Jemi Helps Content Creators Generate New Revenue Streams - Forbes

Creating content is hard. Monetizing your content or audience is even harder. Many smaller content creators do not have a large enough audience to generate ad revenue or merchandise sales. Jason Cui and Annie Hwang recognized an opportunity to help these smaller YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and other burgeoning social media stars find new ways to support themselves through starting Jemi. Jemi is a content monetization platform that helps creators sell custom experiences to their fans. The San Francisco-based startup participated in Y Combinator’s Spring 2020 batch.
Jemi cofounders Jason Cui (left) and Annie Hwang (right).
Frederick Daso: Why is monetization still difficult for creators on various social media platforms?
Jason Cui and Annie Hwang: Monetization is difficult with existing social media platforms (IG, FB, YT, etc.) because there are many conflicting priorities. Facebook is great at connecting you to your friends. Instagram is excellent at showing curated content from those you follow. But given the size and scale of these platforms, creator monetization still seems like an “add-on” for the creative class.
Just because a platform has reach doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective at monetizing for the individual. Monetization features are often nested behind hundreds of other features competing for user attention. Furthermore, users often approach these platforms with different intent types and may not think of existing platforms as the go-to place for them to support their favorite creators.
Daso: What are the current business models of social media platforms? Why are these inadequate for the evolving needs of today’s creators?
Cui and Hwang: Most of the successful social platforms today are essentially optimized ad businesses. They benefit significantly from reach and gross eyeball count and optimize the business model around that. The more posts you scroll through on Instagram and the more videos you view on Youtube, the more ads you see. That means more ad revenue to the platform.
Does this business model align with the incentives of an individual creator? Often not. Sure, an individual creator can experience a lot of audience growth if a particular piece of content goes viral. However, they would benefit more from tools that make it easier to create content and allow them to pursue digital commerce at scale. While big platforms could build these tools, they often aren’t incentivized to given the conflicting priorities they already have on their roadmap. Just ask Annie — she was a product manager on Facebook’s creator monetization team.
Often, it takes a new entrant that can iterate from the ground up and build a product with content creators at its forefront and always top of mind.
Daso: Where is the most growth coming from in the nascent creator industry? How has Jemi positioned itself to take advantage of such growth?
Cui and Hwang: We’re intrigued by a new wave of content creators that push the boundaries of creativity and challenge our traditional assumptions around what it means to be a creator. Nowadays, anyone can amass an audience online, and more importantly, serve as inspiration for people across the world. We’ve onboarded professional pool trick shot artists, Buddhist monks, and Olympians to create political content.
Daso: Why has Jemi decided to focus on creators making roughly $500 per year?
Cui and Hwang: A big part of our mission is empowering the next generation of creators to become their creator entrepreneurs. It’s abundantly clear that being a creator is no longer “just a hobby” — individual content creators can amass large audiences and form careers around their art.
Much of our early focus has been on the up-and-coming creator — those in the first innings of audience growth and content creation. We love partnering with these creators because they’re hungry and driven. They’re confident in their craft, want to grow their audiences, and have a passion for forming meaningful relationships with their audiences.
The goal is to build incredible tools for these individuals and grow alongside them in the long run.
Daso: What are some of the kinds of custom experiences that creators use Jemi to sell?
Cui and Hwang: The real beauty of Jemi is in its flexibility. We draw a strong influence from Shopify and the ripple effect it had on e-commerce. Why should creators be limited in what they can offer to their audiences? Some may want to provide shoutouts and subscriptions, but others may wish to design custom offerings that fit their brands.
For instance, instead of only giving a shoutout, a comedian can offer a roast of someone’s dating profile — a fun bit they performed in live settings pre-COVID. An actor who also happens to be a passionate artist can commission caricature pieces for fans. A musician can hold a group meet-and-greet to talk about music and the trials of life. You get the idea. 
We want Jemi to be a magnifier of creativity. The more unique offerings a creator can provide, the more engaged audiences will be and the more positive interaction we can generate.
Daso: What is unique about these experiences or physical goods that render them difficult to sell via traditional social media channels?
Cui and Hwang: Building a platform that allows flexible configuration of experiences while maintaining simplicity is quite a challenge. How do you make a fully-fledged e-commerce platform while maintaining simplicity for creators who may not be tech-savvy?
A lot of our initial product investment has been making it as easy as possible to get experience ideas live in as little time as possible. Want to offer a bartending course while also selling your ebook? The Jemi dashboard lets you launch a live profile with those offerings in two minutes.
Suppose you tried to accomplish something similar through social media or a website builder. In that case, you’d have to work through a whole slew of considerations — how do I design the offering visually to make it most appealing, where should I share it, etc.
We’ve found a lot of our early adopters benefiting from this dedicated configuration experience. In this way, Jemi becomes their “point of sale” for audience interaction and monetization.
Daso: Annie, you were previously a product manager on Facebook’s creator monetization team. What did you learn there that is shaping the way you develop features for creators using Jemi?
Hwang: One of the main learnings we had was that creators want to interact with their fans but often don’t have the right tools. It seemed like what creators wanted was a structured way to interact with their fans while also maintaining the boundaries of a creator/fan relationship. We always keep this when we’re building features on Jemi. 
Daso: Jason, in addition to being a former product manager at Uber, you were also a music producer. What’s the advantage of creating Jemi, something that you clearly would have used if you were still producing music?
Cui: While I never became a full-time creator, I’ve always harbored a genuine love for music creation. I perceive this benefit because it gives me a deep empathy for people who create content for a living. I have immense respect for people who continuously refine their craft and allow others to benefit from their creativity.
Plus, content creation is so easy and democratized now with incredible digital tools that anyone can learn to write music, take photographs, etc. So, you couple tremendous creation tools with easier ways to monetize and make content for a living, and you get magnified creative impact in the world.


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