- As the influencer industry has grown, with new creator-led startups and content production companies emerging, so has the need for capital from investors.
- Business Insider is recognizing 14 venture capital and investment players who are fueling startups that are shaping the creator economy.
- These investors are innovating and driving growth in the industry in 2020.
- Send your influencer industry tips to the authors at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Subscribe to Business Insider’s influencer newsletter: Influencer Dashboard.
As the influencer business grows with new creator-led startups and other companies that help with content production, so has both the interest and need for capital from investors.
Both traditional and upstart investors are making bets on the creator category, where influencer marketing alone is expected to grow into a $15 billion industry by 2022.
Many successful social-media stars work with a variety of third-party companies to support content and partnership growth.
“I’m a big believer in that the biggest consumer companies in the future will be built around creators because they have so much distribution,” said Blake Robbins, a partner at Ludlow Ventures, a Detroit-based venture firm that has invested in the gaming organization and lifestyle brand 100 Thieves. “There are some really interesting opportunities within consumer, whether that’s software or physical goods. There’s going to be a lot of interesting companies that emerge here, and I also think there’s this rising middle class where even if you’re not making millions of dollars a year as a content creator there’s still opportunity to make a real living.”
In this new list, Business Insider is putting a spotlight on venture capital and investment professionals innovating and driving growth in the creator industry.
These power players are helping influencers and content creators build larger businesses in 2020, and tapping into direct-to-consumer opportunities that have emerged as digital creators have shown they can drive product sales through their personality-based brands.
Whether adapting existing business services used by legacy TV or print media to the specific needs of a digital creator, or inventing new business lines that are unique to the social-media landscape, a slew of companies in the creator space are popping up to meet the needs of a new generation of digital stars.
This list was determined by Business Insider based on our reporting and factors like the success of the companies they’ve invested in and their impact on the influencer business as a whole.
Here are the 14 investors and firms, listed in alphabetical order:
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The top 14 talent managers for YouTube creators and influencers who are shaping the future of digital media
Susan Lyne (managing partner) and Nisha Dua (general partner)
Founded in 2014, BBG Ventures is a venture-capital firm focused on making early stage investments in companies that have at least one female founder.
Susan Lyne, managing partner
Before launching BBG Ventures, Lynne helmed AOL’s Brand Group, served as CEO and chair of Gilt.com, CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and president of entertainment at ABC. Lyne, along with the firm’s general partner Dua, have led investments in companies that service creators like the membership and courses platform Mighty Networks, the short-form video editing app Trash, and the video app Squad.
Nisha Dua, general partner
Before joining, Dua previously served as chief of staff for the AOL Brand Group and as a management consultant for Bain & Company. Dua founded the #BUILTBYGIRLS movement, which aims to teach young women the fundamentals of venture capital.
Relevant investments: Mighty Networks, Trash, and Squad.
Box Group investors: David Tisch, Adam Rothenberg, Nimi Katragadda, Adina Davis, Greg Rosen, and Claire Smilow
Box Group is a New York-based firm founded in 2007 by David Tisch. The firm has invested in several social-networking and creator-based startups like the influencer-driven Gen-Z studio Brat TV; the short-form video app Byte; and the buzzy startup Clubhouse, an audio-based social network.
Box Group invests in the pre-seed and seed rounds of financing for early stage companies. The firm primarily focuses on tech companies.
Relevant investments: Brat TV, Byte app, and Clubhouse, among others.
Darren Lachtman and Rob Fishman
Darren Lachtman and Rob Fishman, angel investors
Darren Lachtman and Rob Fishman sold their influencer-marketing platform Niche to Twitter in 2015. Shortly after, they started making angel investments together in the creator ecosystem.
Today they run Brat TV, an influencer-driven Gen-Z studio while continuing to jointly invest in companies within the creator landscape.
Brat is focused on creating YouTube shows for its channel (4 million subscribers). Popular shows include Chicken Girls and Attaway General, which feature some of the top social-media stars across YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
Some of the companies they have invested in together include the influencer-marketing platform CreatorIQ and the video-production platform QuickFrame.
Relevant investments: Creator IQ, 6tudio, and QuickFrame.
Justine Moore (investor) and Olivia Moore (investor)
CRV, formerly known as Charles River Ventures, is a venture-capital firm currently investing out of a $600 million fund. Founded in 1970, the company has offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Boston.
Current and past investments include the content-creation app Kapwing, the membership-tool Patreon, and Twitter.
