11 creator economy leaders explain why they left TikTok, YouTube for startups

  • Startups in the creator economy have attracted talent from TikTok, YouTube and Meta this year.
  • Dozens of experienced employees on large platforms have chosen to move to smaller companies.
  • Insider spoke to 11 employees about their reasons for leaving and what they think of the decision.

The economy of creators is in the midst of restructuring.

In the first half of 2022, dozens of employees left positions at companies like YouTube, TikTok, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) and Pinterest to work at creator-focused startups like Koji, Creative Juice and Kajabi, according to an Insider review of job updates on LinkedIn.

Take Matt Koval, who worked at YouTube for nearly a decade before leaving in March 2022 to join Mighty Networks, a startup that helps creators monetize online courses and communities.

“I looked at the industry and saw so many exciting things happening in the creator economy that I wanted to be a part of and contribute to,” Koval told Insider. “And ironically, it seemed like it wasn’t as exciting anymore to be part of one of the big platforms.”

This wave of departures is part of the broader “great quit” taking place in the United States, as workers quit their jobs in droves in search of higher pay and a better work environment.

Meanwhile, the creator economy has boomed in recent years, driven by a transition to digital content that has accelerated during the pandemic.

Companies like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating creator-focused revenue streams, and a new generation of startups has emerged to fill the gaps of big tech platforms.

These newcomers are designing marketing, engagement, fintech, and education tools specifically for content creators — and many are poaching talent from big social media companies to do it.

“There’s this perfect storm of opportunity out there,” said Aaron DeBevoise, CEO and founder of creator-economy startup Spotter, which recently hired Derek Reynolds (of YouTube) and Monica Khan (of Meta). as leaders.

For startups hiring talent on some of the biggest social media platforms, the “why” is pretty clear.

“They bring a lot of qualities,” DeBevoise said. The talent pool is known for being smart, “process-oriented” and for “working well with teams”, he added. “It’s worth paying them what it takes to get them.”

But why talent chooses to leave comfortable positions in some of the most highly rated companies is not always so obvious.

Some said they saw the needs of creators that weren’t being catered for by big platforms, and they thought more fervent startups could solve those problems faster. Others said they wanted to join early-stage companies where they could have more influence.

In many cases, these employees made the choice to leave larger, more stable companies before the global economy – and in particular the technology and media sectors – showed signs of slowing down. Some have joined startups that have raised large war chests from investors over the past year, which they hope will give their businesses a better chance of weathering a turbulent economy.

“It’s a risk, but it’s a calculated risk,” said Khan, a product manager who left Meta to join Spotter. Spotter raised a $200 million Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 earlier this year.

Insider spoke with 11 creator industry professionals who left their jobs at major social entertainment platforms in 2022 to try their luck at creator-focused startups.

Here are their stories of why they made the switch:

To note: Insider edited and shortened some answers for clarity.

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