Creator Kit Episode 01: Zealous’s Gregarious Narain on the Future of Creator Live Streaming

Creator Kit
Creator Kit
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Cover Image for Creator Kit Episode 01: Zealous’s Gregarious Narain on the Future of Creator Live Streaming

Creator monetization is evolving. In this week’s episode, we bring you a conversation with someone who is leading the charge to make live streaming pay for creators.

Each episode of Creator Kit is a deep dive on a particular tool or service that can help you take your creator business to the next level. Creator Kit is presented by HiBeam: we solve comment and DM overload for creators; follow HiBeam on Twitter and subscribe on YouTube for more great content.

This Episode of Creator Kit is also available in video form on YouTube. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify, or plug our RSS feed in your player of choice.

Gregarious Narain has seen the evolution of the creator economy first hand. As an early podcaster and blogger, he recognized the opportunity to participate both as a creator (before that was even a thing) and as an entrepreneur - notably as the first employee at Klout (a notable startup launched in 2008 that aimed to rank social influence).

From there he launched numerous creator products like Chute and most recently Zealous.

As a co-host of The Created Economy (a weekly news show guessed it), Gregarious has his finger on the pulse of creator technology.

We recently sat down with Gregarious to talk about the evolution of creator monetization: from ads to subscriptions to live streaming to crypto - and how creators can use Zealous to earn a scalable income. 

Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the conversation:

1. Live streaming is massive

A huge percentage of creators livestream daily. If you’re a creator looking for new ways to interact with your audience and you're not yet live streaming, you should consider it. It’s not just about connecting - there’s also earning potential.

I don't know if you've seen these stats, but something like 25% of creators live stream daily, that's a pretty massive uptake. Something like 50% live stream once a week, and 20% of them do it to make money.  

2. Live streaming is uniquely scaleable for creators

Unlike other personalized products, live streaming can be a low effort way for creators to provide a high end, premium experience to their most loyal fans.

Patreon is actually a lot of work for a creator to maintain and carry for their supporters. You get that one paying customer and suddenly they bought this one benefit (custom digital file or whatever it's going to be). You have to actually go produce that thing. If you go look at some of the top tier packages that people offer, though, what do they include in their highest tier? Group sessions, a one-on-one call or something like that. And our goal [at Zealous] is ultimately is to be sort of the Patreon for your live content.

3. Web3 (crypto) is more than just speculation at this point

Tokens can be used to understand who your most valuable audience members are, and make sure that they get unique benefits.

The recommendation for me at least is, use it as a heat map for the people who find you the most valuable. You can look at that, the holdings that they can do all kinds of interesting things with them.

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Jesse: Hey man, how are you doing?

Gregarious: I'm good, how are you?

Jesse: Good, good. Uh, super excited to chat today. Thanks for coming on the pod.

Gregarious: Thanks having me.

Jesse: We're uh really, really excited to hear about Zealous, and I know you're working on a few products that are probably pretty interesting to the audience; before we get into Zealous let's talk a little bit about you. The audience would love to hear about your background.

There's there's a very long list of things. We can cover everything from Techstars to your entry, into the Creator Economy space, and of course the most recent work with Zealous. And then, um, you know, some of the dabbling, on the crypto side that we can talk about as well. Where do you want to start?

Gregarious: Well, I guess I probably define myself as an entrepreneur; been an entrepreneur my whole life. I've worked, specifically though, on social tools of one form or another probably since 2003 or 2004. That was when I started as a creator, I guess myself, I started blogging in 2003. I was a podcaster 2004 or 2005 era for a couple of years.

I've been a live streamer for several years as well. My live streaming has been around the startup space, and on founders and whatnot as well. I've been involved pretty actively in sort of creator tools in the creator ecosystem. Back then it was called influencers. I was like the first employee sort of, kind of was me and the two founders at Klout so I was kind of like the unofficial founder, I guess. Ran product, Klout was the official and the first company to try to score and rank online influence. We had a Klout score. We syndicated it to lots of places. It was used for all kinds of things.

