Tech entrepreneurs have had a tremendous impact on all facets of the world, but the influence of creator entrepreneurs shouldn’t be discounted.
Silicon Valley has long had a solid cast of mentors and advisors, but post-bubble era, I don’t know how much venture capitalists prioritized grooming the leaders they’d funded. I’m not saying it was a profit-at-any-cost mantra, but given Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s now-famous mindset “Move fast and break things,” I will assume that financiers didn’t ask questions and were to look the other way as Big Tech had to navigate one dicey policy issue or another. Coming out of a pandemic, these companies remain stronger than ever, and their mercurial leaders are emboldened to do as they see fit.
The forces those tech founders unleashed has led to the democratization of storytelling, the gates crashing down and with marginal distribution costs and global audiences at your fingertips, it’s as if content is the new software.
In that vein, I think that the Big Money ultimately underwriting the so-called Creator Economy is repeating some of the mistakes their tech brethren made in looking the other way when the men they fund – and yes, it’s usually men – misbehave. Women creators have always been held to a different, more unfair set of standards, but that’s for another article.
Over the course of the past fifteen years, YouTube (of note, but these social video platforms in general) has churned through a series of “leading men,” including but not limited to Felix Kjellberg aka Pewdiepie, Ray William Johnson, Casey Neistat, Phil De Franco, and more recently David Dobrik and Mr Beast… These young men are conditioned to “move fast and break things,” even if it means recording a video of someone who had just taken their own life.
That cycle to compete for attention in the “attention economy,” push the envelope to the point of shocking audiences, only to be either cancelled if you haven’t burnt out first is only made more tragic by the fact that I suspect no one in these leading men’s entourage is really incentivized for their content to be tamed down.
That said, I can also imagine that these men may feel whiplash: on the one hand induced by the platforms and brands to keep things edgy and push the envelope, only to then be slapped on the wrist (at best) or thrown down the steps (at worst). I feel their pain, mind you in a different way.
It’s hyperbole to pretend these young men have the same influence as tech entrepreneurs who built the Internet did, but these creators are hugely influential over an ever-growing army, i.e. the young leaders of tomorrow.
Disclaimer: I am an investor indirectly in David Dobrik’s Dispo by way of my investment in 776. It’s probably an immaterial amount (ha!) but nonetheless… for full transparency.