Jess Box, head of growth at Linktree, thinks the company’s explosive expansion will not only continue, but that it has the potential to be the next Aussie export to reach unicorn status.
“I feel like we have this huge opportunity to be like the next Canva in Australia,” Box told Business Insider Australia.
The five-year-old company, which pioneered the “link in bio” form which allows customers to bundle links out to almost any other part of their online presence, has experienced meteoric growth recently.
Box said the company now has 16 million ‘Linktrees’ set up globally, with 900 million visits to its platform every month.
“I don’t think there’s many platforms in the world growing at that scale,” she said.
To augment that trajectory, Linktree raised another $45 million in March as part of an effort to push overseas.
The pandemic, now in its second year, has only fuelled this momentum as creatives — and anyone else looking to build up and connect to an audience — were forced to conduct their work online.
This growth is coming mostly out of the US, Box said, adding that the next steps for the company will be in finding ways to help people use the platform not just as a gateway, but as a site in itself where Linktree’s customers can build and nurture their following.
“We’re exploring the kind of ways in which we can connect [customers and their audiences] more, particularly for users who are building a following,” she said.
The growth of Linktree is the growth of the creator economy
The success of Linktree is in some ways testament to the creator economy itself, which has also seen accelerated growth, particularly in the US since the beginning of the pandemic
More than 50 million people worldwide now consider themselves to be creators, with a surge in venture capital funding signalling investors have now decided to take the space seriously.
In the US, the creator economy has seen a record $1.3 billion in funding in 2021 alone, triple what was spent in 2020.
The top-performing YouTube channels reaped $211 million between June 2019 and June 2020, Forbes reported. High-earning Instagram influencers can net up to six figures for a single post, and top Substack writers rake in as much as $1 million a year.
But the creator boom has also created a vast creator middle class, seeking to generate income through what are often multiple monetised ventures.
Box said this growing subset is where Linktree sees opportunities for growth — and innovation.
“The creator economy in general, and a growing creator economy, has been delivering so many new opportunities for entrepreneurs and new businesses to emerge,” she said.
Linktree sees this creator class as part of a “next generation” defining what a business grown out of content creation might look like.
In recent months the company has invested heavily in integrating itself further into this ecosystem.
In May, when it signed a deal to enable direct payments with payment platform Square, Linktree also launched a “Passion Fund” which awarded $US250,000 to creators, entrepreneurs and business owners using the platform.
“Something we’re deeply passionate about at Linktree is helping everyone have their own place on the internet and monetizing it, no matter how big or small you are,” Box said, reiterating the startup’s mission statement.
Another part of this push has just wrapped up with a TikTok campaign called #LinkUpWithLinktree, which connected massive names with up-and-coming creators to boost their profiles and following.
Box said developing and deepening these relationships long-term plays into Linktree’s own growth efforts by getting its brand in front of ever-more creators.
“What TikTok does a really great job of is enabling those small creators to build and gain momentum from those who have built their following already.”
‘We have 85% of the market share for the category that we created’
Linktree also faces an increasingly competitive field, with a raft of upstarts chasing the company’s “link in bio” model.
In late May, US-based startup Beacons, founded in 2020, raised $6 million in a seed funding to expand its platform.
While the startup claims its point of difference is that it is “deeply customisable”, its platform doesn’t yet enable direct payments.
There’s also now a slew of other smaller entrants, some more legitimate-sounding than others, including Feedlink, Direct.me, Shorby, Sked Link, LNK.Bio, Link in Profile, Tap Bio and Campsite.
Social commerce, or the ability to enable payments directly through a social platform, is another major focus. It’s an area of growth social platforms and retailers globally are eager to tap into, following direct shopping being enabled on Instagram through Instagram Checkout, along with direct payments on Facebook and Pinterest.
TikTok is also actively exploring new livestream shopping features, which are already live in China, according to reports.
Part of the company’s push to maintain its competitive advantage in the space has been around building up this capability.
The platform’s commerce links, which are powered by PayPal and Square, enable Linktree users to set up request links, giving followers options to request goods and services directly from their profile as well as a tip jar where fans can offer financial support for a creator’s work.
Box said they’re particularly focused on the music vertical, where the company sees an opportunity to speak to the vast sea of musicians rocked by the changing economics of the music industry, as well as supporting those without major record labels to become independent businesses.
Further to this end, Linktree last week announced it is acquiring Songlink/Odesli, a content matching technology platform for streaming music.
Anthony Zaccaria, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Linktree, said the acquisition is yet another milestone for the company.
“We’re now one step closer to becoming a one-stop-shop for musicians, offering an integrated solution for the three key pillars of music monetisation: touring, merchandise and streaming,” Zaccaria said.
Box said the new services aimed at musicians is part of a strategy built on the basis that musicians don’t necessarily need a major label to find success.
“I think musicians in particular are going to want to be able to find a way to be independent,” she said.
It also follows moves by platforms like YouTube, which has long standing programs to nurture musicians based on evidence showing music content attracts more viewers than anything else on the platform. Its music development initiative Foundry gives artists access to seed funding and partner support to develop content.
Box argues the company’s internal research dispelled any concerns around threats to its competitive advantage. She claims the company has seen searches for “Linktree” overtake “link in bio” suggesting its brand recognition also continues to eclipse others in the space.
“We have 85% of the market share for the category that we created, and continue to maintain it,” Box said.
Platforms and misinformation
In recent months the company’s ubiquity has led to another issue faced by social media platforms that have reached a critical mass.
Reporting out of the UK and Australia has suggested some are using Linktree’s platform to spread misinformation by linking out to harmful content that is policed on bigger mainstream platforms.
“The more we grow, the more responsibility we have to make sure that we address it in the right way,” Box said, but emphasised the issue was impacting all social platforms.