Jesse: That was Klout with a K, right?

Gregarious: Yeah. With a K that's right. I did leave Klout probably about a year, year and a half or so into their journey to start my last company Chute, which was a user generated content platform. We sold to the Fortune 500 as well, largely helping brands work with fans and creators to leverage user generated content.

We went through YC, raised a bunch of money, and then the company got acquired in 2018. Actually the idea for even my current company was something that I wanted Chute to be. I wanted to create a CRM for your followers. One of the things that I observed from the brand side first, but now I think more from the creator side, was just that often engagements with our audience seem to start fresh and new every time as opposed to sort of being part of like an ongoing dialogue.

And this is especially true in the brand side, because they tend to have marketing agencies and whatnot activating around some kind of campaign or execution. And so there wasn't a lot of continuity, even though we were helping them engage with 10, 20, 50,000 fans out there per campaign or engagement.

There wasn't continuity across those campaigns. And so that's when I sort of started to see and realize that, Hey, they don't know all of their fans. Like there's a count, there's a number there, but they don't know them particularly well. So that was sort of the genesis of what is now called Zealous.

It's had many iterations and names and the past several years, but we're now here. I do consult with a lot of other Creator Economy companies; over the last year or so I was head of product for a company called Creator Cash , launched the first banking platform for creators, we also do cash advances and whatnot based on your future earnings. I've been very involved in the creator ecosystem probably since we started tracking and measuring it.

Jesse: Were there any insights from being a creator? What kind of stuff have you brought with you into the development of the current iteration of Zealous?

Gregarious: There's a few things. There are some truisms that seem obvious, you know, when you're an entrepreneur trying to build something for creators, everyone sort of rushes in with the assumption that everyone wants to monetize and people rush in with the assumption that they just need better tools or something like that.

I think the workflow of a creator is a very complex sort of being and I think a lot of people underestimate how much work it takes and effort it takes to do that. On the monetization side I've also found that not everyone is in it for the money. And, and probably more people than you realize. I think these days, you know, increasingly we see people are interested in monetizing because I think they'd like for it to be their career, if you look back, people didn't think you could be a YouTuber.

That wasn't a job 10 years ago; no one thought that. Maybe five years ago you started to see some inklings of it, and now today it seems like a normative kind of pursuit for people, right? To say like, "Hey, I think I could be a YouTuber. I have something, you know, to offer".

Jesse: Right. Yeah. And on the monetization point, it's a really interesting and timely comment because not only are there plenty of people that are doing creator work without the long-term aspirations to move full-time, and in some ways the improvement of tools has made it easier to both go the full-time route, and go the part-time route.

Cause if you only have two hours a week to go part-time and the job used to take five hours, you can now do it. And if you want to go full time, the beauty and power of the creator space being the leverage that an individual has, that's also more true than ever.

And on the monetization piece, to bring it back, really interesting because monetization until, you know, a year ago, usually most people would think of either ads or sponsorships, which are another form of ads, maybe subscriptions. We saw subscriptions rise in the last year and a half, two years. And now we're seeing like the cutting edge be this crazy crypto space tokenization.

Okay. So you have The Created Economy show with Ken. Is it Ken Yeung?

Gregarious: Yep.

Jesse: I've been tuning in. So you started with once a week, now you have two different two separate shows.

There that's a Friday at 8:00 AM, PT and Wednesday at 2:00 PM PT, the two different versions (to plug it here). There's a real mix of news commentary and then there's really high quality produced stuff. And I know you guys are pretty heavily investing in the show. Tell me how it came about and where you guys are taking it.

Gregarious: Yeah, I believe it is an entrepreneur, you should always layer your efforts and sort of maximize the value you can create for yourself and The Created Economy you know sort of came out of a few things that were going on. Ken is one of my best friends, we live in separate states now, so I just wanted a way to have a project to work on with him again anyway. And he's formerly a journalist as well. I pinged him one day on a Saturday and I was like, "Hey, do you want to do a show with me on the Creator Economy?" And he was like, "Okay". And so Wednesday, we did our first show.

