Digital entrepreneurship is on fire. Over $1 billion in venture capital has been invested in the Creator Economy in 2021. And with the emergence of the creator economy, substantially accelerated by the massive disruption to traditional and conventional employment as a result of the pandemic, we have been inundated with media hype around creators largely made famous leveraging social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch (among others). However, this group represents merely a subset of the broader creator universe that, in our view, is much larger and where the economics of which have the potential to be much more equitably distributed.
This broader universe, the Entrepreneur Enablement category, comprises an evolving ecosystem of new applications, marketplaces, and platforms that enable digitally-native entrepreneurs to build and scale businesses ranging from part-time side hustles to transnational enterprises. We think of the content producers emerging on Substack or Anchor, the course creators on Thinkific, the artists on Side Door, or most obviously the brands on Shopify. Entrepreneur enablement goes beyond providing additional revenue streams for the largest Instagram or TikTok followings, it serves those entrepreneurs that take a deliberate approach to building their businesses around these platforms, perhaps relying on social media to supplement distribution.
We believe that the potential end markets for businesses being built in the entrepreneur enablement category will be much larger than widely held today. Over the course of our ongoing investment in Thinkific, we were consistently proven wrong on our market sizing, estimating a total addressable market (TAM) in 2016 of $3 - $5 billion, while more recent studies conducted at the time of Thinkific’s IPO in April of this year estimated a TAM of $28 - $34 billion – within the range of a ten-fold increase. A meaningful degree of this is certainly attributable to a previously-held underappreciation for the TAM expansion potential made possible by reducing the friction involved in launching and scaling digitally-native businesses.
What is particularly exciting is the evolution of this new-age entrepreneur. As the initial cohort of commerce platforms that were launched approximately five to ten years ago matured, the entrepreneurs leveraging these platforms did as well.
Those previously reliant on a single platform to launch a store, build a course, create a podcast, or publish a newsletter have evolved from “single-SKU” solopreneurs to “multi-SKU” SMBs, operating businesses with products spanning several of these platforms with, for example, courses through Thinkific and podcasts on Anchor.
Each individual platform provides the tools and services required to scale these businesses, however, those tools and services are typically confined or optimized to the specific platform. With the inevitable continued expansion of multi-SKU portfolios, these entrepreneurs, much like more traditional businesses, will require tools and services that support the scaling of their businesses across multiple platforms.
This is already happening. With the evolution of new platforms and marketplaces, an ecosystem of thousands of platform partners and tools, along with millions of entrepreneurs and consumers, has emerged.
With more entrepreneurs finding unique ways to build innovative businesses across new platforms, it is apparent that we remain in the relatively early innings of a proliferating ecosystem. We believe that this ecosystem of entrepreneur enablement platforms, tools and technologies goes far beyond the conventional creator economy and will continue to redefine the future of work, shift the power dynamic from institutions to individuals, disintermediate traditional gatekeepers, and enable a new class of entrepreneurs to compete like never before.
If you are a founder building in the entrepreneur enablement category, we’d love to hear from you!