1,000 Paths to Success with Jack Conte of Patreon

  • What did you do before Patreon?: I was a professional YouTuber and musician for 10 years.

  • Where the idea for Patreon came from: I spent 3 months and over $10,000 creating a music video. I uploaded the video to YouTube. It got over 1 million views. I made $166 in ad revenue. I realized the way the internet was set up sucked for solving the problem of getting creators paid. We launched Patreon 3 months later with just 3 creators.

  • The reason to start a company: If there is some problem that you can’t help but solve. If it is in your veins. If it is the most important thing and you must do it, then a company is a good way to accomplish that.

  • Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid:It is not a transaction. It is membership. You are paying $5 a month to a person so that they can keep being creative.

  • The idea for Patreon is not new: This is how the arts have been funded for millennia. Beethoven’s 5th symphony listed his 5 patrons in the libretto.

  • Going from musician to founder was the most difficult emotional transition of my life: I work 12 or 13 hours a day. I don’t have weekends. I’m building a company from scratch for the first time. I’m a non-technical CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m managing people for the first time. So many people depend on me and Patreon. Anything less than giving my all to those people is unacceptable. Music is my soul and I can only do it 2 days a month.

  • Music is your love. You were making hundreds of thousands of dollars touring and selling music. Why give that up to run a company? I stumbled into an opportunity for growth and learning. The opportunity to be the CEO of a tech company? I’d be a fool to give that up. All the skills I’ll learn doing this will apply to everything else I do for the rest of my life.

  • Building a company is like being a human: You stumble. You make a lot of mistakes. If you do a really great job 30%-40% of your decisions will be good ones. You need the grit to deal with the bad decisions you make. A good book that describes this process: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. 

  • I have a velcro brain: Something happens and I can’t stop replaying it. I think about how I could have done it better. How I could have approached the situation better. 

  • How Jack got over his fear of flying: I went through cognitive behavioral therapy. I learned to wear a rubber band on my wrist. When you start to have negative thoughts about flying [or any other thing] you snap the rubber band. Then you say I’m healthy and safe and all is right in my world. You do this over and over until your brain doesn’t think about it anymore. It took me 8 or 9 months to get over my fear. 

  • You know all those ideas in your mind of how things are supposed to be? All of those plans are total bullshit. They don’t exist. The model in your head about how things should be won’t be accurate. The antidote to this is being authentically you.

  • What it is like being the founder of Patreon: I spend 95% of my time feeling very uncomfortable. More uncomfortable than I thought I would be willing to feel. Over time you develop a new baseline. An increased tolerance. My threshold for emotional pain and discomfort has gone way way up.

  • At a company you can not get consensus on things: If you try to get consensus you will never make any decisions.

  • Book recommendations: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't.

  • One thing a lot of people don’t realize: Succeeding and failing at something feels the same for a long, long time. Most people give up before they can succeed. Don’t quit. Keep going. Get past that feeling.

  • Full video here.