in LA or New York,” Mayer said. “Our goal is really to focus on other markets throughout the US that are not necessarily focused on as much. They’re a little bit harder to access by brands.”
Other creator-house businesses have recently sprung up in cities outside of Los Angeles. Eight members of a TikTok collective, THNAF, moved to Las Vegas last summer, telling Insider that living in the city was less expensive than moving to LA. And two influencer houses, Collab Crib and Valid Crib, recently launched in Atlanta with the goal of creating new opportunities for some of the city’s top Black creators. 
Sharing a space could help online influencers feel less isolated
When Mayer and Shah decided to start Of Note, their original goal was to create a communal space for influencers who typically “are living on their own digital island,” Mayer said. 
In addition to being a content studio, Note House was planned as a coworking space for influencers — an idea that WWD dubbed as a WeWork for local content creators. The Nashville house has an office space and offers coffee, water, and on-site management. And Mayer and Shah said they’re working on introducing some WeWork-style services like educational workshops for members.
But due to social-distancing restrictions associated with COVID-19, the team hasn’t focused much on coworking since the house’s launch. The property’s main value for creators has been its faux home spaces where creators can shoot branded content for their social-media accounts. 

“We don’t have presentation rooms and phone booths,” Shah said. “Instead we have exactly what the influencers need, which is a podcasting studio, a bedroom suite, and full bathroom and bedroom setup so influencers can shoot a home setup.”

The company said it worked with brands like H&M, Joe’s Jeans, Mary Kaye, and L’Oréal to pre-stock the house with clothing, furniture, and other decor. Its early partners “gifted” items to the house (an influencer marketing structure in which brands donate items for free in exchange for social promotion). The house features a styling room and lending closet with off-the-rack clothing options for members. Of Note said it’s now starting to charge for product placements in the house, with brand activation packages beginning at around $500. 

By offering temporary space rather than live-in houses, Of Note may avoid some of the drama that’s plagued other creator house businesses 
While it’s still very early days for Of Note — the company said it has 35 paying members (and a growing waitlist) thus far — the opportunity to build a business in the creator industry is ripe. 
Of Note is one of many upstarts that have looked into finding new revenue streams outside of pure marketing services (though they also offer those) in the influencer industry. Other companies have built businesses around direct-to-consumer merchandise, monetizing interactions with fans, and even developing financial products and banking services for creators.
And creator content houses have taken off in recent months as a wave of TikTok stars have moved in together to make videos and cross-promote each other’s accounts. But running a creator house as a business can get messy when creators live on-site, something that Shah and Mayer hope to avoid by running their house more like an office space. 
“India and I worked together at a traditional public relations and marketing agency here in [Nashville],” Shah said. “We were sensing, and it seems like a lot of our peers in the industry felt the same way, that people wanted more physical touchpoints, especially influencer communities living their career online.”
“We’re catering to a little bit different customer,” she said. “Our influencers aren’t going to live there. It’s definitely not a party scene.”
For more stories on creator-focused startups, read these other Business Insider stories:

After selling a startup to YouTube, this cofounder is betting podcasts are the next big money maker for influencers: Business Insider spoke with Agnes Kozera about Podcorn’s first year and the difference between working with YouTube stars and podcasters.
A new startup helps TikTok creators get paid to post videos with fans as the app’s stars look beyond brand deals: PearPop’s platform allows TikTok influencers to monetize their accounts using some of TikTok’s collaborative features like “duets” and “stitches.”
Finance startups are launching new products designed for influencers including an app that lets YouTubers get paid early: Fintech companies are raising funds and launching financial products for YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram creators.
Influencers describe what it’s like to use Community, the invite-only marketing app that lets them text message with their fans: Business Insider spoke to influencers testing out Community’s app to learn more about the invite-only platform.
Meet the startup helping YouTube creators earn millions in extra ad revenue by reposting their content on Facebook and Snapchat — including $68,000 from a single video: Posting videos across YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat can be a headache for creators. Startup Jellysmack is trying to streamline the process.
Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What would happen if you jumped off the International Space Station

Influencers say Instagram Reels is fueling growth and new followers

Summary List PlacementHi, this is Amanda Perelli and welcome back to Insider Influencers, our weekly rundown on the influencer and creator economy. Sign up for the newsletter here.
When Instagram first came out with a TikTok copycat feature, it got mixed reviews, with some calling Reels a “dud.”
Creators weren’t exactly going wild for the short-form video feature.
But since posting Reels regularly, many creators have said the feature has become a secret weapon to supercharge their growth and engagement. 
This has become an enormous incentive for creators to continue using the feature and shows how much Instagram is prioritizing it.
My colleague Sydney Bradley spoke with creators who explained how Reels has bolstered growth on Instagram:

Influencer Lissette Calveiro said her following increased by 3.6% and her total reach increased by 555% within a month of posting Reels. 

