Creator Kit Episode 05: Super's Fernando Parnes on Creator Business Models
In this week's episode, we talk with the co-founder of Super about how creators can customize their revenue models.
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Fernando is the co-founder of Super, a platform that allows creators to build new revenue models, experiences, and interactions on their own terms.
On today's episode, we learn about the power of "super fans" and the role they play in early creator-market-fit, as well as why it's important for creators to make intentional choices about how to make $.
Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the conversation:
1. Pre-packaged is good, until it's not
Fernando points out that many creators start with plug-and-play monetization (ads, etc) but should soon graduate to models that suit their unique needs.
Most platforms will give you a prepackaged revenue model, and they're like, "here, go and deploy that." But I actually think that's extremely valuable, especially when you're starting out, right? It limits the huge amount of potential things you could do as a creator and allows you to focus on one path...if you're just starting out, those platforms are excellent and I think you should start monetizing all those platforms for sure. But that's where we want to take it a step further. Instead of giving you a revenue model to deploy, we want to allow you as the creator to build your own revenue models, and deploy those directly to the fan.
2. Super fans are the key to early growth
You need a base of engaged, passionate fans if you're going to grow - there are no short cuts.
The super fan is the person who will go and tell other people about your channel, and will generate more super fans. So it becomes sort of this engine of desire, of generating more and more super fans once you have that initial base.
3. Audiences are networks in disguise
A creator's audience is like a growing network that can be harnessed to discover and capitalize on opportunities and connections of all types.
Audience, I believe, is a type of network. Whereas not every network is an audience. And that's where the disruptive power of creator lies... in the fact that they have this scalable network
Fernando on Twitter - DM for exclusive Creator Kit audience Super invite code!
Fernando's Favorite Creators: Colin & Samir, Tasting History, ChefPK
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Jesse: Awesome, Fernando. Thanks so much for coming on the show. We appreciate you coming on to Creator Kit.
Fernando Parnes: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Jesse.
Jesse: Totally. Really excited to hear a bit more about Super and the roots of the concept, and what you guys are working on. I think it might be easiest to start there. Can you give us a brief description of Super and the product that you guys have created for creators?
Fernando Parnes: Absolutely, yeah. So as at Super, our vision and essentially what we've learned from creators is that the businesses creators can build are really unique when they're combined with digital technology and software. Creators have been around for a long time, and they used to be your local village artisans, and eventually we started having the film industry, and actually connecting with creators more of a one-way street. And now with the advent of digital technology, we're beginning to see this two-way connection between the creator and the fan, and the lessening of gate keeping around becoming a creator and building and audience.
As we saw that, we realized that what was missing for creators were the tools that allowed them to get as creative with their business and with the ways that we generate revenue as they were with their content. And that was very limiting to a lot of creators, especially early on before you can have a team, before you have a lot of folks helping you and building custom stuff. And even then, even today, you know, obviously building something extremely custom and from scratch is very difficult. So we are creating the software that allows creators to make all of these experiences, events and products that they can imagine and make them available to their fans. Distribute it directly to their fans in a very easy and no code, no technical way.
So, yeah, that's Super.
Jesse: Awesome. And before we get deeper into the product and its functionality, what's your story? How did you become passionate about the creator economy space?
Fernando Parnes: That's a great question. Always been big into the space because of my family background. I had a lot of folks in my family who were in journalism, in the media space. Eventually, my sister went down the path of being a screenwriter, worked in obviously several of her own productions, Amazon Studios. She's worked all, you know, all over. So I kind of got to experience firsthand what that world was like from a more industry perspective. And eventually that led me to have an interest. I went to college for film, and transitioned to computer science, which sort of led me almost organically to entrepreneurship from the creativity and technical side of things.
And during the pandemic, my team and I had been building a different startup called Best Being. It was in the wellness space. But a big component of Best Being was facilitating new business models and new revenue models. Allowing wellness providers to create those new models and engage with their fans at scale. Or rather engage with their clients. Yeah, I'm using Super.fans terminologies. But engaging with their clients at scale.
Fernando Parnes: And then during the pandemic, we quickly saw that that wasn't the market, that we weren't building a solution for the correct market. Our solution was appropriate for a different market, and during the pandemic, we all started both creating content in some fashion, we're all small creators in the Super.fans team, and engaging with new channels very heavily. And what we noticed as a team almost serendipitously was actually a meeting that we had at the end of December where everyone came together, and we were like, "What about the creator economy?" Because we all started noticing that positive impact at scale, providing value at scale and helping people at scale was something that these creators were doing organically through their content and through focusing on different niches, providing value to their specific fans. And that was, like, a huge revelation moment for us as a team, when we realized that creators have the ability to positively impact at scale.
