A few months ago, I was at a post-wedding brunch (my first big event since getting vaccinated!), when a friend came scrambling in just as the event was winding down. She was late because she was finishing her taxes… an arduous process that involved 14 separate 1099s and a mountain of receipts.
This friend is a Creator. In the traditional sense of the word, she is a professional singer and songwriter. In the more modern sense, she makes a majority of her living through digital services and goods across a multitude of platforms. In practice, she is constantly scrambling between different gigs, managing campaigns from multiple employers across different media, with little-to-no technology to stitch these sources of revenue together into a cohesive business. Because that’s what she is: a business of ONE, selling her creativity for the benefit of brands and audiences.
I am careful to use the term Creator, not Influencer, because digital creativity extends beyond Instagram or TikTok fame. A Creator can be a photographer, designer, blogger, or even someone who makes meditation content for apps. It’s with the goal of better serving these creative solo-preneurs that we are pleased to announce Origin Ventures is leading a $12M financing in Lumanu.
Lumanu started as a collaboration tool for brands and influencers to have better, and more seamless, collaboration and control over content. It has since leveraged this trusted position between brands and Creators to expand into one of the most painful spaces for Creators: payment. In most situations, brands have more leverage than individuals, utilizing opaque accounts payable practices, separate 1099 and W-9 processes, and often waiting to pay Creators for 30 or more days after the work is delivered. Lumanu streamlines this relationship while giving Creators access to the money they are owed instantaneously.
At Origin Ventures, one of our investment themes is focused on the Future of Work. My last blog post focused on the deskless worker, contrasting the needs of that workforce with white collar workers. Modern Creators have different needs from either. Origin’s first exposure to Creators was through our investments in Ahalogy and Cameo. I remember sitting across from Cameo Founder Steven Galanis in late 2017 as he emphatically explained just how long the tail of talent was: that Cameo wasn’t for the millionaire Hollywood super-celebrity, but for anyone with an audience. There weren’t thousands of potential Cameo talent, there were tens of millions.
While the last few years have seen a proliferation of monetization tools allowing Creators to connect with their fans directly (Cameo, Patreon, OnlyFans, Substack, Circle, etc.), Creators still make the vast majority of their money through paid collaborations with brands, sponsors, and other Creators. And while there are no shortages of marketplaces that connect brands to Creators, most provide little else that would help a Creator operate an end-to-end business or are solely focused on top-tier Creators.
Lumanu is here to fill this gap and empower Creators from top to bottom. To help with collaboration, communication, and cash. To smooth out the gaps between gigs and to make tax time as painless as possible for these 21st century hustlers. We’re proud to be investors.