Being active on both TikTok and Instagram has been a key strategy for creators to grow, industry insiders said.

Lifestyle influencer Chandler DeHart said the ratio of followers that a really good Reel video will generate, as opposed to a regular static post, was “three to four times the amount.”

“When I started going more viral and having my Reels get picked up, I started growing a couple hundred and I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool. I’m finally growing again,'” said influencer Christine Tran Ferguson. 
Read the full post on Instagram Reels here.
Startups bet on text messaging as a way for influencers to reach fans and make money

Many influencers are starting to use text messaging to interact with fans and earn money.
My colleague Dan Whateley wrote about the new text messaging startups that have emerged to help build out this market.
Executives in the text-marketing industry broke down why creators are blasting out texts:

Companies like Cameo, PearPop, Substack, and OnlyFans allow creators to connect with users more intimately.

Texting is another extension of this trend, which has driven sales for influencers and media brands.

TikTok creator Addison Rae Easterling uses the startup Community to send automated messages to her followers. Other startups in the space are Subtext, SimpleTexting, and Chatitive.

AwesomenessTV used text marketing to promote the release of its recent influencer-focused reality show and was impressed by the results.
“It definitely allowed me and my team to pivot in real time in terms of how we were talking to our audience as well,” an AwesomenessTV exec said.
Read more on text marketing here.
Startups have begun helping newsletters find advertisers 

Substack is a famously ad-free newsletter platform, but some of its top writers have begun to incorporate advertising into their newsletters.
Substack makes money off of subscriptions, but some startups have sprung up to help small newsletters sell ads. They include Swapstack, Upstart.me, and Letterwell.
“Our goal is just to make it easy for people to do something that they are already doing,” Swapstack cofounder Jake Singer said.
But the rise of ads in Substack newsletters could become a problem for the company, my colleague Mark Stenberg wrote.
Read more on the startups helping monetize newsletters here.
Instagram’s lead, Adam Mosseri, is “not yet happy” with Reels

Instagram’s lead, Adam Mosseri, is “not yet happy” with Reels. 
Sydney wrote that Mosseri discussed Reels, TikTok, and how creators could make money on Instagram on a recent podcast.
Here are some key takeaways and a look at what 2021 has in store for creators: 

Mosseri said TikTok was ahead of Instagram with filters and augmented-reality effects.

The three main ways to monetize on Instagram are: commerce, “user-pay” products, and revenue share. 

Commerce is how the majority of career content creators earn a living through Instagram today, but the company wants to expand other avenues of making money.

Read more on what 2021 has in store for creators on Instagram.
More creator industry coverage from Insider:

How to land a job at Instagram, from getting a referral to nailing the interview (Sydney Bradley) 

Survey: TikTok is the top app for making young people aware of your brand (Dan Whateley) 

This week from Insider’s digital culture team:

Gab, the social-media platform booming on the far-right, has posted direct QAnon quotes on Twitter
Gab, a social-media platform that’s similar to Facebook, has become popular on the far-right. 
Insider reporter Rachel E. Greenspan wrote that the company recently quoted a message from QAnon, a baseless far-right conspiracy theory, on its Twitter page.
“DARK TO LIGHT. BLACKOUT NECESSARY,” Gab said in the tweet, which has become a popular QAnon phrase.
Gab has become the platform of choice for QAnon followers, as the movement has been widely banned from mainstream platforms. 
Read the full story here.
More on digital culture: 

Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson privately plotted to cut ties with each other (Kat Tenbarge)

Inside the rise of Nikocado Avocado, the extreme-eating YouTuber (Moises Mendez II)

Sea shanties are going viral on TikTok (Palmer Haasch)

YouTube suspended a creator known as Onision from monetizing his videos (Lindsay Dodgson)

Here’s what else we’re reading: 

How to cleanse your social media feed (Kate Lindsay, from No Filter)

Merchandise promoting the Capitol riot is still available on major e-commerce sites (Sapna Maheshwari and Taylor Lorenz, from The New York Times)

TikTok was told the ‘confidential identity’ of the UK’s next ambassador to China (Chris Stokel-Walker, from Business Insider)

Why the current lockdown is having an effect on mental health (Sarah Manavis, from New Statesman)

Thanks for reading! Send me your tips, comments, or questions: [email protected]
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