Part of it is that I'm constantly ingesting and reading and seeing so much of the news anyway, as part of like my own research, my own edification about the industry we're in, that we're less about the news and more about the analysis. Right?

Our take on it is almost more like either as analysts or as like entrepreneurs in the space trying to provide a perspective to creators and builders as we call them, basically the folks like us who are building tools in the ecosystem, because I think oftentimes it's great to get like a reporter's point of view, but those reporters often don't know jack about our space right? They know the stuff that gets clicks, but they don't get the nuance of. You know, classic example of how all this, the blaming and victimology around platforms and meanwhile, there's folks like us building a new generation of platforms getting lumped in with the old generation of platforms and without any fidelity between the two of them, right?

Jesse: Yeah. Yeah.

Gregarious: Our Wednesday show is an interview show. It's called The Created Economy and it's actually, it's more about interviewing creators and builders to deep dive into their experience and how they're perceiving what's happening as this world as it's growing and evolving around us. Because I do believe that every founder has a unique point of view.

So they're bringing that insight into the features and the capabilities and everything that they put out into the world. And the same thing for the creators, right? The goal there is in talking to creators is to try to give builders a sense of how, like what their take on the space is. Right? "What do you think about this?"

Or, "what do you try to optimize for?" And so a little bit of that opportunity... I'm a product person at heart, I look at them as like, live product sessions on Wednesdays. We're talking and then I'm sort of poking at the edges. Or sometimes we're brainstorming with our guests. I'm like, "Hey, would it be cool if you could do this?"

So not traditional journalism, I think, like where we're trying to be objective, we're trying to be opinionated and offer like point of view. And then even on Fridays, when we do our news show, you know, we provide the news, but the important part to me is sort of the context around that news.

So it's like "Spotify is doing this", but then it's connecting the dots back, sometimes to other stories going on and sometimes they're the bigger themes that we think creators or builders are looking about.

Jesse: Super cool. Super cool.

Gregarious: I forgot - the last reason of course, is that I'm building a live streaming platform and so I needed to start streaming again.

And so I was like, what better way than to start doing the show again and so we started doing The Created Economy because I needed a show anyway that I could livestream. I used I've been live streaming previously, but over the course of the last year, I spent a lot of time on Clubhouse. But Zealous is really designed for video and I'd rather do video anyway.

Jesse: For sure. I think that's what we call "eating your own dog food".

Gregarious: Absolutely.

Jesse: How's the dog food tasting? How's how are things coming along? I know you're rolling out the new portion of the product around payments, Zealous Meet, if I got that right?

Gregarious: Yeah. So it's been good. You know, when we launched the product in January, we launched our first product, which was called Zealous Spaces and basically it's like a Link In Bio tool, but for live creators. Right? And so the premise of that tool is you've got building blocks. You can put together a page, you can manage a schedule of all your live streams and opportunities, capture questions, ideate with your fans, et cetera. Right? So we provided like a Link In Bio tool.

We had a good pickup, a lot of sign-ups, a lot of that was originally around the Clubhouse universe. Then we started working on our second product, which was the Zealous Studio which is... the best way to think about is maybe like say a StreamYard or a Restream it's a web based environment, kind of like a Riverside that we're using right now, for example.

But what it allows you to do is produce from any device, a live stream that can be syndicated out to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, any RTMP endpoint, basically. Right?

Jesse: What is that? RT...?

Gregarious: RTMP

Jesse: RTMP yeah. Tell us a little bit about that.

Gregarious: RTMP is just the underlying protocol that all live streaming basically leverages. Right?

Jesse: Got it.

Gregarious: If you're streaming to any service, basically it's an RTMP destination.

Jesse: I'm trying to think of an analogy here, for getting podcasts out into the world, you would use an RSS feed, which is typically public. And then the feed that you're describing is for video. And is it private or is it public? Is it the connective tissue between platforms?

