Creator Kit Episode 10: Sahil Hasan of Dots on the Future of Creator Payments

Creator Kit
Creator Kit
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Cover Image for Creator Kit Episode 10: Sahil Hasan of Dots on the Future of Creator Payments

In this week's episode, we talk with the CEO & co-founder Dots about how money moves around the internet.

Each episode of Creator Kit is a deep dive on a particular tool or service that can help you take your creator business to the next level. Creator Kit is presented by HiBeam: we solve comment and DM overload for creators; follow HiBeam on Twitter and subscribe on YouTube for more great content.

This Episode of Creator Kit is also available in video form on YouTube. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify, or plug our RSS feed in your player of choice.

Sahil is the co-founder of Dots, a payments infrastructure company that allows anyone to send and receive money with less effort.

On today’s show we talk about the headaches behind payment options, what makes a marketplace, and how new technology will power creator co-ops.

Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the conversation:

1. Marketplaces are all around us

The word "marketplace" brings to mind a few of the usual suspects; but Sahil reminds us that supply and demand is for more than just physical goods.

"If you think of a marketplace, you might think of eBay, Etsy, that sort of thing, right? But TikTok's a marketplace; your buyers and sellers, just...the currency happens to be clicks, right? Twitch is a marketplace. All of these things are actually just marketplaces where you have one side selling some good or service and being compensated in some way for it, and the other side consuming those goods or services. They're all actually marketplaces under the hood."

2. Mo' Money (sources) Mo' Problems

When it comes to collecting money, creators often provide multiple payment options; this comes at the cost of new financial headaches.

"If you go on Gumroad today and you pay via a credit card on Stripe, the classic credit card form, that money will go into what's called a Stripe Connect account. That Stripe Connect account will ask the seller for a bunch of identifying information, and then that money, you can then ask for that money in your bank account. But if you did that same credit card, but you paid through PayPal, it doesn't go through Stripe connect. It actually can only go to your PayPal account. There's an entire logical separation therefore based entirely off how the other person on the other side of the screen happens to choose to pay that day. And that's a lot of extraneous effort for like any creator to have to manage. At that point, you have to become a pseudo bookkeeper almost."

3. Creator Co-Ops

Creator co-ops will move at least some business off of the major platforms as it becomes easier and easier to create branded experiences for fans.

"I think in the next five years, you're going to see the moral equivalent of creator co-ops pop up as websites. I don't think they're ever going to move entirely off of YouTube, not as long as ad revenue pays out the way that it does and not as long as finding content is as hard as it is. But I do think that they're going to (just what Patreon has done for paid content in general) you're going to see more and more creators, either use Patreon in some sort of pseudo white labeled way, or a new competitor to Patreon is going to pop up that works similar to Substack, where they offer all the infrastructure, but it can be completely white labeled away."


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Jesse Clemmens: Sahil, welcome to the show.

Sahil Hasan: Thanks. Thank you for having me.

Jesse Clemmens: Really awesome to have you on. I'm excited about today's conversation. This one is an interesting one in that you guys are certainly a tool that creators, especially larger growing creators may use for payments and payments infrastructure, and then sort of separately and in a similar way, your technology that can empower and power creator companies, uh, you know, marketplaces, creator companies across the creator sphere. One of the focuses of the show, as you know, is about all the different tools that creators can use to grow their businesses. And I think this will all offer a sort of exciting behind the scenes look at some of the more, slightly more technical elements of what it takes to make the creative world go round, so really excited to have you on.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, thank you for having me. That's a fantastic intro.

Jesse Clemmens: Cool, so we initially met in a Slack group/community run by Li Jin who's a major investor in the creator economy space and a sort of a thought leader as well. And when we first met within that group, you were working on a slightly different focus area, which was around kind of like micro payments/frictionless wallet for creators or for anyone that wanted to accept payments over the internet. You, uh, then pretty quickly narrowed in on this payments infrastructure focus, which is now the direction that that Dots is headed and, and, uh, where you guys will be growing your business. Would you mind giving us a little background on the origin story of Dots? Where, where did it come from? Where are you now? What led you guys to seize on this idea? How did you discover it and how are you bringing it into the world?

