Fanhouse Wants To Change the Way We Think About Community Ownership

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Fanhouse girl
Andria Moore/Fanhouse

Last week after the mass exodus of Twitter employees, content creator Rosie Nguyen shared a link to her Instagram account. She wasn’t alone. In the hysteria that followed Elon Musk’s ultimatum to commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter or leave the company with severance pay, manycreators did the same.

But Nguyen had another link to share as well: her Fanhouse account. The subscription platform is a way for creators to offer their fans content in exchange for a monthly fee.


“It is a very, very scary thought as a creator that everything I built up in these last four years could just disappear in one day because someone that runs a platform just decides that's what they want to do,” Nguyen says.

Which is why Nguyen created Fanhouse in the first place. In fact, the events last week played out similar to one of Nguyen’s frequent nightmares: “Those 200,000 people are gone, and I'll never know who they are or be able to connect with them again,” she says.

Even before launching her company, however, Nguyen had come to realize that monetization on Twitter is more difficult than on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. She says the only way she initially made money off her Twitter account was from her followers Venmoing her tips. Which is why she, along with Fanhouse co-founders Khoi Le and Amy Shen, wanted to find a way to cultivate more of a community behind those one-time tips.

Today, Fanhouse offers group chats, polls, exclusive posts and Spotify account connections on top of the option to offer content for free. The company takes 10% of each exchange, and to date, Fanhouse has paid out over $30 million to creators.

All of which was spurred by Nguyen’s philosophy that a creator only needs 1,000 truly dedicated fans who will like content, purchase merch or buy subscription services.

“For me, the 200,000 is a cool number,” Nguyen says. “But, actually, the 500 people on my Fanhouse is the more valuable number because that's literally where my income is coming from.”

In the aftermath of the Twitter frenzy, Nguyen has opened up her formerly paywalled Fanhouse account full of exclusive posts for anyone who wants to join. Per her Fanhouse account, Nguyen still intends to make $2,000 a month through fan donations—if not, she will either revive the paywall or focus on creating more sponsored content.

Other creators though are still using Fanhouse to monetize their content. With over one million YouTube subscribers, content creator and Fanhouse user Jimmy Zhang says that finding the core group of fans who were willing to invest in his content was key to sustaining his career. Zhang found Fanhouse through Nguyen and says he was drawn to the platform’s creative elements.

“I don't think anything's free—even on YouTube, you have to watch ads, and time is essentially money,” Zhang says. “Either way, you're giving something up. With a platform like Fanhouse, you pay just a little bit extra and maybe you get to watch the videos ad-free.”

Zhang offers live lectures, Q&As and exclusive posts on his Fanhouse page. And one way of luring fans to the platform is via his YouTube videos: Zhang will end on cliffhangers and promises that the finale is exclusively available on Fanhouse.

Nguyen recognizes that encouraging users to not only migrate to a new platform but also pay for content is no easy ask. But for her, the people who do so are the ones that can make content creation a more viable and stable career path.

“I think what we really want to solve with Fanhouse is this concept of community ownership,” Nguyen says. "And that creators should be the ones that own their community.”

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Cadence

Robot Bartenders, Space Construction and a Weight Loss App: Highlights From Techstars’ LA Demo Day

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Robot Bartenders, Space Construction and a Weight Loss App: Highlights From Techstars’ LA Demo Day
Andria Moore

On Wednesday, Techstars’ fall 2022 class gathered in Downtown Los Angeles to pitch their products to potential investors in hopes of securing their next big funding round. dot.LA co-sponsored the demo day presentation alongside Venice-based space news website Payload.

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Derek Jeter’s Sports Trading Card Company Brings in $10M

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

sports trading cards
Arena Club /Andria Moore

Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13, defy.vc, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

As for Arena Club, the company is looking to cement itself as a digital card show.

“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

Hosts Who Rent From “Airbnb-Friendly” LA Apartments May Not Make a Profit

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA house

L.A.’s lax enforcement of Airbnbs has led to an surge of illegal short-term rentals — even four years after the city passed a regulation to crack down on such practices. But what if hosts lived in a building that welcomed Airbnb guests and short-term rentals?

That’s the idea behind Airbnb’s new push to expand short-term rental offerings. The company is partnering with a number of corporate landlords that agreed to offer “Airbnb-friendly” apartment buildings, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. According to the report, the new service will feature more than 175 buildings managed by Equity Residential, Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC and 10 other companies that have agreed to clear more than 175 properties nationwide for short-term rentals.

But prospective hosts in Los Angeles who decide to rent apartments from Airbnb’s list of more than a dozen “friendly” buildings in the city likely won’t earn enough to break even due to a combination of high rents, taxes and city restrictions on short-term rentals. Rents on one-bedroom apartments in most of the partnered buildings listed soared well over $3,000 a month. Only a few studios were available under the $2,000 price range. If a host were to rent a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $2,635 (which amounts to $31,656 annually), they would have to charge well over the $194 average price per night for Los Angeles (which amounts to $23,280 per year) according to analytics platform AllTheRooms.

Either way, residents who rent one of these Airbnb friendly apartments still have to apply for a permit through the City of Los Angeles in order to host on Airbnb.

“[..Airbnb-friendly buildings] seems like a good initiative. However, from a quick look, it seems that given the rent, Airbnb revenue wouldn’t be enough to cover all expenses if the host follows the city’s policy,” says Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

In addition, since L.A.’s 120-day cap on short-term rentals still applies to the buildings on Airbnb’s listing platform, that greatly limits the number of longer-term guests a resident can host. Not to mention, some of the buildings that Airbnb lists have even shorter limits – The Milano Lofts in DTLA for example only allows residents to host 90 nights a year.

Airbnb’s calculations of host earnings may be greatly misleading as well, given that the estimate doesn’t include host expenses, taxes, cleaning fees or individual building restrictions. For example, Airbnb estimates that a resident of a $3,699 one bedroom apartment at the Vinz in Hollywood that hosts 7 nights a month can expect $1,108 a month in revenue if they host year-round. But the Vinz only allows hosts to rent 90 days a year, which greatly limits the potential for subletters and a consistent income stream.

Keep in mind too that since the apartment will have to serve as the host’s “primary residence”, hosts will have to live there six months out of the year. All of which is to say, it’s unclear how renting an apartment in an “Airbnb-friendly” building makes hosting easier — especially in a city where illegal short-term rentals already seem to be the norm.

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