Gregarious: It's a little different than RSS because RSS is basically a pointer to a file. And then you download that file. With an RTMP server, basically you aggregate the video, the full production basically, and you push pixels to the RTMP server. So like when you stream, if you ever go live anywhere, you'll see there's usually like a one or two seconds delay, it's actually connecting to that server, opens a connection between your device, that device, and then it starts pushing whatever data you're going to push to it.

Jesse: The, like, mental barrier I'm finding for many creators until barrier of adding just one more platform is freaking crazy.

Gregarious: I... trust me, I suffer it every week also.

Jesse: Yeah. I've sort of noticed watching from a distance that you've got things set up nicely, to automate some of that work. But when we think about the added mental barrier of adding new platforms, not just on the distribution side, when you think about like marketing, those pixels are sorta heavy to push.

Gregarious: Just run marketing, just run social media for your own company, if you're a founder and you will see just how challenging it is. Just to wrap up with Zealous, the Studio is the second product we worked on. It's like a live environment for streaming. So much like if you go live on Facebook or something like that from the browser it basically allows you to compose out, et cetera. We use a different tool. I use StreamYard actually to do our Created Economy show, but the goal is to switch it all to Zealous afterwards. The second part of Zealous Studio is actually something that's more akin to Clubhouse.

The founding premise of Zealous is to find your most passionate fans and then do more things with them. It's why we're called Zealous. Much like a Clubhouse environment or Twitter space environment, where you can see people in the audience, you can actually bring anyone on stream with you in the studio. Right? So anyone you can see, you can bring into the stream at any moment.

Jesse: Amazing. Like sort of pulling them up on stage almost.

Gregarious: You can pull anyone on stage, and this is one of the truly unique value props. Like it's a video Clubhouse to some degree, right? The idea is that you can bring anyone on stage with you that you see in the audience and so if you start live streaming out to YouTube, you reach your 2, 3 million subs, you can share a code with them or a link and they can all pop over to this environment and basically join you in that stream. And so we describe it as like community streaming, like streaming with your fans as opposed to out to them.

Jesse: I'm thinking of, one of the, one of the coolest things that I remember seeing last year or the year before, that was how some of the Twitch streamers were using pinned comments. I forget what the product name is, giving the audience some skin in the game where for payment they can get their stuff up on the board.

Gregarious: So the last part of Zealous is actually that Twitch part. So like we describe it as like a hybrid between like Twitch, Clubhouse and Patreon because the last part of our ecosystem is going to be, of the Studio part, will be actually the graphics and the overlays to recognize and acknowledge your true fans that show up.

It'll automatically say like, "Oh, hey, Jesse just arrived on screen" and you don't have to do anything because it knows that Jesse's a subscriber on YouTube. So now because you're a member, like you're a paying subscriber, you'll get recognition automatically, or "You're a tier three sub on twitch" - it'll do that kind of banner for you automatically as well.

Jesse: Awesome. That's really exciting, man. I know that the platform is, from what I can tell, sort of general use, but are there any particular creator types or segments that you see this thing working really well for?

Gregarious: It's a good question. So I think it, it is very horizontal, that doesn't mean we're starting completely that way, as you mentioned, Zealous Meet is actually our new product. We're starting with, basically the idea of doing meet-and-greets, or virtual meet-and-greets. So, for example, VidCon just got canceled. It was one of the bigger opportunities for creators to connect with their fans in person. But you know, you've got a global audience anyway. Not everyone can make it to a VidCon. So with Zealous Meet what we actually can do is host paid events where a fan could actually pay, either to come to the event, or they can pay for what we call "meet tokens". So those meet tokens actually can enable them to buy a one-on-one stream with you or to buy a group stream.

So they could get an on stage one-on-one for a minute and then Meet manages the time for you and everything like that. And moves people through the process. If you've got a large enough following, where that kind of fandom exists, that's kind of like where we're aiming, I think initially. I don't know if you've seen these stats, but something like 25% of creators live stream, daily, that's a pretty massive uptake. Like I think it's like something like 50% live stream once a week and like 25% or 20% of them are so do it to make money. So the interesting thing is that we're tending to opt for the people who are already live streaming, as opposed to trying to convince people to start live streaming. Because they're already familiar with the process and sort of all the other bits and pieces, but a lot of the monetization tools that you hear about, they actually only exist when "live" today.