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, so as you said, Dots really started off as a pretty simple idea, I guess, like a really, it boiled down to a simple sentence, "What if I could pay like 20 cents to read something on Wall Street Journal?" That idea is the genesis of where Dots started and it, it became kind of between me and my co-founder, this kind of very back and forth thing of, "Oh, it would be cool if you could kind of make it social, you can make it, you know, paying 30 cents, uh, to your favorite creator on YouTube, that sort of thing." And so Dots really started off as kind of this frictionless wallet to let people pay for the content that they like, but not necessarily having to pay like 10 bucks for a monthly subscription, but allowing a bit more of a one-off kind of purchasing pattern. Let's put it that way.

The genesis of Dots in around that thesis was basically very early 2021. Having a lot of back and forth with my co-founder and I, we were both working tech jobs at, at Google at the time, got pretty enthralled with that idea pretty quickly and got into Y Combinator, which obviously starts accelerating every life plan that you have up to that point, you know? We quit our jobs. We suddenly became founders. We suddenly went from, "Yeah, this is a cool idea to talk about. Oh man, how the hell do we build this thing?"

And in that process, just as quickly as we went from idea to this is our life now, we pretty quickly realized that everybody and their sister had tried to build a microtransactions platform. And part of the reason it wasn't ever going to work in today's society in the United States was because no one had done the less, I guess, cool or attractive thing of building out actual payments infrastructure to make all of these instant money transfers even viable in the first place. Like at its core, it really boils down to kind of a simple set of statements. Most people don't know this, but when you do a bank transfer, any bank transfer in the United States, it actually, at the end of the day, is literally like a random text file uploaded to a server that's running on infrastructure like 50 years old at a federal building.

Jesse Clemmens: That is terrifying.

Sahil Hasan: It's a CSV file. It's literally a CSV file is what powers all of our money movement today, basically.

Jesse Clemmens: Totally insane.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah.

Jesse Clemmens: When you say bank transfer, you don't just mean like me wiring 500 bucks to my roommate. You're talking about like any payment that happens online, is it, is it like everything?

Sahil Hasan: Pretty much. The only real exception you can even think of is like a Venmo to Venmo payment, like something that stays within Venmo or something that stays within PayPal is never actually a bank transfer underneath the hood. Because they're all stored in this giant bank account, and so it's just an internal, they flip some bits around in a database and suddenly that money is magically yours. But the second you try to take it out, yeah, it's all CSV files.

And so what we pretty quickly realized from trying to build a product is it turns out that if you have to wait three days to move money around, even if it's like 10 cents and you have to trust CSV files to do it, your life gets really, really hard pretty quickly.

Jesse Clemmens: And actually you hit on one important point, which is the like delay on the timing, which is probably, I would guess that most consumers, users, creators, anyone that moves money around online, which is pretty much everyone at this point, the only time you really feel the pain of it is that delay. And it feels really, I don't think most people really know the background of like the, a bank balances within one system and why that's instant transfer versus if I have to Chase accounts and which I do, and I move money from one to the other, it's a click and it's done. It's amazing. But if I wanted to move to my Charles Schwab account, it takes three or four days, which seems absolutely crazy in a world where I can FaceTime with friend in India in, you know, perfect 1080p HD.

Sahil Hasan: The infrastructure behind that's kind of interesting. I guess most people don't know this building a bank the, in building a bank, the hardest part is getting the charter, like getting the legal paperwork done. To actually build a bank, you literally need three things, a place to store money, a way to send money out of your system, and a safe, a way to take money into your system, which are those CSV files that we just talked about. If legal paperwork didn't exist, everybody can build a bank in their own house if they wanted to. It would take you like a week.

Jesse Clemmens: Right, so dialing into this specific use case for Dots, tell us about the problem that, that you guys are working on solving or, or have solved and are working on bringing out into the world.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, you touched upon it pretty well, and I'll just expand, uh, upon what you're saying, right? Fundamental problem, bank transfers take like three days. Nobody really likes to use their bank account and how they spend money today. I mean, I don't know about you, but the last time I touched my bank account to actually do anything useful with it was many months ago and that this way I just pay with everything through PayPal or Venmo or my credit card, something like that, right? And so this sort of money movement is, it's slow. It's not really what anyone I feel like below the age of 40 does anymore.

