Patreon chief: IPO “on the table” but not all creators will benefit

By Eric Johansson

Patreon’s new chief revenue officer (CRO) says a public listing is “on the table” for the creator platform, but not all artists will necessarily benefit from it.

Kerri Pollard stepped into her new role just months before the rumours of the pandemic started to spread out of Wuhan.

“Who knew when I started in October of 2019 that, a mere six months later, the world would absolutely change,” she tells Verdict.

Not only did Covid-19 encourage Patreon to become “100% remote”, but it also saw a massive surge of artists and creators joining the platform.

“Over the course of Covid there’s been a lot of YOLO moments,” the CRO says about more people taking the plunge to join the creator economy, adding that artists have benefited from it with “more platforms competing for creators’ time and attention than ever before.”

The company claims that between April 2020 to April 2021, the total number of creators almost grew by 50% to over 200,000 with seven million patrons supporting them. During that period, the total creator earnings almost doubled.

While Patreon didn’t provide any exact figure on how much creators took home on average, GlobalData reported in May that creators have collectively earned $2bn since the platform’s launch.

“Patreon was created to provide a platform for creators to reach and engage with a community of fans and followers – and that has always been at the core of our mission,” Pollard says.

Patreon IPO

Given the growth of the company, it’s hardly surprising that the rumour mill has gone into overdrive this year, spinning yarns about when Patreon may go public. It’s $155m funding round in April amplified those speculations as well as seeing the tech company achieve a $4bn valuation.

Additionally, the scaleup has also strengthened its C-suite, which Pollard is one example of. Similarly, Julian Gutman joined the executive team from Instagram as Patreon’s new chief product officer and Tiffany Stevenson joined as chief people officer in May, hirings which all seem targeted at fuelling the company’s further growth.

“The growth of the creator economy has accelerated much faster than I ever could have dreamed of when we began this journey eight years ago,” Patreon CEO Jack Conte said at the time, as reported by GlobalData. “We are at a critical inflection point and I’m excited to partner closely with Tiffany to scale our teams to power our next phase of growth.”

Words and moves like these have fuelled the rumours of an impending exit. And it seems as if an initial public offering (IPO) could be in the cards for Patreon, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

“I think all options are on the table at this point in time, and the IPO is definitely one of them, but right now we don’t have any immediate plans,” Pollard says.

So that’s a firm “maybe” on a Patreon IPO, in other words.

No smut on Patreon

While Pollard is passionate about the rights of creators, there is one group of entertainers Patreon is not ready to support on its platform: porn artists.

Pollard says this will not change despite the backlash against OnlyFans, who banned adult entertainers on its platform because of pressure from financial service providers before doing a complete U-turn and unbanning them.

“We’ve been clear since the early days that we don’t allow pornography on Patreon,” Pollard says, clarifying that Patreon defines porn “as real people engaging in sex acts with themselves or others.”

While it does allow for adult content within its guidelines, Pollard says “that’s a mission-based decision, not values-based.”

No matter how much Patreon says it supports adult entertainers, it won’t let pornography performers on the platform, so that’s one class of creators that won’t benefit from the IPO.

Lessons from Covid

There are no shortages of companies that have faced challenges due to Covid-19. Patreon is one of them and Pollard is proud of how the company has overcome these challenges.

“Patreon has always been super adaptable and flexible,” the CRO says. “So we’ll continue to change and shift as well based on what we need to do to continue to attract really awesome talent and retain the incredible talent that we have.”

Pollard herself was not immune to these challenges, having only stepped into her role months before the pandemic forced Patreon to send its staff home.

“In my 25 year career I have never worked from home, never wanted to work from home and figure out how to work from home,” Pollard says.

She especially felt for the parents working at Patreon who found themselves juggling their jobs with their parental duties.

“My daughter’s a little bit older, but I definitely feel for those folks that had young kids who were trying to do school at home and work and take care of [children],” she says. “So there’s just a lot of folks all over the spectrum. [We] just tried to be as empathetic as possible.”

Looking to the future, Pollard believes the pandemic will continue to make itself felt by both employees at Patreon and the creators they support.

“The Delta variant has definitely kind of thrown a wrench in things to a certain extent,” she says. “Folks were kind of looking [to] really kind of diversify again, whether it was live events or otherwise, especially in the music space. And I think that’s a big question mark now.”

While outdoor festivals have opened to some extent around the world, artists have said that they are uncertain they’ll be able to go back on tour any time before 2023 because venues are so backed up.

“So I think we’re gonna see a lot more kind of digital content and kind of online experiences, and maybe some outdoor venues and touch points, but I think it’s gonna continue to be extremely active online,” she says.

And creators being active online could only be good for Patreon, IPO or no IPO.