Meet 11 creator economy ‘insiders’ who work behind the scenes to turn viral views into dollars

From left: Amber Venz Box, Ami Gan, Kudzi Chikumbu.
Courtesy of Box, Photograph by Serena Brown, Courtesy of Chikumbu

With the right dance, dog or schtick, anyone has a shot at going viral these days. But the faces on our screens are just a small — though very visible — part of a booming creator economy now estimated to be worth more than $100 billion.

Behind the scenes, another group of talent is responsible for putting the “economy” in the creator economy. These are the agents, executives, and investors who set the strategy on social platforms, broker game-changing partnerships, and ultimately turn millions of views into millions of dollars.

As creators assume a bigger role in the entertainment and advertising markets, the business side of the creator playbook — including new forms of monetization and strategies for influencer brand longevity — is only likely to become more important.

Fortune compiled a list of 11 must-know power players setting the course of the creator economy. It’s a diverse group of professionals that spans the disparate corners of the creator universe, from social media platform executives to publicists.

Compared to the viral stars they work with, these creator economy insiders are not exactly household names. But if you’ve ever seen a video or brand campaign with Khaby Lame, Charli D’Amelio or MrBeast, someone on this list probably had a hand in it.

Ryan Detert, Founder & CEO, Influential

Ryan Detert.
Courtesy of Andy Keilen

There are plenty of creator agencies that connect enterprising influencers to brands eager to hawk their wares on social media. But Influential claims to have won significant market share by utilizing machine learning to partner with 3 million influencers — as big as Keemokazi, who has 32 million TikTok followers, and as small as a yoga instructor with 5,000 followers. The company uses machine learning to analyze these influencers’ audience, content and resonance, pairing them with brands that include 40% of the Fortune 50, like McDonald’s, Pepsi and NFL. Overall the company has executed over $500 million in campaigns that have led to $2.5 billion in sales for brands on the platform. In turn, Influential now has 250-plus employees and generates over $200 million annually. 

Ali Berman, Head of Digital Talent & Partner, United Talent Agency

Ali Berman.
Courtesy of Ali Berman

Though Ali Berman started working at entertainment behemoth United Talent Agency in 2011, she told her boss that she could never picture herself as a traditional TV or film agent. Rather, she loved the internet and building community and had the idea to start signing TikTokers in 2019. In the years since then, she’s helped internet influencers like Emma Chamberlain and Rhett & Link become as famous (arguably more famous) as their peers in the music and film industry. From her homebase in Los Angeles, Berman now leads the elite talent agency’s roster of digital stars, brokering business deals for clients that often rival headline concerts and starring movie roles in terms of exposure and income.

Aaron DeBevoise, Founder & CEO, Spotter

Aaron DeBevoise.
Courtesy of Aaron DeBevoise

While the people on this list are all big believers in the longterm value of creator content, Aaron DeBevoise is writing the checks to prove it. Spotter, the company he founded in 2019, has adopted a music industry model: pay video creators to license their YouTube and Facebook backlogs, and generate income from ad revenue. “Spotter saw this gap where creators could be reinvesting themselves much faster, and growing much faster,” says DeBevoise. 

The company works with top talent, including the highest-paid creator alive MrBeast, and has written checks up to $100 million for their content catalogs. In its three-year lifespan, Spotter has spent $740 million on creators. All of this has made the company very attractive to VCs; it raised over $964 million from investors like SoftBank who valued the company at $1.7 billion in February of 2022.

Lori Scott, Global Head of Top Creators, YouTube

Lori Scott.
Courtesy of Lori Scott

In the fall of 2006 Lori Scott was living in London as one of the first European employees to work on Google Video. Three weeks after she started her new gig, Google acquired YouTube. Scott has been there since, in a variety of creator-related roles, before moving into her role overseeing all creators on the video platform. Over the years, she’s watched top creators evolve from single individuals trying to support themselves by vlogging, to teams of 50 to 100 members who make content that is often viewed on TV screens. Right now, she’s focusing her team of 12-plus partner managers on shorts monetization, vertical video and creator commission plays in shopping and affiliate. “It’s about helping creators grow their audience, making sure they have the money to have a sustainable business, ensuring they’re having fun and that YouTube continues to be a fulfilling creative outlet for them,” she says. 

Raina Penchansky, Cofounder & CEO, Digital Brand Architects

Raina Penchansky.
Courtesy of Raina Penchansky

At 19, Raina Penchansky dropped out of college to pursue her dream of working in public relations and living in New York City. At this tender age, she became an intern for PR giant Edelman, helping clients including Microsoft, Adobe and Oracle launch new products. In 2011, after a stint as the global head of communications for luxury brand Coach, Penchansky founded Digital Brand Architects to manage the careers and communities of fashion bloggers. Within 18 months of launching the firm, Penchansky had made $1 million in gross revenue. Today the 70-person firm represents over 300 digital influencers who have a collective audience of over 500 million, including designer Aimee Song and makeup artist Patrick Starrr. “You have to quietly be the best and not worry about what anyone else is doing,” says Penchansky. “To some extent; we actually created this space. We are nimble, we hustle, and we figure shit out.”