Fernando Parnes: So at that point, we started looking at the creator economy, started speaking with creators, and that's where we noticed a big discrepancy between and as creators- small creators ourselves, and I'm sure you'll understand this as well as a creator yourself, that there's a big difference, right, between building a network and an audience. A big gap between building a network and an audience, and converting that into wealth.
Fernando Parnes: As a matter of fact, we met in Peter Yang and Ryan Gum's Building for Creators course, and Steve [Galanis] said that very well, right?
Fernando Parnes: There's a growing gap between fame and wealth. You can build an audience and that doesn't necessarily convert to wealth.
Jesse: Just quickly for the audience, Steve Galanis is the co-founder or founder of Cameo.
Fernando Parnes: Exactly. Big inspiration for us at that moment when we realized that. And that's why we started building the tools that we're building. We wanted to be able to use that incredible power both of audience and of creativity and apply it directly to building new business models, new revenue models.
Jesse: Awesome. You touched on something that I wanted to go a little deeper on. What's the difference in your mind between network versus audience? How do those two dynamics play out, and how should smaller creators, folks that are just getting started, or even bigger creators think about the difference between these two concepts of, on one hand, network and, on the other side, audience?
Fernando Parnes: Great question. I think that that's a very interesting question, not something that I had thought about in full terms yet. But I think I have an answer for you [laughs] and I think that's where a lot of the power of creators actually comes from. Right? So I think when you're- when you're a founder, you know, the power of a network is something that can, in the business world, absolutely cannot be ignored. That's how you open doors. That's how, like, when people talk about pulling themselves up from their bootstraps, really what they mean is that they're able to build an incredible network, because you always need people supporting you, right? Arnold Schwarzenegger, an incredible creator himself, said that. The one thing that he will never let people describe him as is a self-made man because of such a powerful network that he has. He is not self-made.
And I think for most of us, we have- most of us have networks, but we don't have audiences. I think where creators truly have an advantage is where they have this incredible, I guess I would describe it, ocean of people usually, even when you think about a what we consider a small creator might have, like, 100,000 subscribers. That's a lot of people who are- consider themselves as getting value from that individual or from that group, from that- from that creator. I think that's what an audience is is the group of people that consider themselves as getting value from the content that you are creating.
However, where I think that gets interesting is that certainly an audience, I believe, is a type of network, whereas not every network is an audience, and that's where I think creators can have such an incredible- that's where I think the disruptive power of creator lies is in the fact that they have this scalable network, I guess we would call it.
Jesse: Yeah. That's such a good way of describing it. I'm interested to hear now the, uh, sort of the transition from the front lines, where creators are typically finding their initial audience, the power of scale, the power of distribution, as you were describing it. The platforms that do that really well, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, et cetera, don't their, let's say, increasingly focused on helping creators monetize? But for a long time, that wasn't necessarily the case, and there was this big gap between a question of having an audience and a question of monetizing, and that's the quote that you shared earlier from Steve Galanis. Is that where you guys fit in? How do you guys sit? Is it adjacent to existing audiences on larger platforms? Is it something different? How should we think about it?
Fernando Parnes: Yeah. So that's one thing that's very different about Super is that we certainly are not a platform ourselves and we are not aiming to compete with, uh, something like YouTube or TikTok. We see that very much as part of our ecosystem and as part of our flow. Because, as you said, that's where the distribution mechanism comes on.
Super is actually a software layer that allows creators to build and utilize those platforms to create new ways to monetize, to create new ways to expand their current revenue offerings. So we see ourselves much more akin to something like Zapier or AWS, built specifically for creators rather than something like YouTube or TikTok. One of the things that is important about Super is that we are continuously building ourselves to be entirely white label, and, you know, again on that software layer side. So whereas you might hear someone say, "Go to my Patreon page," "Go to my ..." Recently, we heard a lot about OnlyFans. "Go to my OnlyFans page," right? All of those, you can hear there and that kind of centralization, right? You're going to a platform and that person's profile under that platform.
You wouldn't say that with Super. With Super, you're going to say something like, "Go to my website dot-com," and that entire backend of that, a lot of the delivery of that, and a lot of the- the automation, a lot of the technology of that is powered by Super. But the fan doesn't even need to know that we're a part of this whole ecosystem.
Jesse: Got it. So it's the creator- when you say "white label," essentially the creator's brand is front and centered, and-
Fernando Parnes: Always.
Jesse: The experience is, uh, feels very intertwined if not synonymous with- with the creator's brand themselves.
Fernando Parnes: Perfect. That's exactly correct. I think that's where there's a lot of limitation today in the creator economy is where creators are given revenue models, right? So one of our newest advisors, Adam Davidson founder of NPR's Planet Money, he put it perfectly.