And we wanted to build out at its core a way to just get paid in how you actually move money today. So like have money just instantly show up in your Venmo, have money instantly show up in your PayPal, your Cash App, your Zelle, regardless of how the person on the other end is paying. Like it seems to us pretty ludicrous that the only way money shows up in your Venmo is if someone pays you on Venmo. Like that kind of doesn't make a lot of sense from a business perspective. But you, if you flip it and you think about like what PayPal, PayPal wants out of Venmo, it makes sense why they want to like disincentivize anyone from keeping money outside of their system. But we want to be the great equalizer there and just have an interconnect between all of these things and allow that money to move as fast as humanly possible.

Jesse Clemmens: Super cool, so the two things that I'm hearing, number one is the speed. Number two is there it's probably really annoying to operate multiple ways of getting paid to keep, to like reconcile, like, what is your balance in each of these systems? If I add Venmo, PayPal, you know, Buy Me a Coffee to use a random creator service, I need to do it today. Do I need to like go into each one of them separately? If I want to like send them to my bank account, maybe I can do some sort of recurring ...

Sahil Hasan: You can have it recurringly offload for sure. Like it's not, it's definitely not infrastructure that lives in the, the complete stone ages. Like it, you don't have to step in, but all of those processes have to be different. And in fact, it's one step further. So if you look at Gumroad right, like another relatively creator friendly company, if you ...

Jesse Clemmens: And, and just, just quickly to describe to any audience members that aren't familiar with Gumroad, Gumroad is a marketplace than anyone can use. Many customers of theirs are creators to sell basically creator goods. It could be digital products. They could be, well, there's a lot of digital products, but some physical merch as well.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, and their, I guess, primary innovation, if, if you will call it, that was just creating payment links. Like you could put the link anywhere and anyone could click on it and just pay you money and get their good. And here's an interesting thing about how Gumroad pays people out. If you go on Gumroad today and you pay via a credit card, like on Stripe, the classic credit card form, that money will go into a, uh, what's called a Stripe connect account. That Stripe connect account will ask the seller for their social security number, a bunch of like identifying information because we have money laundering laws in the United States, and then that money, you can then ask for that money in your bank account.

But if you did that same credit card, but you paid through PayPal, it doesn't go through Stripe connect. And it actually can only go to your PayPal account on Gumroad. Like there's an entire logical separation there for based entirely off how the other person on the other side of the screen happens to choose to pay that day. And that's a lot of extraneous effort for like any creator to have to manage. At that point, you just have to become a pseudo bookkeeper almost, right. Like you need know, okay, 80% of my transactions are in PayPal, 20% are in my bank account, so all my business money needs to kind of be moved around in this way to even it out or something along those lines, right?

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, and that's a full-time job on its own. We actually, we, uh, recently had Alice from a company called MyPocketCFO on the show and she was describing what an absolute nightmare it can be for an individual to try to manage finances. And just this one little area on its own seems like a pretty big headache.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, and basically now if you go on Gumroad and you also have a buy me a coffee link, that's a third one that you now have to ledger. And I mean, I would guess that the overlap between creators and people willing to write a bunch of API connectors to like figure out what their transactions are, is relatively low, because that's a lot of overhead for any single individual to have to take on. Like I can, I mean, I code for a living and I could tell you I wouldn't do it probably, but it just seems absolutely ludicrous that that's the system we have today, just cause I at its core Stripe and PayPal don't like each other. And so they don't play nice with each other and try to block each other off. And so our goal is really to just be the connectors between them, so people don't have to think about it anymore.

Jesse Clemmens: Amazing, so moving past, I guess, the like operational burden that creators or anyone that's accepting payment faces, the flip side of it that you kind of alluded to is the friction on the consumer or user side. I know like forgetting about the creator sphere, just like any purchase I'm making online, you hit the cart, you're presented with a buffet of options. Sometimes it's a buffet of one, PayPal. Sometimes it's like, okay, they have PayPal and they use maybe Shopify in the mix. Maybe, maybe a few other options. It really does impact my decision to purchase.