Justine and Olivia are venture investors at CRV, where they focus on companies at the seed and Series A stages. The pair worked on CRV’s investment in Kapwing, an online video, image, and GIF-editing tool for content creators. The twin sisters graduated from Stanford in 2016 where they cofounded the university’s Cardinal Ventures student startup incubator.
The firm’s general partner, Saar Gur, who works with the Moore sisters, invested in Patreon as part of its seed round.
Relevant investments: Kapwing, Patreon, and Twitter.
Mike Maples, Jr. (partner) and Ann Miura-Ko (partner)
Floodgate is a venture-capital firm focused on early stage investing in tech companies. The Palo Alto-based company has raised over $400 million in funds. Floodgate has invested in the membership and courses platform Mighty Networks, Twitter, the content-marketing platform NewsCred, and Twitch.
Mike Maples, Jr., partner
Before becoming a full-time investor, Maples, Jr. was involved as a founder and operating executive at startups including Tivoli Systems (IPO TIVS, acquired by IBM) and Motive (IPO MOTV, acquired by Alcatel-Lucent). Maples led Floodgate’s investments in Twitch and Twitter.
Ann Miura-Ko, partner
Miura-Ko is a cofounding partner at Floodgate. Prior to joining the firm, Miura-Ko worked at Charles River Ventures and McKinsey and Company. Miura-Ko led Floodgate’s investment in Mighty Networks.
Relevant investments: Mighty Networks, Twitch, and Twitter.
Index Ventures is a venture-capital firm with offices in San Francisco, London, and Geneva. The company announced that it raised a new $2 billion fund in April.
Danny Rimer, partner
Rimer joined Index in 2002 and established the firm’s London office. He later opened the San Francisco office with Mike Volpi. He has worked on Index’s investments in creator-focused companies like the creator-membership platform Patreon, the community-messaging app Discord, and the “selfie”-video app Dubsmash.
Prior to Index, Rimer was a general partner at The Barksdale Group and started the internet sector equity research group at Hambrecht & Quist (now part of JPMorgan).
Relevant investments: Patreon, Discord, and Dubsmash.
Kevin Gould is an entrepreneur and investor. He founded the creator-focused investment company Kombo Ventures in 2012 and is currently the CEO.
Gould is also the cofounder of several influencer-focused companies like Insert Name Here, Wakeheart, and Glamnetic.
Kombo Ventures operates as a hybrid between a talent management firm, an IP and brand incubation studio, and a strategic creative agency.
Kombo Ventures recently worked with YouTube stars Ethan and Grayson Dolan to launch a direct-to-consumer fragrance company, Wakeheart, which “moved over 20,000 units” in its most recent fragrance drop, according Gould.
Gould is an active angel investor and advisor in a number of startups including Clutter, Gyft (acquired by First Data), Compology, DraftKings, Step, Rinse, Jukin Media, Brandable, Stem, Pocketwatch, Cargomatic, Beautycon, and others.
Relevant investments: Beautycon Media, Insert Name Here, Wakeheart, and Glamnetic.
Lightspeed Venture Partners
The Lightspeed Ventures Team
Lightspeed Venture Partners is a venture capital firm founded in 2000 focusing on early stage investments in the enterprise tech and consumer space.
Lightspeed has over 400 active investments and with its affiliates, the firm currently manages $10.5 billion across its platform.
Some social-media and influencer-focused investments include the personalized video shoutout app Cameo and the animated GIF search engine Giphy.
Lightspeed Ventures is also known for its involvement with Apple’s original series, Planet of the Apps, where chosen entrepreneurs got the chance to pitch their app to Lightspeed Venture Partners for a chance at real funding.
Lightspeed Ventures was the first venture capital firm to invest in Snapchat.
Relevant investments: Cameo and Giphy, among others.
Blake Robbins, partner
Ludlow Ventures is a Detroit-based venture firm that has invested in the gaming organization and lifestyle brand 100 Thieves (which has also received financing led by Drake and Scooter Braun) and the collectible figures company YouTooz.
Blake Robbins, partner
Robbins started at Ludlow Ventures as an associate and he was later promoted to partner. He is interested in gaming, esports, and the future of media generally.
Robbins was featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 for Venture Capital in 2019.
Relevant investments: 100 Thieves, YouTooz, and Brut.
Next 10 Ventures
Benjamin Grubbs (founder and CEO) and Adam Lurie (senior associate)
Founded in 2018, Next 10 Ventures operates a $50 million fund focused on seed-stage investments in the creator economy from its offices in Los Angeles and Singapore. Some of the company’s recent investments include the digital rights management company SuperBam, the influencer-community platform Influence.co, the podcast-sponsorship platform Podcorn, and the livestreaming business Stage Ten.