Jesse: Oh, love Planet Money.
Fernando Parnes: He said ... Yeah, he's- he's incredible and, I mean, a master storyteller. Super excited to have him join our journey. And he said it in the best way possible, that other platforms, they seem to have many meetings about his business model, but he's never invited to those meetings. And that's where we want to change- that's what we want to change. So most platforms will give you a prepackaged revenue model, and they're, "Here, go and deploy that." But I actually think that's extremely valuable, especially when you're starting out, right? It limits the huge amount of potential things you could do as a creator and allows you to focus on one path, which is why I would say if you're just getting out, those platforms are- just starting- just starting out, rather, those platforms are excellent and I think you should start monetizing all those platforms for sure. But that's where we want to take it a step further. Instead of giving you a revenue model to deploy, we want to allow you as the creator to build your own revenue models, and deploy those directly to the fan.
Jesse: That's awesome. And would I be accurate in presuming then that creators who have an established business model, that are bringing something unique, that don't want this kind of like out of the box type platform, but that want to be in control of their revenue models, are they usually the larger creators? How does- what is the ideal creator type? If I'm a creator listening to the show, and I'm thinking about my own audience size, how do I know if Super is right for me?
Fernando Parnes: Yeah. That- thank you for asking that. Makes my job super easy. So generally, if you're generating at least a couple of thousand dollars a month, so, you know, between $1500 and $2000 a month, that's kind of the ideal time to really start exploring the- the different possibilities. I would argue that that's actually much earlier than most people would think. Why is that the sort of number that we're looking at? At that point, it's almost guaranteed that you have a small but concrete base of super fans.
And it doesn't need to be a lot of people, right, and that's where the name comes from. Doesn't need to be a lot of super fans. What super fans are really, really important to this process, and why? Because super fans are, to the creator, what an early evangelist is to a startup, right? So they are the folks who are not only going to be going where you ask them to go, generally they are going to be purchasing the stuff that you put out in front of them, but more importantly, they're gonna tell you what it is that they want to purchase. They're going to tell you what it is about you that they like and what speaks to them. And even more importantly than that, they will evangelize. They will go out and tell other people. I think that's the big kind of key ...
The super fan is the person who will go and tell other people about your channel, and will generate more super fans. So it becomes sort of this engine of desire, of generating more and more super fans once you have that initial base. Once you have that, I think that's a great time to start building on Super.
Jesse: Another thing came to mind. I had Peter Yang on the show recently, and he was describing a few of the frameworks that he's published to help folks think through what it's like to create content and get started as a creator. And one of the things within the hierarchy of needs piece is all about iteration and experimentation as a creator. Finding ideally multiple interests that you're really passionate about, picking a few of them. Maybe starting with one, maybe starting with two, and getting a tight feedback loop with your audience to understand what content types are really resonating with them. And I would guess that, while that's relatively easy to do on a large scale platform because you get a lot of different feedback types from fans, it might be even better to use a platform like Super to get the most passionate feedback. Like, to use the startup versus creator analogy, this is the place where you get product feedback. Here, it's on content product. And I wonder what kind of interesting dialogue might come out of just having those, like, most passionate fans critiquing your work or responding to your work or, um, you know, simply sh- voting with their- their attention and their eyeballs. It's a cool idea.
Fernando Parnes: That's something that I think is going to be, to put my, like, founder visionary hat on, something that I think is going to completely change the game based on the approach that we're taking is the kind of- of data that will be made available to the creator around what works for the biggest drivers of their scaling. Which, again, are- are the super fans for sure. So I think that's absolute- I think you're on the money there. I think that's a big part of our vision, and that's going to absolutely change the game.
Because the quick analogy that I use there is that Amazon built one of the world's most powerful recommendation engines ever that really created a commerce, right, monolith. A commerce giant. And I was in a conference, with their lead ML engineer, and one thing that was revealed, during that conference that I thought was fascinating was that their recommendation algorithm that still was largely employed in the website today is rather rudimentary when you look at it from algorithmic perspective, but the data that they have of what people buy, how people vote with their money and their attention is the best data in the entire world to generate recommendations, to generate data and knowledge and information about what works in terms of revenue. And that's something that we're gonna be able to provide creators, and I think that's extremely exciting for sure.
Jesse: Really awesome. Really awesome. I wanted to get a little more specific. So I know you have a couple awesome creators that are- or at least a couple that are on the early, you know, V-1 of- of Super. I've seen you give some shout outs to a few of them on- on Twitter. Can we pick one and go really quickly through the use case of how a creator uses the platform today, and what success looks like for them, and why they chose to work with Super?
Fernando Parnes: Absolutely, yeah. So I'll give you actually two very different examples, but that I think are very interesting.
