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Patreon Battles for Creators by Investing in Original Content

Ahead of a potential IPO, the $4 billion startup is transforming itself as competition from tech giants intensifies.

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Illustration: Helena Covell for Bloomberg Businessweek

In today’s Silicon Valley, land of buzzwords, there may be none buzzier than “creator”—the tech industry’s chosen way to refer to someone who gathers an audience by posting their words, images, or videos online. Every tech company seems to be fixated on building tools to help their super users make money through subscriptions, tips, or other direct payments from fans, whether they’re running audio streaming services like Apple and Spotify or social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

All these big companies are, in a sense, aping Patreon Inc., the tech startup that’s spent the past eight years building tools to allow content creators to accept recurring payments from their fans. Patreon is in the midst of a hiring spree, and in April it raised $155 million from investors who valued it at $4 billion, triple its valuation from an investment round in September 2020. It plans to go public in the near future, though the timeline remains uncertain.