A New Frontier In Consumer-Internet Venture Capital

Creator-led Creator Ventures’ $20m fund takes an innovative approach to backing consumer-internet startups

Will creators change the world?

If you ask Creator Ventures partners Sasha Kaletsky and Caspar Lee, the answer is a resounding yes.

Caspar Lee and Sasha Kaletsky have always been on the cutting edge in their respective fields. Lee was one of the earliest YouTubers in the UK, rising to international prominence across most social media platforms, and he later founded Influencer.com, a premier influencer marketing business. Sasha Kaletsky is a former private equity investor who has previously worked for Bridgepoint and Uber.

Together, they now bring their expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to Creator Ventures. They recently unveiled their daring new plan of investing $20 million globally in consumer-internet startups, investing alongside and helping with introductions to large-scale social media creators, as well as celebrity musicians, athletes and TV personalities.

Creator Ventures started as a side gig for the two founders, who are cousins and longtime friends. At its inception in 2019, it existed as a syndicate fund, known as “Creative Investment Club” or “Creator Collective Capital”. The syndicate invested small follower checks alongside venture funds in early-stage deals, bringing creators into their deals fee-free. Their syndicate included well-known celebrities and creators, and has a collective following of over 100 million. This year, this “investment club” has morphed into something much bigger with their fundraise of $20m, to invest in early-stage consumer Internet companies to “advance how people interact”.

The funding comes from limited partnerships with family offices, funds-of-funds, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and creators. Creator Ventures has already invested in more than ten startups across the US, Europe and Asia, including:

FACEIT, a UK-based competitive sports gaming platform backed by Index Ventures and Makers Fund (exited in early 2022 in a transaction worth USD 1.5 billion)

Beehiiv, a US platform for newsletter creators backed by Social Leverage

Lottie, a UK marketplace for care homes backed by Kindred Capital and General Catalyst

Bounce, a US marketplace for luggage storage backed by General Catalyst and Andreessen Horowitz

Their goal is to globally invest first cheques of USD 100-500K in Seed to Series A startups across four themes:

Consumer Social: gaming and social apps.

● Consumer and B2B2C Marketplaces.

Creator Economy: for new experiences or for products or solutions that creators can use.

E-Commerce enablement: tools for online commerce.

Kaletsky says, “we take ‘founder-friendly’ to the next level by helping founders with our expertise in social media and introducing them to a host of influential people. Our network of large-scale creators, who can amplify almost any consumer-internet company today, also helps us understand the insights behind the numbers in consumer-social. We also feel we are able to better understand whether a consumer proposition will catch fire as a result of our network and sector specialism.”

Lee brings his own insights as a creative founder. He says, “I’ve had my own experiences raising capital at influencer.com and building teams at scale as a serial founder, as well as getting a perspective on life as one of the large early creators on YouTube. Creator Ventures is my next step, combining everything we’ve learned and investing alongside creators in the next generation of consumer-social. Bringing people and communities together has been core to everything I have done in my career, and now we are taking this to the next level for our founders.”

In the words of Lee and Kaletsky, Creator Ventures is different from traditional investors in a number of ways.

“First, we can make introductions to our network of creators, who often want to invest. Second, we are uniquely able to help entrepreneurs with their social media marketing from Caspar’s experience as a creator and as a marketing technology cofounder. Finally, of course we also do all the traditional things that a VC typically does: introductions to investors, strategic support and operator connections. Together this forms a compelling package for founders when deciding whose early-stage capital to accept.”

Both feel that investors can learn a lot from creators, and vice versa.

Lee continues, “Creators often have an innate gut-feel for consumer propositions, which we leverage as part of our investment analysis, but they don’t always have the all-round due diligence skills to support sound investment decisions.” He advises creators to “be careful when you invest, because loving the product is not always enough to support a great business or an exit in a few years.”

Lee and Kaletsky also have discussed the marketing potential of the TikTok platform, which brings great potential for viral content. “TikTok is fundamentally different to past social platforms. Virality can come from anywhere. If a post is extremely viral, it can reach 50 million views”, says Sasha, “but if it isn’t, it might reach only a few thousand, no matter who posts it. This is hugely beneficial for influencer marketing, because creators now have a real incentive to make their brand deals viral, which was not as much the case for prior platforms.”

Finally, their investment strategy is to invest in about 50 high-growth startups across consumer-internet. They will invest in companies all over the world that either have a great team but haven’t launched yet, or who have launched and are as soon as possible after the first signs of product-market fit.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

For updates and more stories: @gltore

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