There's many, been many times when I've gone to purchase some sort of direct to consumer product, I'm not presented with my preferred payment option, and my gears start turning. I say, "Ah, I wonder if Amazon has this?" I go over to Amazon and if they have it, because I know it's a click, I'm like just saving me a few seconds makes a big difference. But for the creator or the person selling the end product, it's really unclear like which is the bigger evil, the friction for the user that's suppressing sales, or is it the operational burden of managing multiple, like if you did add three, four or five, six payments solutions? So it's really cool to hear you guys tackling this problem, building the bridge between them.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, I mean, it just seems like, you know, you, you're the same company that should help you move money around in one way should actually help you move money around even if it's outside of their system. But that's not what kind of these big payment processors are doing. And so it seems like the correct answer, at least on our end, is to just be the layer on top and, and connect all of it together and just be the guys that make that entire process easier, even if that's maybe not as fun to talk about in some ways as microtransactions is.

It is interesting that you're talking about the, the one-click checkout though, because rather early on in Dots, I got a little curious about what my own behavior pattern is because my, my sense of self was that it wouldn't matter, because I don't particularly mind to like typing in my credit card information or something like that. That was kind of the hypothesis I was going in. And then I like kept somewhat track of it for about a couple weeks when I was just buying random things, and pretty quickly discovered that if there was a pay with PayPal button, the time it took me to decide to purchase basically went from what was minutes with credit card to like sub 10 seconds, like it was like instantaneously. So even in my own sense of self where I thought it wouldn't make a difference, it actually turns out it makes a pretty massive difference.

Jesse Clemmens: Definitely. Have ever seen any of those like sort of viral videos of people doing like ridiculous comedy sketches of like if a conference call was in real life. And then they're like, you know, showing people popping in and out of a room, dropping off the line, the internet connection dropping. If you think about like the, if internet payments were real life and I walk up to a hot dog stand, someone has, you know, hands me a piece of paper with seven lines on it to fill out before I can buy a hotdog, that experience kind of sucks. So it's funny that we've put up with it for so long on the internet.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, I mean, credit cards weren't really ever built for the internet, despite the fact that we seem to pretend that they were, right? Like they were built in the 1950s by, in Fresno of all places, California. I guess is a bit of a fun story about, uh, so I'll go off on a, a bit of a tangent. Like nobody thought credit cards would work. The first time they tried credit cards. I can't remember the city they tried it in. It like exploded. It just didn't work. And then the Bank of America decided that they wanted to launch credit cards in Fresno, California. And what they did was they convinced like a little over half of the city merchants to like, "Just accept credit cards and we'll pay you." Like, "Don't worry about it. We'll send you the money." And that like sort of worked because what they did, which is actually illegal now, but what they did back then was they just mailed everybody in Fresno, a credit card and just went, "This thing works now. Have fun with it."

Jesse Clemmens: [laughs]

Sahil Hasan: And then like over time they became this thing that people just inherently trust and inherently use all the time. But if you go look at American data today, 60% of people don't use credit cards for credit. Like they pay off their balance every month fully, right? I mean, I, I can speak for myself. I do that. Uh, I'm sure you probably, most of the time ended up doing that as well. And so the question is, if we're not using a credit card for credit, why does it still exist? And the answer is because it's the only way we figured out to pay with things online. And as soon as someone figures out something better there, I don't know what the future of credit cards will be, but I'd be very curious to find out.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, super interesting. With your solution, is there anything unique about credit cards that is handled differently than like someone paying with a debit card or paying with their Venmo balance? Like how does that factor into the solution you guys are building?

Sahil Hasan: Technically, there's a rather vast difference. Like we have to be treat them, they're entirely separate processes. From a user experience, you wouldn't be able to tell.

Jesse Clemmens: Got it, so it's sort of one of those things that just kind of happened behind the scenes and can, uh, the consumer and the user don't have to worry too much about, but it is heavy lifting that ...

Sahil Hasan: Exactly.

Jesse Clemmens: ... your company has to do.

Sahil Hasan: It is arguably the most brutal part of our company is just that heavy lifting is non-trivial because those processes don't look anything at all alike.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah. Okay, so speaking of behind the scenes heavy lifting, as I mentioned at the beginning of the show, this product Dots is not just for like individual developers that are setting up their own sites. It can also be used by companies. And I know you had mentioned that one example of a company type that might apply to our creator audience is a marketplace, marketplace where there's buyers and sellers of products that are, you know, hosted by another third party company. What does that look like? And how do you guys con-, contribute to the success of, uh, of companies either like theoretically in the future or today, whatever you want, wherever you want to go?

