Kodi Ko, a YouTube star with 5.7 million subscribers, found himself in a pickle in May. Two different start-ups wanted to offer him the stock, and he was concerned they were potentially competitive deals.
So Mr. Ko called in someone he trusted for advice: Lee Jin.
Ms. Jin, a venture capitalist, suggested that Mr. Ko, 30, be honest and honest with the founders of both start-ups about potential conflicts of interest. He agreed and ended up pursuing just one of the deals.
“I’ll never hesitate to contact her if I need anything,” he said of Ms. Jin.
If there’s such a thing as an It girl in venture capital these days, Ms. Jin, 31, would fill the bill. She sits at the intersection of start-up investing and a rapidly growing ecosystem of online creators, both of which are red hot. And when he formed his own venture firm, atelier ventures, just last year and raising a relatively small $13 million for a fund, Ms. Jin was one of the first investors in Silicon Valley to take influencers seriously and write about and support creators over the years.
A Harvard graduate who was inspired by the ideas of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, Ms. Jin is also aggressively pro-activist. She has made it clear in her podcast and in her Substack newsletter that creators should have the same rights as other workers. One of the ideas he endorsed”universal creative income”, which will guarantee the original amount for the creators to live.
as big as now Venture capital firms flock to impress start-ups, and as introduced by Facebook, YouTube and others $1 billion creator fund, Ms. Jin’s track record has made her the business guru for many digital stars trying to navigate the rapidly changing landscape.
Hank Green, 41, a top creator on YouTube and TikTok, said he often went back and forth with her on the phone. Marcian Benhamau, 23, a YouTuber with more than 1.4 million subscribers, credits him with understanding what creators do. Marina Mogilko, 31, a YouTube creator in Los Altos, Calif., said Ms. Jin “started the entire creator economy movement in Silicon Valley.”
“She was talking about the creator economy years and years and years ago about someone else,” said Jack Conte, co-founder and CEO of Patreon, a crowdfunding site for content creators. “She really sees the future before other people.”
Ms Jin, who has invested in Substack and Patreon, said that although her fund was small, she planned to put all the money in companies that would replace work online. “Everything I invest in is a manufacturer-focused company,” she said. “I think the impact I have is bigger than the dollar amount.”
Her credibility has increased because she also works as a producer. Ms. Jin posts frequently on her Substack newsletter, leads an online course that teaches creators to invest in start-ups and side hustle stack, a free resource to help influencers find and rate platforms.
Ms. Jin, who was born in Beijing, immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of 6, where her father earned a doctorate in economics at the University of Pittsburgh. He said that his formative years in the country were lean, until his father dropped out of school and found a job. Her family eventually moved to Upper St. Clair, a city of about 20,000 outside Pittsburgh, where Ms. Jin attended public school and enjoyed painting and writing.
At Harvard, he studied English and continued his creative activities. But at the insistence of her family, who she said “wanted financial security for me,” Ms. Jin changed her major to statistics and did a banking and corporate marketing internship. After working briefly for Capital One after college, she moved to Silicon Valley at age 23 to work at shopping rewards app Shopkick as a product manager.
In 2016, Ms. Jin landed at the Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. At the time, the firm’s focus was Airbnb and . like investing in the marketplace rapi, Instacart of Latin America.
Ms. Jin was fascinated by the way different markets work and wrote favorably For Andreessen Horowitz blog about them. He also began to think about how different market systems can develop To help people build business on the Internet.
This made Ms. Jin a champion of the influential industry. He said it felt personal to see creators struggling to earn a living online, while he also saw great potential for online work and creators as a business.
His confirmation was worthwhile, the influencers said. YouTube star Mr. Green said, “His being in that big storied firm and saying these things, ah, after all someone is saying it.”
When coronavirus pandemic As last year hit and the world was swiftly pushed online, Ms. Jin recognized an opportunity.
“I thought COVID would be one such accelerator for online-based work and those aspiring to be entrepreneurs,” she said. “I realized that I had the opportunity to start an entirely new fund dedicated to this thesis and which would be at the forefront of developing the nature of labor and work on the Internet.”
In May 2020, he left Andreessen Horowitz and started Atelier Ventures. She has since invested in creator-related start-ups like PeerPop, which lets influencers benefit from their social interactions, and Stir, which helps creators manage their finances. He is one of the few investors who are known by the name of big influencers.
“If you talk to someone who works in the maker economy, they all say, ‘Oh, you have to talk to Lee Jin,'” said one producer, who is Jasmine Rice, 23, a former OnlyFans. The influencer, who started a forum, said. Fanhouse, which Ms. Jin invested in last year.
Ms Jin has also publicly criticized the funds that YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat provide to influencers to create content for their platforms. He called the tech industrystop celebrating“Wealth, Calling Them”bread and circuses”, and argued that creators need to own the platforms that make money from them.
“Without ownership, creators are ultimately enriching and empowering *someone else* – platform owners – with their work,” Ms Jin tweeted in June.
Ms Jin said the platforms had to take care to “re-create a ton of economic inequalities that exist in the broader economy rather than truly empower a new generation of online entrepreneurs”. She has a podcast called “Means of Creation”, a play she co-hosts on Marx’s means of production.
His ideas have made him a subject of attraction in the tech industry and left-wing political spaces. His social media posts are full of answers meme Indicating that he is a socialist. Ms Jin said she was mostly happy with the hubbub.
“I’m very careful not to use that word, the S word,” she said of socialism. “It’s Unnecessarily Polarizing America”
Ms Jin said she also believes in crypto networks as they are decentralized and aim to “turn control and ownership of their users.” It has started investing in crypto-related platforms, most recently backing Mirror, a decentralized publishing platform, and Yield Guild Games, which “metaverseTo help people in developing countries earn money by playing video games. They have also collaborated with creators to mint and sell artwork. NFT, or non-fungible tokens.
“There has been a spirited awareness for my entire life,” she said, “that the world is unfair and that we need to move it towards justice and fairness.”
Since starting Atelier Ventures, Ms. Jin has moved away from Silicon Valley and runs her fund from her childhood bedroom in Pittsburgh. This summer, she was nomadic, surrounded by a changing cast of internet stars, artists, Gen Z tech founders and crypto pioneers around the world.
In July, she co-hosted a New York City rooftop happy hour attended by Internet culture and tech savvy founders of the NFT platform OpenC, product people from TikTok and Twitter, and other investors. From New York, she went to Paris for a crypto conference and hosted a “Maker Salon” in a cafe on the Left Bank.
She then went to Greece at the invitation of Spotify CEO Daniel Eck and later attended a beach dinner with Emma Watson, Nikki Hilton and others, which was hosted by the company. Brilliant Minds Foundation.
Last month, she went home to Pittsburgh to regroup and reflect.
“It is so improbable that I am here,” said Ms. Jin, “that I was born in Beijing and spoke Chinese as my first and only language and that something happened to bring me to America and that I now have There are tools to be voices and to have effects.”