To make a living as a creator, you have to share content to more than one platform. Though creators can make it big on TikTok or Instagram, having multiple sources of income — brand partnerships, merch, subscription platforms — can often be the only way to stay afloat. Linktree knows this better than anyone, said Anthony Zaccaria, its co-founder.
Monetizing content as an independent creator has become a popular career choice, but the market is fragmented. Though creator funds and in-app monetization tools offer ways to make a little cash, brand deals on multiple platforms remain the most profitable way to turn being a creator into a full-time job. Linktree gives creators the opportunity to keep themselves organized, bringing all of the tools they need into one central hub.
“It's all about creating a place for people to monetize, grow and curate the ecosystem, no matter where they're building their audience,” Zaccaria said. “That is the key thing.”
The platform, which was founded in 2016 by Zaccaria, his brother Alex and Nick Humphreys, hit 24 million users last year, with major names like Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes, Bella Poarch and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson joining in. Now it’s attracted a third round of funding, raising $110 million from a host of venture capital firms and bringing its valuation to $1.3 billion, the company announced Wednesday. It’s also bringing on Mike Olson, former SVP of Growth Initiatives at Twitch, as its president, focusing on U.S. market expansion.
Protocol spoke to Zaccaria about the state of the creator economy, how Linktree works for creators, its recent integrations and the future of the platform.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you generally speak to the state of the creator economy as it stands, and where Linktree fits into the space?
Obviously creators as a whole have been a thing for a long time. Thinking back to YouTubers and vloggers, and people monetizing content and monetizing their personalities, that has been around for 10 or 15 years. Particularly through the pandemic, people [are] realizing they can do a whole lot more. Tech enabling that has increased.
We're seeing people really find ways to monetize their passions, their hobbies, their side hustles, whether it's creating and building something physical or purely just through content. And I think we're seeing a new economy rise up and a new source of revenue for people, whether people make this a full-time living, whether it's through platforms like Twitch or YouTube or TikTok being a secondary source of income.
We see ourselves playing a big part of that, as a platform-agnostic place for everyone to curate their ecosystem, whether they're digital talent that lives in the world of YouTube or TikTok, or they live in the physical and digital world where they have physical goods and they're making products a bit selling through Etsy or Amazon, but they're also using content to promote and build their audiences.
What kinds of creators use Linktree the most?
We have over 23 million users worldwide. For verticals or user groups, there are just over 250 [groups] on the platform that self-identify when they sign up. We're pretty evenly split across those verticals. There isn't really one that makes up the majority. We say that we're platform-agnostic and we have a use case and value prop across the spectrum.
Do people that are bigger on different platforms use Linktree differently? What is Linktree doing to help facilitate all of their needs?
We don't see different use cases by platform, whether you're TikTok, Twitter, Instagram. What we see as different is the type of user on that platform. So if you're a musician that is bigger on Instagram, how you use it might be different to someone who's producing educational content on TikTok or a realtor who might be showing their listings on TikTok or a gamer on Twitch. Regardless of the platform you're coming from, Linktree is still this place that unifies your whole ecosystem, everything you care about, what's important, relevant and recent for you.
For example, as a musician, we see our music users using our music-link functionality, which integrates Songlink/Odesli, which we acquired last year. That allows artists to embed their … Spotify link or any other platform and it will show all the streaming services that the song or album is available on in the country that the user is in. They integrate our Bandsintown link, which we just recently partnered with, to show tour dates, or they might use our Shopify integration to show their merch.
Does Linktree plan to expand from individual and creator uses to enterprise uses?
Absolutely, and we have. Over the last year, we've seen the small business vertical itself grow about 327%, and brands — like Red Bulls or Qantas, those kinds of big names — using the product [have grown] over 500%. So we're sort of seeing brands really use it and drive their audience to the links in profiles to either go to Shopify or sign up to see new content. So we're seeing that as a big growth area. We already have quite a few users on enterprise plans, which is discounted pricing for bulk accounts. But we’re continuing to build functionality for brands, or even just users that want to manage and control multiple user profiles in one spot … whether it's integration with payments or marketing tech or whatnot.
Does Linktree plan to get into the crypto/blockchain space? If so, what will that look like?
Web3 as a whole aligns with our vision of empowering creators. We're not necessarily pivoting to be a Web3 company and changing everything about what we do, but continuing to build on our vision of empowering creators to curate the digital universe. There is some specific functionality and integrations and tools that are coming down the line that we'll be rolling out over the next couple of months as well that are in a similar space to what we're doing already. I can't talk about the specifics on the partnerships and integrations, but they will be coming soon.
We’re building functionality that will help service the NFT community, service Web3, service crypto, while still being true to what Linktree does without necessarily all of a sudden pivoting. We're already used by a lot of the Web3 community: Bored Ape Yacht Club, for example, use[s] Linktree. So we still have a product that can straddle Web 2.0 and Web3 quite easily.
What does Linktree plan to do with the funding?
It's obviously super exciting. We've got such a big product vision, and the capital is really to execute on that vision. The team really is the first part to help execute on that. We’re at about 240 employees now and will likely be somewhere between 450 and 500 by the end of this year, with a bigger focus on the U.S. as well as some other global markets that are emerging for us. A lot of it is really going into the team, and also reinvesting back into the team to continue to ensure our employee experience is top of class.
Can you expand a little bit more upon how you're planning on building your product vision? In the near future, what is that going to look like for users?
We've done some recent ecommerce functionality, so we’ll continue to build upon that … [with] deeper functionality and partnerships with some other like-minded businesses. We [recently] did a partnership that has been in the works for a while, but we've pushed ahead with it because of the situation in Ukraine, with GoFundMe and allowing folks to create a GoFundMe link within their Linktree profiles so they can drive donations for Ukraine. So we’ll continue to build upon that sort of area.
Is an IPO or public debut in Linktree’s future?
To be honest, I think we're still pretty early. We were bootstrapped up until we took funding at the start of 2020 and profitable to that point. We did that all ourselves, we took on venture to help us grow and scale. We have a big vision and that has been great so far. So whilst the business has been around for five or six years, we still feel we are quite early on in the journey, particularly in the venture journey. So acquisition conversations and IPO conversations aren't really things we're talking about.