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, so I guess the best caveat to start off with here is most things are marketplaces, but we never really realized that under the hood that they're actually marketplaces, right?

Jesse Clemmens: Oh, interesting.

Sahil Hasan: So to use kind of a, a creator specific example, you know, if you think of a marketplace, you might think of what, uh, eBay, Etsy, you know, someone's selling their goods on Etsy, that sort of thing, right? But TikTok's a marketplace who buyers and sellers, just the currency happens to be clicks, right? Twitch is a marketplace. All of these things are actually just marketplaces where you have one side selling some good or service, the other, and being compensated in some way for it, and the other side consuming those goods or services either for free or paying, depending on how the dynamics work out. But they're all actually marketplaces under the hood.

And so really our goal is to power those systems, because especially when you start looking at marketplaces that have regular people on both ends, Amazon is an example of a marketplace that has just businesses on their supplier side, right? There's very few regular people that sell things on Amazon. It's all just companies. But like Etsy is almost like overwhelmingly, 95% of them are just human beings trying to do something either as a side hustle, for fun. Some of them actually do well enough to make a living off of it, but the vast majority are just kind of doing it. And those folks aren't going to go and like build a business bank account. They're not going to go through all of these like hoops that companies tend to jump through to get paid by these companies. And so we really want it to just be as simple as, "Yeah, I want to sell something on Etsy and it'll just show up on my PayPal as soon as it's sold." Right? That's kind of the goal.

Right now, obviously, we're starting with much smaller things than Etsy. You've got to prove that you're, you're ready like in everything else in life. But you know, we power some pretty interesting marketplaces. We power a company called Zappy. They do e-sports tournament. We're actually their entire wallet. So Zappy has this wallet that people can fill up with money. They use that money to then like buy entries into particular tournaments and then hold their winnings at the end. And then they've been withdrawn to ACA uh, ACH is a bank transfer, so to their bank account to PayPal, to Venmo and we powered that whole system for them.

Jesse Clemmens: So do they have their own currency or is it in dollars, because I'm thinking of like the gaming world where sometimes you can buy coins within games. Is it a scenario like that? Or is it just dollars in there? Because ...

Sahil Hasan: Right now, it's just dollars. It's pretty interesting. They've gotten very international very quickly. So they have, everything is handled in dollars. And so there are some folks out in Germany that love to play Call of Duty tournament that are absolutely just funding us in dollars and receiving payouts internationally through PayPal.

Jesse Clemmens: Interesting. Well that, I guess leads me to another, hopefully not a rabbit hole, but just a quick question. A lot of creators are thinking hard about cryptocurrencies and payments, the, uh, blockchain and all this kind of crazy new stuff. Does any of that intersect with your world or are you focused only on fiat or traditional currency at this point?

Sahil Hasan: As of right now we're focused on fiat currency. It is a bit of a rabbit hole why. The two sentence summary is one, generally speaking, banks do not particularly like if you try to dabble in both fiat and crypto. They're okay with you being in one or the other, but not both, usually. The other is for the purposes of paying people, it seemed disingenuous to pay people in something that could lose value overnight and is something that is not a stably pegged currency just yet. I would guess that we may do some forays into crypto at some point, but even then it will be forays into like stable coins because we, even though you want to keep creators paid in the ways that they want, and we want to offer that flexibility, we also want to promote financial wellbeing and make sure people are doing things in a responsible manner and, you know, chucking it into Dogecoin ...

Jesse Clemmens: [laughs]

Sahil Hasan: ... checking all of your monthly earnings into Dogecoin may not quite jive with that goal.

Jesse Clemmens: Right. Okay, so focus on empowering people to better handle the money that they're already earning in the real world, so to speak. And, uh, sounds like, based on your description of the current financial infrastructure, that is a, uh, big enough problem to solve. So it makes sense that you're staying focused on it.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah. We, we like to start and punch a little bit above our weight class.