So for example, this is new now, YouTube just changed this, but they used to only have Super Chats and stickers WHILE you were live streaming. Facebook only has Stars WHILE you're live. Right? So a lot of these tools, those kinds of engagements, only exist in the live environment. Not actually in the static environment. YouTube finally added tipping basically for static content now also, but we're focused on larger sized creators for now. It works for everybody at any size, obviously, and I totally support the idea of a smaller creator using the tool, but I think it's really a function of "how closely do I want to connect with my fans? Is there an appetite for that connection?" I don't think verticals matter per se, because what we're really selling is closeness.

Jesse: I had had a clarification on the concept of being able to pre-purchase tokens. The place that my brain went is, this would be really useful in a case where a creator had some sort of finite of attention or time.

Like if I was a lawn care expert, you know, and I had a 3 million followers on YouTube and I wanted to get 10 minutes of live streaming and offer 30 seconds of advice to 20 of my fans that I can sell that time with the fans. But know who's going to show up ahead of time essentially.

Is it like the knowledge of who's purchased?

Gregarious: Some of it is just like resource planning, right? So let's say you're selling one-on-one sessions and they're a minute long. We allow you to specify a quantity, for example. If you only have an hour, you can only do 60 of those, assuming everything goes well.

A creator needs to understand how much time they need to put aside for this. And by the way, we support the norm. You've seen it in our After Dark which is our after show, which we do run on Zealous, that's an open-ended environment and you can bring up anybody you want, you don't have to pre-materialize these sort of tokens.

If you do decide to do that, however, then you're more committing to putting a certain amount of time into make sure you meet everybody. You're talking to everybody, whatever, it may be

Jesse: Okay. So I'm interested in your guys' choice of the word "token" for the platform, crypto, web3, all this stuff that's at the forefront of our minds. Tokens are more and more associated with crypto. Is there anything crypto based here or not yet?

Gregarious: No. There could be. I don't know if we're going to formally use that word yet either. We use it to distinguish though, because you can have a meet and greet that you charge a fee for, which is like, "Can I even come to the event?" So say you want to charge 10 bucks for that. Then you might choose what kind of engagement you want to have at the event. Right? So it might be like, "I would like to be part of a group session, or I'd like to be part of a one-on-one." If you're a parent, you're bringing your kids because you want to be, you want them to have a chance to talk to one of their favorite creators.

Maybe you're going to buy a one-on-one session. So they get like that two or three minutes of fame to be able to, to say something,"hi", you know, say hi and hello and whatnot. By the way all of this can be happening either privately or while syndicated out live to your entire audience. Right? So just like running a real event, you know, you may run an event and then everyone gets a chance to come up and say, hi. Or you may run an event where there's a small, private VIP part, et cetera.

We're sort of recreating some of those dynamics for the creator. But here's the thing: when you look at monetization, if you think about the traditional world, like today, where we have Patreon or something like that, Patreon's actually a lot of work, for a creator to maintain and carry for their supporters.

Right? So you get that one paying customer and suddenly they bought like this one benefit where it's like, okay, need to send this custom digital file or whatever it's going to be. You have to actually go produce that thing. If you actually go look at some of the top tier packages that people offer, though, what do they include in their most, um, you know, highest tier? Group session, a one-on-one call or something like that.

And so we just took that part off and we said, "Hey, why don't you just go live all the time?" And that's the perk. And our goal ultimately is to be sort of like the Patreon for your live content. And instead of being on the hook to have to write custom posts, make custom videos, et cetera, you just get to come to this one event on Fridays and hang out with me and we chat and we talk.

Jesse: I love this future.

I think it's incredible.

I mean, if you think about the very limited ways that creators and anyone with an audience could capitalize on their talents, you know, five, 10 years ago, it was a very short list.