Amrapali Gan, CEO, OnlyFans

Ami Gan.
Photograph by Serena Brown

Amrapali Gan became the CEO of OnlyFans in December 2021, replacing founder Tim Stokely, who had caused a stir with the platform’s adult content creators by announcing a brief plan to ban them. Although the ban never went into effect, Gan has still worked to regain the trust of OnlyFans’ adult creators while simultaneously broadening the appeal of the subscription platform to creators who put out other kinds of content, from personal training to cooking shows. The strategy has been a boon for OnlyFans, which posted $932 million in revenue in 2021 via the 20% cut it takes of creator earnings. Creators on the platform did okay, too — more than 2 million of them took home almost  $4 billion in 2021, according to the company.

Kudzi Chikumbu, Global Head of Creator Marketing, TikTok

Kudzi Chikumbu.
Courtesy of Kudzi Chikumbu

Zimbabwe-born Kudzi Chikumbu joined TikTok in 2016, shortly after getting his MBA at Stanford University. The social media platform was still just a small startup called at the time, and Chikumbu was the first person on its creator team. Now overseeing creator marketing, Chikumbu plays a vital role at what has become the creator’s economy’s central stage, communicating with creators about TikTok, connecting fellow creators and highlighting creators to the public. “It’s important for them to feel that TikTok is the place that cares about them,” he says.

Amber Venz Box, Cofounder & President, LTK 

Amber Venz Box.
Courtesy of Amber Venz Box

Amber Venz Box is the wealthiest female creator company founder. Her social shopping app LTK connects hundreds of thousands influencers to 6,000-plus brands, who receive commission when LTK users purchase clothing, home goods and services from posts in the made-to-shop app. This business model has paid dividends: LTK commissions have made over 200 influencers on the platform millionaires (all women), generated $3.6 billion for brands last year and helped the company nab a $2 billion valuation in 2021. 

Long before the days of TikTok try-ons, Amber Venz Box worked as a clerk in a high-end Dallas boutique. When she realized that her customers are more loyal to her than the brands, she started to blog about using rubber bands to keep blazer cuffs intact and ways to style sun-hats. “The reason that we’ve been successful is because I’m a creator myself. I still do this every single day, and every single night, publishing three times last night, while I’m sitting in bed, about to go to sleep — creating shoppable posts,” says Venz Box. “Being a pioneer of this space has also been exciting, because as you get success, you want to push forward and you see what you can actually do.”

Swann Maizil, Robin Sabban & Michael Philippe, Cofounders, Jellysmack

Jellysmack co-founders from left Swann Maizil, Robin Sabban and Michael Philippe.
Courtesy of Jellysmack

In 2016, Swann Maizil built an A.I. tool to help him predict the most viral content for his soccer fandom YouTube channel. When the channel’s popularity skyrocketed, Maizil figured he could apply the A.I.-based editing and distribution model to any sort of YouTube channel. He enlisted entrepreneur buddies Robbin Sabban and Michael Philippe, and Jellysmack was born. Today their company has about 1,000 employees and a unicorn valuation.

Jellysmack works with around 500 top video creators to cut and distribute their content across the internet, making money alongside the creators on ad revenue (though it has introduced VC and affiliate streamsCK). Since 2016, Jellysmack has paid out over $175 million to creators, over 50% of whom have made upwards of $500,000 from working with Jellysmack. This crop includes household names like MrBeast, PewDiePie and Bailey Sarian. Overall, Jellysmack-managed content earns over 10 billion views per month, according to a spokesperson for the platform.

Nicole Perez-Krueger, Founder & CEO, Align PR

Nicole Perez-Krueger.
Courtesy of Nicole Perez-Krueger

Nicole Perez-Krueger, a publicist whose firm Align represents top creators such as Charli D’Amelio, Tinx, Alex Cooper, started her career as a fourth grade teacher. While teaching kids about Charlotte’s Web was fun, Perez-Krueger decided that her true calling was in entertainment, and she got temporary job assisting the Hollywood communications bigwig Alan Nierob.

After helping to turn then-musicians Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce into movie stars, as well as crafting business personas for reality stars (ancestral social influencers, if you will) like Lauren Conrad, Perez-Krueger decided to start her own publicist shop in 2019. “There was this tangibility to these young people. Like, ‘Maybe I could do that,’” she says. The firm has grown to 40 people who reside around the world, who work on clients ranging from Matthew McConaughey to Naomi Osaka.

Duke McKenzie, Cofounder & CEO, PRJT Z

Duke McKenzie.
Courtesy of Emblaze Photography

Before the days of programmatic advertising, Toronto-native Duke McKenzie started an online advertising business UpTrend Media that he sold to Yellow Pages in 2010. After executive and investor roles in corporations ranging from luxury ecommerce to premium tequila, McKenzie became creator obsessed. He started talent management company PRJT Z to focus on building businesses for TikTok stars and Re6l to do the same for YouTubers. PRJT Z represents 30 stars, including Michael Le and the world’s most popular TikToker Khaby Lame in North America. McKenzie oversaw Lame’s deals with McDonald’s for the FIFA World Cup and Google Pixel. “Our philosophy is not being dependent upon inbound leads. We’re always calling, working and advocating for our clients,” says McKenzie. 

His YouTube-focused firm, Re6l, exclusively manages PewDiePie among other YouTubers, though McKenzie stepped down as CEO in 2020 to serve as a board member.

Who did we miss? Let us know what other creator economy insiders belong on this list by emailing

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