Jesse Clemmens: Love it, love it. So what's the current status. Can anyone sign up for Dots today or do you have a wait list or? How should people think about the service?

Sahil Hasan: You can go to our website, sign up for a demo. Right now,. I, with a very high degree of certainty, I myself will be on that call. If it's not me, it'll definitely be my co-founder.

Jesse Clemmens: Amazing.

Sahil Hasan: So we're more than happy to, to give you the rundown on exactly how we think we could help you. If your viewers don't necessarily want to sign up for a call, sit in a video chat, you can send an email to info at senddots.com, and we read all of those and can do it a little more like asynchronously or via text if that's something you're uncomfortable with.

Jesse Clemmens: Awesome, and we'll definitely include that email address in the show notes. Is there anywhere else that folks can reach out to you that is worth mentioning?

Sahil Hasan: I think those two forums are checked pretty often. As long as I'm awake, I will be reading that info email, so [laughs]. There's only about six or seven hours out of the day where that one is not read.

Jesse Clemmens: Awesome. Keep it simple.

Sahil Hasan: Exactly.

Jesse Clemmens: One more question for creators that are on the smaller size or possibly growing into needing a solution like yours, but they don't have necessarily development chops or they're, maybe they don't have a developer that they work with already, do you guys do any, like pairing with third-party developers or do you help people with the install or is it easy enough that people don't need developer or?

Sahil Hasan: It's, it's a few lines of code, but if you have no development experience, it's still non-trivial to set up. That being said, we are more than happy to do it for you at this stage, as long as you're very explicit on what you want on that front and we have a few developers that we know that would be happy to do it for you as well.

Jesse Clemmens: Awesome, one more pop question that we ask almost all of our guests. I was curious, who is your favorite creator? Does anyone come to mind that you, uh, that's your favorite either all-time favorite or your favorite today?

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, my instinctive answer is the all-time favorite and that has to be the kind of the content I grew up watching. I'll give two answers if that's okay.

Jesse Clemmens: Absolutely.

Sahil Hasan: One, I grew up watching Rooster Teeth, which is, you know, a really large media company right now. Achievement Hunter I've watched since I was like 11 years old. I'm 24 now, and I still probably watch them at least a couple of times a month. I, founding a company, leaves you a little less time to watch it than you would like.

Jesse Clemmens: [laughs] Yeah, I got it.

Sahil Hasan: [laughs] Um, and then the second is just kind of, I remember the very early days of Machinima and that probably got me very, is one of the major reasons I learned how to program when I was a kid in the first place, because Machinima is what got me loving video games in a way I didn't anticipate loving them before, to a point where my gamer tag and everything is from an age old Machinima series filmed in like Halo three called Spriggs. It's a, a little for the older side of individuals. Just that's the caveat I'll give, but both of those guys fantastic.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, Machinima was a very cool company. Are they still around? Maybe is still?

Sahil Hasan: Uh, I think they got bought by someone, but I can't remember who.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, I think, I believe there is an acquisition, but for anyone that's not familiar with the company, it was really groundbreaking and that they took a, areal big swing at becoming the next kind of like big broadcast company, except for that they did majority streaming on YouTube. So they were one of the big, first multi-channel networks or was it?

Sahil Hasan: Yeah.

Jesse Clemmens: Multi-channel networks, MCNs I believe is what, what they're called, but basically companies that own a huge library of, of different content types. And it was a super cool company. And I think very foundational to the gaming space and live streaming and all of that.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, I think at their peak, the only people bigger than them, which this might be dating my age a little bit was like Ray William Johnson and Smosh.

Jesse Clemmens: Got it.

Sahil Hasan: Like it was those two and then Machinima had everybody else.

Jesse Clemmens: Awesome, any wild and crazy predictions for the creator economy in the next five, 10 years?

Sahil Hasan: I think in the next five years, you're going to see like the moral equivalent of creator co-ops pop-up as websites. Like they're just going to be these, they're not necessarily going to be crypto powered, but they're going to be decentralized in the sense that they're just pop-up shops run by a bunch of creators that really like each other, that don't like YouTube anymore. And instead move into their own ecosystems that they just pay some dev shop to, to spin up for them.

