Bright inks $15M for live chats with top creators

Bright, a live video startup that allows fans to interact with their favorite creators, raised $15 million from a variety of celebrities to expand its platform.

The round: Bright’s round was led by Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures (fund co-operated by Ashton Kutcher), RIT Capital, and Regah Ventures. Celebrity investors included Rachel Zoe, Drew and Jonathan Scott, Judd Apatow, Ashton Kutcher, Amy Schumer, Bethenny Frankel, and Ryan Tedder, TechCrunch reported. These celebrity endorsements and investments will ultimately help Bright convince other creators of the platform's legitimacy. The funding will be used to build out Bright’s Creator Studio, a suite of tools to manage creators’ revenue, conversation, and fan engagement.

Bright background: Based in Los Angeles, Bright was co-founded by Madonna, U2 talent manager Guy Oseary, and YouTube product manager Michael Powers. It launched in May of 2021 to offer creators the ability to leverage their fame instead of relying on ad-supported networks such as YouTube. Conversation topics include mind, body, home, money, crafting, and culture.

“All our partners share Bright's vision that people want to level up their lives by learning directly from those they admire. Through Bright, talent can better engage authentically with audiences by sharing their own knowledge and bringing their many interests and passions to the foreground." —Bright CEO Michael Powers

How it works: Built on top of Zoom, Bright takes a 20 percent cut from creators’ ticket sales. Ticket prices are set by creators and range from $10 to $150. Currently, conversations are available only to fans and creators in the United States but it plans to expand internationally soon. Some creators will provide an agenda, while others will offer a casual conversation in which fans can ask questions when a creator pulls them “on stage.”

By celebs, for celebs? Creators can of course become celebrities — and vice versa — but many “creators” using Bright grew their fame from music, films, sports, and television. Some of Bright’s top creators include Naomi Campbell, D-Nice, the D’Amelio Sisters, Laura Dern, Lindsey Vonn, Diego Boneta, and others. Jessica Alba, Kane Brown, and Maria Sharapova are serving as advisors.

Conventional creators: There are more “traditional” creators on the platform, too, including gamer Ronnie2K, cosmetics expert Vanessa Lee, and organizational guru Lisa Jacobs. Unlike YouTube, however, Bright isn't out to make unknown influencers famous. Ultimately, it's focused on supporting creators who already have an established fanbase.

Opportunism? It seems like a stretch to dub an actor a “creator” simply because they’re famous and can sell tickets to a discussion on culture. I’ve been wrong (many times) before but this looks like it might be a case of creator economy opportunism. Regardless, the creator economy is in its adolescence — perhaps there’s room for celebs and emerging creators alike to thrive on different platforms. In some ways, Bright is flipping Cameo's business model on its head. Instead of asking people to pay creators for a static video message, fans can interact directly with their favorite celebrity in real-time.

Furthering a divide A critique I’ve heard frequently from indie hackers is that most startups and new monetization features targeting the creator economy are geared toward only the top creators. Bright seems in line with that criticism considering its top parameter for applicants is that they have “a significant following on social media.”

The creator class divide: There is a massive income gulf between most creators and that of top earners. The top 1 percent of creators earn about 80 percent of all income produced in the creator economy. The Harvard Business Review notes that on Patreon, only 2 percent of creators made the federal minimum wage of $1,160 per month in 2017.

A model of success: Other companies have leveraged celebrities’ fame to great success. The most prominent example is arguably Masterclass, which offers tutorials and courses hosted by professional writers, actors, and artists. Masterclass nabbed a $2.75 billion valuation after a $225 million funding round in May. Instructors receive a one-time payment and a revenue cut.

What do you think of Bright? Are celebrities creators by default? Share your thoughts below.

  1. 1

    I'd argue that the question isn't "are celebrities creators by default?" Sure, why not? Everyone's a creator by default.

    The real question, I think, is, "Is it a truly creator economy, or, really, any kind of economy at all if only 1% of the subjects are true participants?" Wouldn't the answer to that be, "No."

    It's like saying the "celebrity economy" is a thing. Does anyone ever say that? I've never seen a reference to the "celebrity economy," probably because there isn't one.

    If the other 99% of creators want an economy they can call their own, they're gonna have to build it together, themselves, and abandon the notion that celebrities or venture capitalists or any other part of the current system that's gifted us with nearly unprecedented income inequality are going to build it for them.

    Bright sounds fun and all. But I think we can all picture what it will end up being: the equivalent of box seats at a sports stadium.

  2. 1

    Honestly, ideas breaking the norm are more interesting. Breaking down the status quo is always challenging. As many social media users discover, piggybacking can bring rewards. Using traditional marketing with all its expense has brought celebrities to light since the first monkey stood up and said, “Standing on two feet is a better way to travel.”

    We now understand the value of social media. Legacy social marketing, which models like Bright are likely to depend on, will continue to allow the monied to buy the clicks necessary to advance their causes. Along with some nasty truths, something Zucky the Beast is not willing to openly admit since doing so works against their basic business model...our data grab.

    Same old. Same old. It will be what it will be until we re-think marketing models. Only the brave will really depart the usual way of thinking, and it usually takes people with actual skin in the game before change can really happen.

    Being in the right corner at the right time matters. Rubbing shoulders still counts for something. Today...call it, “Natures Way.”

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