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Building a Cult > Building a Brand

Cultists and the Creator Economy
February 26, 2021

Li Jin is on fire lately. The a16z alum and progenitor of the now-ubiquitous-phrase “The Passion Economy” recently launched a course, started a fund, and redefined the Creator Economy as a subset of the Passion Economy. She also helped launch Side Hustle Stack, a must-see Notion-powered site that gives you a quickstart guide to launching an effective side hustle.

Li’s thesis is that the DTC Era will shorten the path from creator to consumer, and that prolific creators have greater access to rapid dev and launch that at any other point in history. We agree: our Fall report The New DIY mused on the 2nd and 3rd-order effects of a virtuous cycle: creators are made when they’re inspired. Inspiration is happening on social, education is happening via video (e.g. Youtube and TikTok), and participation requires engagement in commerce channels. 

Though her newly-launched course, Li is again redefining the Creator Economy, extending the traditional metaphor of “100 true fans” (another a16z alum piece) in two dimensions: at the top, cult fans, who are more than apologists or evangelists, they’re radicalized adherents. And at the other end of the spectrum are speculators and investors, who see the growing opportunity to extract value.

Brands that are enabling their fans to participate in the value creation are finding that they now have a full-fledged cult following. Tesla comes to mind: Elon the cult leader, and a horde of adoring fans who have shared in the mutual value creation through Tesla’s meteoric stock appreciation.

It doesn’t take a generation to build a cult anymore. The median TTC (time-to-cult) rate is growing shorter and shorter in the age of Twitter. Modern cults include tech payments platform Fast, powered by its Glossier-wannabe-hoodie (Glossier is also a cult, fwiw). Roam Research (yep, the note-taking app) has a legit frightening followers. And don’t forget Apple, Nike and Supreme.

What does this have to do with creators? Everything. Especially in the era of NFT, a technology that is gaining a lot of hype, but has real implications for the future of real estate, art, music, and collectibles. 

You can hear more about our take on NFTs and the creator economy in the newest episode of Future Commerce. Listen right over here.

End of the Line. Daft Punk is walking into the sunset as a duo. Well, at least one of them is. The other one exploded in their YouTube video “Epilogue,” where the French electronic musicians announced wordlessly that their 28 year journey together has come to an end.

3 Spooky 5 Me. Artificial intelligence robot, Ai-Da, has created a series of self-portraits which will go on exhibit in May in London’s Design Museum. According to Lucy Seal,  an art curator and one of the idea originators, “the self-portraits are meant to be a critique of our current reliance on data-driven technology.”

Trend Alert: Yurt SZN. High School students return to school in Wenatchee, WA, donning bright green individual Covid-19 enclosures to safely carry out band practice.

No one:

Literally no one:


Nestle Toll House announces their newest team member, a digital human Cookie Coach named Ruth. She’s here to help bakers troubleshoot their cookie recipes and even help customize them for dietary restrictions. Digi-Ruth is the namesake of regular human Ruth (Wakefield), the gem of a woman who invented the chocolate chip cookie for all of us.

Lizard Bones in a Bear Market: Rally Rd is providing the rare opportunity to diversify your portfolio by investing in a Mosasaur Skeleton. Shares of the extinct aquatic reptile, also described as a “gigantic marine lizard that grew as large as whales” are available now while supplies last.

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