Jesse Clemmens: That's awesome. So I was following you around the kind of autonomous organization or like the co-op portion of that. Then you moved into another area. You think that folks are going to stand up their own white labeled platforms rather than relying on distribution from YouTube and ...

Sahil Hasan: At least in part. I don't think they're ever going to move entirely off of YouTube, not as long as ad revenue pays out the way that it does and not as long as finding content is as hard as it is. But I do think that they're going to, just what Patreon has done for paid content in general, you're going to see more and more creators, either use Patreon in some sort of pseudo white labeled way or a new competitor to Patreon is going to pop up that works similar to Substack where they offer obviously all the infrastructure, but it can be completely white labeled away and look like it's your own website.

Jesse Clemmens: Super cool. Yeah, there's something really special about the way that collabs have become, you know, really a critical part of the creator economy. And, uh, when you see it in action, it's really cool and really powerful to see this like, um, mashup of worlds. Like I, I think about in the podcasting space, I listened to the All-In podcast. We just had Henry Belcaster on the pod. I think we'll publish in a couple of weeks. He's sort of like a, he's not on the podcast, but he's mentioned quite frequently by the, by the All-In podcast crew.

And that's a case where each of the, I don't know if you'd call them cast members, but the personalities on the show who are all VCs, big VCs in the space, they're like interesting folks in their own, right, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks, like the sort of like big VC characters. They got on, they started talking about politics and it became this kind of runaway success because of the way that personalities jived with one another and created this like new, different energy that's like totally different than if you, you know, if you listen to This Week in Startups, which was Jason Calacanis' pod. It was, it's a quite a different tone.

So I think you're totally right. I think we're going to see more of it. And we're going to see a need for more infrastructure that can power these unique experiences, probably not replacing the existing platforms, but supplementing them and being a space where like your biggest fans can find you and connect with you as a creator in different ways. And there's definitely a ton of need for more infrastructure for stuff for like that. And I'm sure Dots will be in the mix.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, and I mean, I guess the only statement I'll make to that is if you go look at historical trends, every time there's a new revolution in technology like 15, a couple of decades later, people unionize and work together in some way and suddenly take a lot of power back from conglomerations that were kind of abusing the fact that they were so early into the game that they could get away with anything. And we're starting to near that timeline when it comes to kind of YouTube and that sort of thing. So my guess is that trend isn't going to miraculously stop.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, for sure. There's definitely like a pendulum that's hopefully near kind of its peak swing towards power of the platforms and is going to start rotating back to the creators. I mean, even just from the creators that I speak to quite frequently, the change in dynamic from going from two big platforms, well, putting Twitch aside, two big like mainstream platforms, I guess Twitch is mainstream now as well, but YouTube and Instagram, the real big spaces for creators. There wasn't really enough crossover between the two platforms to give any edge or power to the creators. Now TikTok is here and all of a sudden these creator funds are popping up to actually compensate the biggest, uh, creators. And this creates a whole new set of opportunities like for our company HiBeam, the opportunities to take DMs and comments that happen in multiple places, multiple platforms and help prioritize them in a single workspace. But there's a whole bunch of other stuff that will come out of it too. And I think it's, uh, definitely a cool moment at a time and headed in what feels like a better direction than the imbalance that has been.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah.

Jesse Clemmens: The reality of those spheres.

Sahil Hasan: It feels like people pretty soon, hopefully five years is, is the timeline, I'm, I'm guessing it, just be able to run these things by themselves and not have to rely on the whims of a, of a YouTube or of a Twitch to make the a living.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, and even if the players don't change in terms of the big platforms and even if really literal unionization/like collective bargaining power, I guess doesn't happen in the way, in the way it has traditionally, the other cool thing that gives power back to creators is the ability to earn non ads-based income, selling things, selling goods, selling products off of the platform, sometimes on the platforms, but not being relying on that ad revenue only is really important and, and really cool and sort of ties back to some of the stuff you're building. Anyway, I know we've kept you a little longer than an intended. This was an awesome chat, really appreciate learning about Dots. Really excited to, to see how things go and thanks again for coming on the pod.

Sahil Hasan: Yeah, thank you for having me. It was definitely a great chat.

Jesse Clemmens: All right, man. Hope to talk soon. See ya.

Sahil Hasan: See ya.


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