Benjamin Grubbs, founder and CEO
Before founding Next 10 Ventures, Grubbs served as global director of top creator partnerships at YouTube. Grubbs worked on the launch of YouTube Kids and with the APAC team at YouTube that managed family, learning, and news content partnerships.
Grubbs told Business Insider that 40% of Next 10’s pre-seed and seed-stage investments have gone on to close Series A financing in 2020.
Adam Lurie, senior associate, investments
As the second hire at Next 10 Ventures, Lurie manages day-to-day activities with the company’s investment portfolio, including most recently supporting the Series A fundraising goals of its companies. Lurie previously worked in the motion picture department at the talent management agency WME.
Relevant investments: Influence.co, Koji, Podcorn, Stage Ten, SuperBam, Trash, and Analyzelog.
Tiffany Zhong, founder
Tiffany Zhong is a 23-year-old trends and marketing expert.
Zhong is the cofounder and CEO of Zebra IQ, a Generation Z-focused intelligence and research company, and the founder of Pineapple Capital, an early stage consumer VC firm. She also advises companies and is a board advisor at Otto Radio and Distributed Systems, among others.
Zhong is currently an advisor to Blink Labs, a social messaging app that recently became popular for being known as the “Stepchickens app,” named after and used by the viral “cult” Stepchickens, a popular group on TikTok.
Previously, she’s helped companies like Snapchat, Levi Strauss, Turner Broadcasting, and Google reach a younger Gen-Z audience.
She was formerly one of the youngest VCs in the world, working at a $300 million venture capital firm at the age of 18, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Relevant investments: Superplastic, TTYL (talk with friends) app, and other unannounced deals.
Bijan Sabet (co-founder and general partner), Nabeel Hyatt (general partner), and Kevin Thau (general partner)
Spark Capital is a venture-capital firm with over $4 billion under management and offices in San Francisco, Boston, and New York. The company has invested in a variety of social-media and creator-oriented companies including Cameo, Brud, Twitter, Tumblr, and Discord.
Kevin Thau, general partner
Thau joined Spark from Twitter where he spent seven years serving as the company’s head of mobile products and later its vice president of business and corporate development. He has helped lead Spark’s investments in Cameo, virtual-influencer company Brud, and the publishing-platform Medium.
Nabeel Hyatt, general partner
Nabeel joined Spark after selling his last business, the social-games company Conduit Labs, to Zynga in 2010. He led Spark’s early investment in the community-messaging app Discord.
Bijan Sabet, cofounder and general partner
Sabet cofounded Spark in 2005. He led Spark’s early-stage investments in the social-media platforms Twitter and Tumblr. Prior to Spark, he spent the first 10 years of his career working for consumer-internet startups including WebTV.
Relevant investments: Cameo, Brud, Twitter, Tumblr, and Discord.
The Chernin Group
The Chernin Group Team
The Chernin Group has been around for over a decade and is a multi-stage investment firm focused on building consumer businesses.
TCG is run by Peter Chernin, Jesse Jacobs, and Mike Kerns.
The group has invested in several social-media and influencer-focused companies, along with other businesses in sports, gaming, health, and wellness.
One of the group’s recent investments was ShopShops, an ecommerce platform that sells products through livestreaming events held at retail stores.
Other investments include Cameo, which lets people buy personalized messages from celebrities and influencers.
Relevant investments: Shopshops, Cameo, Rooster Teeth, Fullscreen, and Twitter, among others.
Sam Wick, head of UTA Ventures
Sam Wick has worked in the influencer space for over a decade. He currently leads UTA Ventures, a division of United Talent Agency which builds and invests in businesses across various divisions of the agency.
Several of these businesses were developed for influencer clients including Blippi, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, Rhett and Link, Smosh, Alisha Marie and Remi Cruz, and The Try Guys, among others.
UTA Ventures partnered with 19-year-old YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain (9 million subscribers) for her single-serve coffee product, Chamberlain Coffee. The firm assists Chamberlain with business development and financial advisory.
Prior to joining UTA, Wick was on the management team of Maker Studios, an influencer network that was acquired by Disney in 2014.
Relevant investments: Chamberlain Coffee, Ramble, Cloud9, Pocket.Watch, Masterclass, Jumprope, Frolic, and Patreon, among others.