Fanhouse is an OnlyFans ‘PG-13’ competitor

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Before launching a tech startup in 2020, Rosie Nguyen and her co-founders experimented on Twitter.

Nguyen, then a student at the University of Pennsylvania, had amassed strong social media following posting pictures of herself, jokes about her sex life, video game reviews and whatever else comes to mind. It was like an online public diary, she says. But would fans pay to view his tweets from a private account?

It only took two weeks to find out: Nguyen said she made $2,000 by getting users to send payments through Venmo and CashApp to access her private Twitter feed. The experience showed Nguyen and his co-founders that their start-up idea was viable.

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After earning a bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School in 2020, Nguyen co-founded Fanhouse, an online platform for online creators and influencers to put content behind a paywall. Users pay to see exclusive posts and chat directly with social media personalities like Nguyen. The software application is also used by gamers, athletes, musicians, and others with large audiences that they can monetize through Fanhouse.

“I just want people to be able to make money doing what they love,” said Nguyen, 24, who now lives in Los Angeles. “I like to create, I like to make people laugh, and for a very long time it was all free. It doesn’t matter if my tweet got a million likes. I didn’t make any money for it.

Certainly, some content creators have made a lot of money, but mostly through advertising. American marketers are expected to spend more than $4 billion on influencer marketing this year, according to a study by Insider Intelligence. This includes payments made to influencers or their representatives for sponsored social media posts or other user-generated content.

fanhouse gives creators another way to more directly monetize their posts. Creators can charge monthly subscription fees, receive tips for their most popular posts, or get paid for specific requests, such as singing a particular song or creating custom artwork. Fanhouse gets a 10% discount on every transaction.

“Fans of creators are enraged by their content, often watching a video the minute it’s posted,” said Debra Williamson, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence who focuses on social media marketing and advertising. “This kind of exclusive access has significant appeal for those who follow creators closely.”

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Still, not all creators will make money from subscriptions, Williamson said. Those with fewer subscribers may find it difficult to convince their fans to pay a monthly fee. Williamson thinks most creators will continue to make the bulk of their income from sponsored posts and merchandise offerings.

Since its launch in November 2020, creators have collectively earned more than $6 million from Fanhouse, Nguyen said. The company, which has 12 full-time employees, has also raised $1.3 million. Investors include a former Tinder executive Jeff Morris Jr. and Mantis VC, an early-stage technology investment firm formed by musical duo The Chainsmokers. Fanhouse is already profitable, Nguyen said.

Fanhouse is something of a response to OnlyFans, an online content subscription service that has become popular with sex workers. Last year, the London-based platform announced it would ban pornography, citing pressure from banking partners. Corn OnlyFans Reverse Course after a violent reaction from users and sex workers.

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Fanhouse markets itself as a “PG-13” platform and prohibits sexually explicit content. This allows the Los Angeles-based startup to work with major payment processors that charge lower fees and raise funds from investors who have rules against pornography. It also attracts influencers who don’t want to be associated with sex work, Nguyen said.

Nguyen, who emigrated from Vietnam as a baby and grew up in Houston, turned to OnlyFans to earn money at the start of the pandemic. In March 2020, she lost her work-study job at the front desk of her Penn dorm when the university temporarily closed. It cut off a crucial part of her income which she sent home to support her family, she said.

OnlyFans allowed Nguyen to monetize his massive social media following, bringing in thousands of dollars a month. But it also drew threats and sexual harassment. Followers forced her to send nude photos, which she refused to do, or shamed her for being on OnlyFans.

“I was afraid that people would find me because they would threaten to hurt me. They threatened to hurt my family if I didn’t send them things they wanted to see,” Nguyen said.

She shared the story of this lucrative but scary experiment with her eventual co-founders: Khoi Le, the startup’s CEO, and Jerry Meng, the chief technology officer. The three of them came up with the idea of ​​testing the Fanhouse concept by putting Nguyen’s Twitter behind the paywall. They were included this year Forbes 30 Under 30 List due to the early success of Fanhouse.

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Nguyen, who is Marketing Director of Fanhouse, is also a creator of the platform, charging users $10 per month to view exclusive posts. On Fanhouse, she shares more photos and jokes, asks fans for feedback on potential Twitter posts, and gives followers insight into her life, like when she was recently locked out of her apartment in the rain. “Please send help,” she joked.

“I think with anybody developing a sequel, you’re saying something nobody else is saying,” Nguyen said. “I talk about my life, my sex life, things not many people will talk about, but in a very candid, honest and fun way. I think it just captured an audience.

After working at the start-up for a few months, she quit a job in investment banking to focus on Fanhouse. “It’s what I would like to do for the rest of my life,” she said of Fanhouse. “That’s what matters to me.”

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