Stripe: The Platform Behind the Platforms in the Creator Economy

Dear subscribers,

I’ve been diving into Web 3 recently but let's not forget that web 2 platforms power most of today's creator economy.

The platform behind these platforms is none other than Stripe. In the post below, I interviewed Ellen Moeller (Head of EMEA Partnerships for Stripe) and Connor Mullen (Engineering Lead for Stripe Express) on:

  1. What Stripe offers creator platforms

  2. How Stripe helps creators run their business

  3. Stripe’s vision for the creator economy

What Stripe offers creator platforms

How does Stripe help grow the creator economy?

Ellen: We want to power the infrastructure of the creator economy.

Advertising is still one of the primary ways that creators make money online. But in the offline world, less than 1% of the economy comes from ads:

We want to address this discrepancy and help creators diversify their income online.

Connor: Helping creators make money online also helps Stripe achieve its mission to grow the GDP of the internet. 

Yeah, Stripe's mission is very aligned with growing the creator economy. So why is it so hard for creators to accept payments and make payouts?

Connor: Creators and fans are global, but moving money from point A to B is hard. Legacy payment software simply isn’t set up as a modern service like cloud computing. We need to do a lot of boring infrastructure work to let creators get paid.

Stripe powers creator monetization for top platforms like Substack, Clubhouse, and Twitter. Can you also highlight a few other platforms that you work with?

Upgrading payments infrastructure helps many businesses in the creator space. A few examples:

  • SaaS platforms like Stir, Gumroad, and Ghost are making it easier for creators to set up businesses.

  • Fintech businesses like Karat and Paperchain are giving creators access to tailored financing.

  • Even big publishers like AxelSpringer and NewsUK are able to tap into new subscription revenues and diversify their revenue streams with our solutions. 

What do you offer creator platforms beyond payments?

Connor: We also offer:

  1. Subscriptions to let creators earn recurring income. Fans can also use our tools to manage their subscription plans and get discounts.

  2. Atlas to make it easy for entrepreneurs and creators to start new businesses.

  3. Issuing and Treasury to let creators get cards to charge expenses on and use other financial services.

Ellen: Many creators have a global fan base. Beyond these services, we are also really focused on letting creators accept money from fans anywhere in the world.

How Stripe helps creators run their business

You probably have visibility into which creator monetization channels are the most effective because you work with many top creator platforms. Any insight here?

Connor: The best monetization channel depends on the platform and the format. For example, many Substack creators rely on subscriptions, but Clubhouse creators might rely on other ways to make money (e.g., tipping). 

The creator economy is very top-heavy - a few creators make most of the money. How does Stripe plan to address this problem?

Connor: I think the creator economy is top-heavy because most creators don't have access to monetization or have the right support.

For example, top creators earn money from brand deals and have a support team to negotiate contracts and handle invoicing. Unfortunately, these channels are not accessible to most creators.

We want to build the right infrastructure to democratize access to fan monetization.

How does Stripe work with new creator payment companies like Stir? Is the goal to grow the overall pie?

Ellen: Yes, you can think of us as the accounting team for Stir and similar companies. We handle payments and payouts across countries so that these startups can focus on building what's core to their business.

We don't mind building the plumbing.

Do you see a world where a random creator can work with Stripe directly? I guess some creators already use Checkout and other products.

Ellen: Our goal is to support a diverse user base, and there will be opportunities for individual creators to work with us directly. 

That being said, we also recognize that you can't be the best at everything. So our main focus is to build infrastructure to help other creator platforms scale.

Stripe’s vision for the creator economy

What does Stripe's vision for the creator economy look like?

Ellen: We want to make payment infrastructure so readily available that creators of all sizes will be able to monetize in many different ways.

I imagine a world where creator monetization isn't dominated by ads or concentrated in a few big companies or individuals. 

Connor: I want to continue making progress on the boring stuff so that creators can accept payments and get payouts no matter where they are. Payments shouldn't be a barrier if we want to achieve Stripe’s mission.

I've always found it interesting that Stripe became one of the most valuable private companies in the world by solving these hard problems that no one else wants to solve. Problems like how to make payments, taxes, and other basic things work country by country.

Ellen: Yep, these are unsexy but critical problems to solve. We want to make Stripe available in over a hundred countries so that any creator can make a living.

Let’s talk about web 3. Creators and communities are increasingly looking towards NFTs and social tokens to own their outcomes more. Has Stripe thought about this?

Connor: As you can imagine, this is a space that we're looking at closely.

It's relevant to our overarching goals around infrastructure, democratization, and allowing creators and businesses to monetize their work.

We don't have anything specific to share right now as a lot of it is early.

Any closing words of advice for people building for creators?

Ellen: Just keep going. The infrastructure is getting better, and there are many great creator platforms out there. There are also opportunities to work with Stripe directly in certain cases, depending on the needs.

So it's not a one-size-fits-all. And I think we approach it very much that way. I think that we’re just getting started here and it’s only going to get better.

Connor: One basic thing that we've spent a lot of time on is just talking to creators and learning about how they run their businesses.

Creators know what they want, and they face many hurdles in achieving their goals. So my advice is to spend time with them, talk to them, and listen to their needs. 

Yeah. I've been impressed by how easy it is to talk to a real human at Stripe. It gives both creators and entrepreneurs more faith that you have their best interests in mind.

Connor: I can confirm that we are humans :) We love seeing those emails!