So one of the creators that we're working with, or, rather, two creators that we're working with today, uh, Aprilynne Alter and Leo Guinan, both of them are actually creating cohort-based courses, at least a type of cohort-based course, using the Super platform. So we allow for the distribution of both content and interactivity in terms of livestreams, group meetings, all that stuff through our software, and you can automate how that's delivered to the fan. Deliver it directly to them. So they're using that to sort of build out this first version of their course and understand where the content fits in and how many different meetings you're supposed to have, all that kind of ... So this is their first attempt at a cohort-based course, and they're using our platform to both plan that out, run the first cohort, and actually deliver it right to the initial fans and make those sales, and all that.
So we've built together with the creator, they built a landing page. We integrated all of the signup, all of the backend for the fans, so you can login straight with that creator and login straight to the course, access the course as it goes. So that's one use case.
Another completely separate use case is one of the- the other creators that we're working with, uh, ChefPK. We're working with him on a revamp of sort of how he engages with his community through his brand. So we're building - or rather he's building a customized community that's straight for his fans, for his super fans, that will live on his own URL, on his own website. And through that community, he plans on doing several things. I can't reveal too much about that quite yet, but a lot of it involves customized merch drops that lead to exclusive events if you participate in that merch drop.
All of these things are things that are possible to build through the Super ecosystem.
Jesse: Awesome. And are you guys in sort of wait list mode now? Are you open to anyone that wants to sign up? How does it look for a creator that would love to check you guys out?
Fernando Parnes: So please do check us out. You can head to Super.fans. We are in wait list mode but not at all for anyone listening to this. Once you sign up, you'll you get an email with a link to my calendar. I highly encourage to book that call. I'll get you into the platform. For anyone listening now, after this, I'll go ahead and I'll make 10 invite codes that'll just be Creator Kit one through 10. Please go ahead and sign up, and if the codes are expired, if they are already used, just DM me on Twitter. I'm the only Fernando Parnes on Twitter. Should be pretty easy to find. Fernando Parnes is my handle. DM me on Twitter, I'll get you in the platform for sure.
The reason why we're on wait list for any creators that that are listening is that we like to work very hands-on with the initial creators that we're working with, so not only are we offering the software platform, we'd like for the creator to think of us as their tech team. All the creators have my number, other teammates' numbers. They're all in our Slack. They can reach us anytime, and we're really do act as a tech team, especially for our early creators.
So that's the reason why we have a wait list, but please reach out to me, and we would love to work with you for sure.
Jesse: Awesome. We'll definitely put that in the show notes as well, and we'll be sure to link out to your various handles and your website as well. I think we can go on record and say this is officially the first giveaway that we've had on the show of exclusive Super "skip the wait list" codes, so we really appreciate you sharing that with the Creator Kit community.
Fernando Parnes: Absolutely. Of course. Of course.
Jesse: Amazing. I want to ask you one quick pop question, and you can choose which of these two you want to answer. We ask most guests them. Number one is who is your absolutely favorite creator of the day or of the year or however you want to think of it? Who's intriguing you and interesting you in the creator space recently? And the second question would be any crazy predictions for the Creator Economy space or for creators in general?
Fernando Parnes: I love both those questions. Favorite creator right now ... My favorite creator group would be Colin & Samir are, like creator-focused creators. Colin & Samir are absolutely killing it.
Jesse: Good choice.
Fernando Parnes: They're building, I think, like a creator empire. And really, really love what ChefPK and Max Miller from Tasting History are doing in the food space. So just a couple of creators that I really, really enjoy and love.
Crazy prediction for the creator economy. I think we're going to start to see a huge acceleration of unicorn creator-led businesses that are powered by both creator economy platforms who, themselves, are going to become both unicorns and mega unicorns. And I think by creators doing their own thing individually, but I think we're going to see a significant acceleration of that in the next couple of years, especially with the advent of Web 3.0 and the inclusion of that in a lot of creators' pipelines, the increase of accessibility that that gives cross border and things like that.
Today, we're at 50 million creators, roughly, according to Signal Fire. My crazy prediction is that in the next five years, that 50 million is going to be at least 10x to 50, 500 million creators worldwide. So that's my crazy prediction.
Jesse: Would love to see it, and I officially joined the ranks of the creator class with the creation of this podcast.
Fernando Parnes: Exactly.
Jesse: So I'm excited to add at least one person to get closer to hitting your prediction and would love to see that. Awesome, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Really appreciate it. It's just been an absolute pleasure talking to you about Super and hearing what you guys are working on. Sounds amazing.
Fernando Parnes: Thank you so much, Jesse. This has been really, like, one of the best interview podcast experiences I've ever had. So if anyone's listening, do participate. This is awesome. This was a true pleasure.