Okay, so real quick, tell us about the AMA coin. I'm a new owner as of this morning of a couple of these tokens that are sort of tied to your brand, sort of tied to the creative economy show...uh, give us the 30 seconds.

Gregarious: So AMA is a social token minted by Rally. I was one of the early creators that got into that platform. My coin is called the AMA because the original product for Zealous was an AMA thing. We believe that questions are sort of like the currency of the entire internet. I was issued this coin, but I wasn't sure what to do with it, originally. I decided it was like, "Hey, why don't we integrate it into our show?" And so The Created Economy, we now offer you like the opportunity to say, if you want your start-up to like, get a shout out, you can buy five AMA and send it to us. And maybe we'll mention you, like, you'll get a link or you'll get a screen.

You got, I think, a highlight? So you get to send us a video for a minute and we'll play it during our show. We're probably going to add some other things into it as well. Probably like a review. Like, so if you want to say, put our eyeballs on your business, we might do it live feedback, basically. The goal with these social tokens though, and probably advice for creators is, I view them as a reflection of the strength of the community.

More so than like as currency. Right? Right. We're obviously not really trying to monetize. This is more about participating in the community. That by holding it, you're showing interest. and dedication to the community and also sort of some sense of value that's being created by the community itself.

Jesse: Love it. Yeah. There's definitely a feeling like, and I can speak to it because of my purchase this morning, of just like slightly more connection than you had before. The other thing that I noticed that I wonder how creators can potentially leverage this: the separation between the purchase of the coin and then, the use of it.

So for the listeners, my experience this morning, I picked up this AMA coin. I then had several choices. I could hold it, or I could... spend it on, you know, a plug for HiBeam (which we're going to do in a couple of weeks on the show), instead of just going and immediately seeing a price tag on something and making that purchase, I made the purchase first and it almost was like easier than like if I had to choose what thing to buy. And it's separated me from the burden. Now, in my case, as you know, 30 seconds later, I made my purchase, but there was a cool feeling of that I had gotten credit for something and didn't need to make the decision.

Gregarious: You know, the interesting thing, the way we're doing it, and the way that many of the creators on Rally are doing it, is we do drops. We give away, like I give away a tons of the coins. We thank our guests for coming on the show with coins. I think like, honestly, if it was up to me, I would almost separate out the dollars out of the Rally ecosystem because the dollars attract investor types, as opposed to impassioned people. The recommendation for me at least is, use it as a heat map for the people who find you the most valuable. You can look at that, the holdings that they have, if they buy them, you can grant them, you can gift them. You can do all kinds of interesting things with them.

And that's why I think the gating is more interesting than the purchases, right. You know, ultimately we're all still exploring this it's early, but we are trying to find ways to make that possible.

Jesse: Super awesome, man. I'm excited for this future. It feels very unknown and, certainly a bit speculative at this point, but the utility is starting to emerge, right?

Gregarious: Imagine you bought a course. I'm doing a course. And I also give you 10 AMA. Right now AMA is like $2 per coin. So that's like me giving you 20 bucks and say you paid 100 bucks. But what that 20 bucks gives you is access to my Zealous office hours on Friday, if you're holding 20 of those coins.

And what it means is I have a way to remember you, purchasing. Now, if you thought like the class was garbage and you think you got no value out of it, maybe you get rid of the coins and you're like, "I don't need the office hours". Like "that guy doesn't know anything" or you hold them or you buy more, or you buy more and give them to your other friends who you think could benefit from being able to come to office hours.

So that idea, that's the idea and the spirit.

Jesse: Yeah, it's awesome. I wanted to ask you where can folks find you?

Gregarious: I'm if you want to email me or shoot me a note, is our official site for Zealous, is our show, and you can find access to our show notes, transcripts.

We also have, which is our Zealous Space which actually is a listing of all our upcoming events, links to other important stuff.

Jesse: Thanks so much for coming on. The show it was awesome to talk to you and learn a bit about Zealous and hope to talk to you again soon, man,

Gregarious: We will talk soon, I'm sure.

Jesse: Thanks. All right.

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