CreatorScape Data Shows Investment Heating Up
As we researched this year’s version of the CreatorScape, we noticed a number of familiar names appearing in articles about company financings. At influence.co, we have also seen significant inbound interest from larger investors, many of whom are name-brand VCs clearly taking the industry seriously and trying to build a core thesis to invest behind. So we decided to go behind the scenes of the CreatorScape and figure out who was financing the influencer and creator generation.
We’ll admit up front that getting exact investor information in any industry is an art, not a science. Even if we were armed with a research assistant to rifle through FormD filings, it’s hard to know who’s investing through a trust, family office, sidecar fund, angel group or as an LP. And getting correct amounts is even harder. We decided the best use of our time would be to pull as much publicly available information as we could into one place, and focus on the patterns that we see emerging. In the early days of an industry, who is doing the investing is ultimately more important than how much is being invested. Dollars follow players.
At the highest level, we found 842 firms and individuals who invested in the 275 companies that make up the 2020 CreatorScape. Of that total, 619 entities are investment focused organizations. (This stat is skewed a bit, as many individual investors technically invest through trusts.)
We also spent some time digging deeper into the resulting dataset for observations. We are excited to share those with you below. We have also collected and compiled all our data into a spreadsheet to use for your own analysis.
Lots of Investors, Lots of Angels
The first thing we noticed: just how many firms and individuals are active in the space. Given that early stage private company data is hard to find, we’d be comfortable guessing that there are another 30-60 percent of investors hiding in these cap tables. That means we’re looking at something like 1,000 investors participating in the industry. While that’s a good thing, it’s also a very strong indicator of an immature market. As markets mature, you tend to see a higher concentration of institutions and name-brand investors investing earlier, as they gain confidence in the exit potential of the industry. Highly diffuse cap tables tend to reflect an industry where larger institutional players don’t have active theses yet, and are still building confidence that their money would be well spent.
Institutional Accelerators and Major Players Emerge
We noticed a “barbell” of institutional investors—lots of name-brand accelerators helping launch a lot of companies, and lots of name-brand VCs pouring money into a few mainstays of the industry. 500 Startups leads institutional investors with 10 investments (such as Snips, Lumanu, Famebit, and Podcorn) with Y-Combinator on their heels, with nine, and Techstars at six. This is a good sign: It shows entrepreneurs are hunting in this patch and that follow-on from notable VCs is likely not far behind. The usual suspects of Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, and Accel round out the major players, with investments in the big winners to date like Substack, Cameo, and some smaller challengers, like Run The World and Kapwing.
Media Backgrounds Dominate, But DTC Investors Are Getting Wise
We found a concentration of investors and firms, such as Third Wave Digital and a16z, with media backgrounds or large media portfolios. This isn’t surprising, given the fact that influencers and creators are challengers to the traditional media model. Many of the most promising new companies have investors that hail from DTC (Direct to Consumer) backgrounds or the CPG world (note Unilever’s investment in CreatorIQ). This makes sense, as the power of influencer marketing came onto many people’s radar as the result of a few early DTC successes like Frank’s Body Scrub, Shredz, and MVMT Watches.
Educational Companies Have Strong Investors
Out of the 15 categories in the CreatorScape, education seems to have the highest concentration of institutional players. After all, institutional players have had strategies and teams focused on edutech for a long time. Many of these companies have been around for eight to 10 years already.
Enterprise SaaS and Marketplaces Are Popular
The two most popular native categories for investors (by sheer number of entities) are marketplaces and enterprise SaaS. We believe this owes to the explosion of these types of companies five years ago. As the influencer marketing channel was bearing fruit for a number of DTC companies, hundreds of marketplaces popped up to try and organize this new channel for businesses (we counted 178 in the U.S. alone in 2016). Many of the marketplace companies evolved to become enterprise SaaS companies along the way, allowing them to focus on a pure-play software model as larger enterprises started doing influencer marketing. Larger enterprises tend to not need (or want) services which many marketplaces business had bundled into their core model.
It's still early days for investment in CreatorScape, but the traditional infrastructure is coming into place. A batch of companies from name-brand accelerators will create attention and investment from institutionals that like to invest in those companies. Slowly those investors will find themselves in multiple cap tables in the industry. We only need a few big liquidity events this year and some declarable gains making it to investors’ balance sheets to change the trajectory. We think this will happen and in the next 12 months we’ll see a doubling of the number of funded companies in the CreatorScape and the obvious entry of more traditional players from Silicon Valley.
Niel Robertson is the co-founder and CEO of influence.co, which publishes nofilter.