In two years, two college students built an app, signed internet star Cameron Dallas as a co-founder, became multi-millionaires and secured roles as senior vice presidents of a global media company. What they lacked formal training, they made up for with networking—convincing investors of their app’s potential.
Harry Gestetner, 22, and Simon Pompan, 23, met at Harvard-Westlake, a top-ranking private high school in Los Angeles. Years later, while the two were in college (Gestetner at Tulane and Pompan at Vanderbilt) the creator economy—accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic—took off. Venture capital funding skyrocketed to a reported $5.07 billion in 2021, and the number of social media users that considered themselves creators shot up by 48 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to payment company Stripe. In 2020, college junior Gestetner watched as his cousin, Ben Steiner, built a following on TikTok but struggled to monetize it. Traditional social platforms had few tools to help social media creators earn a living, they said. The friends created Fanfix to address that need.
“We had zero background in the creator economy prior to this business,” Gestetner told Observer. “We didn’t even have TikTok accounts.”
Fanfix allows creators to earn revenue by posting exclusive content to paying subscribers. Its business model functions similarly to Patreon, but the app targets Gen Z influencers and fans, while Patreon has a large portion of millennial users, according to website analytics company Similarweb. Faxfix also has one membership tier while Patreon has three.
On Fanfix, around 3,000 creators—who are required to apply for the ability to post content and earn revenue from the app—have paying fans, and 500,000 users pay creators for their content, according to the company. Influencers set their own monthly subscription fee from $5 to $50 per month. The highest earner on Fanfix makes $7 million per year, and there are multiple users making more than $1 million yearly, the founders said—though they couldn’t disclose who. Fanfix takes a 20 percent cut of creator earnings.
Less than a year after its launch, SuperOrdinary acquired Fanfix for what Crunchbase quoted as a purchase price of $65 million. The co-founders could only confirm the acquisition was “in the eight figures.”
In December 2020, Gestetner and Pompan hired Expedition Co., a California-based tech company, to build the app for $120,000, split into six monthly payments of $20,000 each. The students pulled together funds for the first two months but couldn’t cover the third payment. Troy Bonde and Winston Alfieri—L.A.-based student entrepreneurs—stepped in, supplying the third month’s payment. Gestetner and Pompan were, by then, so late that Expedition almost canceled the contract, they told Observer. In need of money, the founders looked to venture capitalists.
Gestetner and Pompan started on LinkedIn, searching for anyone with “angel investor” or “venture capitalist” in their profiles and pitching via email. Two-thirds of the messages bounced back, but Gestetner and Pompan successfully landed a handful of meetings.
“We would come out of class at 10:29 and hop on an investor call at 10:30,” Gestetner told Observer. “We didn’t advertise that we were in our dorm room or coming out of class,” Pompan added.
The founders met with “thousands” of venture capitalists and startup founders, but their age was always an issue, Pompan said. Gestetner was 20 at the time, and Pompan was 21. No investor wanted to back first-time founders who were still in college.
The students connected with investment firm Antler through their network. Antler specializes in funding early-stage entrepreneurs across many industries. “What we saw in them was a grit and a tenacity, and a depth of understanding about their market,” partner Ryan Sommerville told Observer. Pompan and Gestetner had their idea more developed than many of the other founders Antler funds, he said. The firm invested an undisclosed amount, and the students were the youngest founders Antler has made an investment in.
Pompan and Gestetner finished their pre-seed round with $1.3 million from Antler, Day One Ventures and Rough Draft Ventures. Fanfix launched in August 2021 and began generating revenue on the first day.
“I’ve looked at hundreds, maybe thousands, of creator economy companies and didn’t invest in nearly all of them until backing FanFix,” Drake Rehfeld, principal at Day One Ventures, told Observer in an emailed statement. “I watched them organically take over a creator event in West Hollywood, striking up conversations across the room until dozens of creators were passionately onboarded onto FanFix. (They) were the first creator economy founders I met who actually knew how to enroll creators onto their platform.”
Bringing on Cameron Dallas
Cameron Dallas rose to internet stardom in the early 2010s for his prank videos on YouTube and Vine, a now-shuttered video-sharing platform. In 2014, Dallas was the 11th-most followed account on Vine with an audience of 8.1 million. He has since acted in two films, appeared on Broadway and starred in a reality show on Netflix.
Gestetner and Pompan first contacted Dallas through a mass email to content creators, providing information about Fanfix and asking them to join. When Dallas got the email, his interest piqued further than being a member of the app. He saw a business opportunity.
Dallas recognized the market demand, and Fanfix had the branding to fill it, he said in an emailed statement to Observer. Beyond that, “I grew a liking to Harry & Simon,” he said. “Beyond them being genuinely awesome guys, they’re brilliant.” On a personal level, Dallas wanted to start working behind the scenes in the creator economy after being on camera for a decade, he said.
Dallas signed on as a co-founder in October. He was instrumental in building the founders’ network and bringing creators onto the platform early, according to Pompan.
The majority of Fanfix’s growth has been organic, Gestetner said. While the founders have offered some performance-based incentives to the platform’s biggest creators, they don’t pay influencers to promote Fanfix, and they’ve never spent money on marketing. Madi Monroe, who has 17.2 million followers on TikTok, Aisha Mian (3.4M, TikTok) and Brooke Monk (2.26M, YouTube) are among the app’s early adaptors.
In contrast to the challenges of being Gen Z college students when fundraising, their age helped them build trust with creators, Pompan told Observer.
SuperOrdinary acquired Fanfix
Gestetner and Pompan met Reis, the SuperOrdinary CEO, through an investor. They were looking to raise money, not to be acquired. But Reis gave the then 21-year-olds an offer they couldn’t refuse, they said. The deal closed in June 2022, right after Gestetner graduated from Tulane. The acquisition positioned Gestetner and Pompan as co-CEOs of Fanfix and senior vice presidents of SuperOrdinary, overseeing all of the company’s creator businesses.
SuperOrdinary, founded in 2018, began helping U.S. beauty brands enter China’s market. The company now facilitates deals between companies and creators, helping both reach new audiences on an international scale. An in-house talent agency manages clients like Dayna Marie (1M, Instagram), Zack Fairhurst (5M, TikTok) and Fernanda Romero (345,000, Instagram). In addition to Fanfix, SuperOrdinary is also a parent company to GalaGala, a beauty and wellness marketplace that pays creators to promote its products, and SuperLink, a link-in-bio tool.
SuperOrdinary has the resources and scale to help Fanfix grow, said Gestetner. It has 650 employees and 200 company partnerships, according to its website. “Many creator companies are U.S.-myopic and have overlooked the rest of the world,” but SuperOrdinary’s hubs in Europe and Asia have helped expand Fanfix’s reach, he said.
Before the acquisition, Fanfix had a team of six, including Anthony Blackwell, the former director of engineering at Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company goop.com. It now employs 45 workers, most of whom are Gen Z.
“We’ve been able to create magic over and over again,” Gestetner told Observer. “As an entrepreneur, the odds are so heavily stacked against you, especially in a field that’s so competitive. You have to replicate magical opportunities, whether that’s meeting someone or hiring someone. I think it’s a mindset.”