Lucy Guo’s Passes pounces on $9M to further develop paywall platform for creators

By Riley Kaminer

It’s hard to nail down exactly what the creator economy is. But if we take Goldman Sachs’ definition – individual people who monetize their own brands and online audiences – the total addressable market of the creator economy is already at $250 billion. The investment bank’s analysts expect this figure to balloon to $480 billion by 2027.

Might a Miami company be at the forefront of this growth? There’s one rising star that is already on that path.

Meet Passes. If you’re active on #MiamiTech Twitter, you’ve heard of this company founded by Lucy Guo, the co-founder of Scale AI and a self-made success story. She moved to Miami during the pandemic and has been a vocal supporter of our local tech scene.

Passes enables creators to maximize the profits they make off their audience. And today the company announced that it has raised a $9 million seed round led by Multicoin Capital with participation from Florida Funders, Anti Fund, Craft Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and 11:11 Media.

Saxon Baum, Florida Funders Partner

“We’re excited to be able to invest alongside tier one venture funds in a company led by probably the most well-known entrepreneur in the country,” Florida Funders Partner Saxon Baum told Refresh Miami

“We think that the space that Passes is tackling is extremely exciting,” continued Baum. “It’s a space that has been dominated by a few players over the years with a terrible user experience and terrible user interface. And we saw Lucy’s vision, we wanted to get behind it and get behind the change of an entire industry.”

Through Passes, creators can offer fans the opportunity to buy access to exclusive content and experiences. This includes tips, live streaming, 1:1 fan calls, and unlockable posts/DMs. Already the platform has attracted a wide variety of top influencers such as TherapyJeff, Maren Altman, Emma Norton, and Luke Scornavacco. The startup is still finalizing its pricing structure, but the idea is that Passes will offer lower platform fees than its major competitors.

“Creators are entrepreneurs. Brand deals are a volatile source of income and the best way to grow your brand and business is to be able to directly connect with your superfans. It’s our mission to help creators scale their communities and therefore, their businesses,” Guo said in a statement. “As a Miami-based company, we’re proud to have Florida Funders’ support as Passes grows.”

“Follower count doesn’t always dictate how much a creator can make on a paywall platform,” she continued. “We have creators who launched on Passes with fewer than 50k Instagram followers, who have made more than $120k from their superfans.”

Passes initially launched last year as a web3 platform. Since then, Baum explained that the platform has moved away from the web3 focus – for example by only accepting fiat – but still leverages technology such as NFTs for membership access when it makes sense.

That said, Baum noted that overall Florida Funders still believes in web3, particularly when it comes to infrastructure and blockchain tech, as long as the fundamentals are there. He also underscored that Florida Funders’ web3 profile continues to perform relatively well: “Being in the state of Florida, with Miami really having a huge web3 presence, I think that we were privy to some web3 deals that the rest of the country weren’t.”

Before starting Passes, Guo co-founded artificial intelligence firm Scale AI in 2016 with Alexandr Wang, whom she met while working at Quora, and in 2018 she cofounded VC firm Backend Capital. The 28-year-old Guo, a Thiel Fellow, is ranked #76 in Forbes 2023 America’s Self-Made Women, the youngest woman on the list. 

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Riley Kaminer