LTK co-founder Amber Venz Box on forging economic success for creators and brands

Since 2011, LTK has pioneered creator-guided retail (also known as creator commerce), which gives consumers a way to discover and shop thousands of brands curated by the creators they follow and trust. Today, the global digital marketing and shopping platform helps creators around the world monetise their content and reach millions of consumers who shop for apparel, make-up, home decoration and other lifestyle products. At the same time, more than 6,000 retailers are able to leverage the powerful network effect of influencer marketing to drive branding, awareness, traffic, and sales.

We spoke with LTK co-founder Amber Venz Box about the company’s growth, why LTK chose to partner with Stripe, and the platform’s newly launched LTK Connect solution.

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What have been the biggest influences on your leadership style?

I turned to entrepreneurship at an early age, having launched denim and jewellery lines in high school and my blog, VenzEdits, in 2010. Before founding LTK, I worked in nearly all aspects of the fashion industry, whether it was as a retail assistant, wholesale in New York, or manufacturing and distributing my own jewellery line. Those experiences uniquely equipped me to understand the motivation and language used in the industry to present LTK in a simple, understandable way. It was that nuance that propelled us forward.

How have you managed the globalisation of LTK’s brand?

We’ve scaled to more than 6,000 retailers in more than 150 countries, and have more than 600 employees across five continents. We’ve been successful at globalising our business because our expansion into new countries was one by one. I would sit down one-on-one with each brand and each creator to understand how we could fit their lifestyle or existing content. Regardless of the country, LTK shared a common subculture with content creators. This led us to take a “go slow to go fast” approach, setting up our initial customer group in every region and growing it from there.

What advice would you give to creators who want to jump into the creator economy?

Content creation is a business that requires a plan, investment and commitment. Once a creator has a plan, they must outline how they will create content, including the volume and topics. It must be specific and strategic. Philosophically, consumers today are looking for a guide, not a hero, and that must be reflected in the content.

Tell us about some of LTK’s recent momentum.

Last summer, LTK reached 10 years in business and hit our billion-dollar mark in creator earnings. In the autumn, we raised $300 million, setting us to double unicorn status. This was an exciting moment for both the organisation – our investors and our team – and for our creators, who found this deeply validating. We are also quickly expanding the team, hiring almost 200 people this year. After going remote-first in 2020, we have ushered in team members from all over the world, expanding our ability to bring world-class talent into the organisation.

The LTK Connect platform has also been a tremendous expansion of our work. We’ve been able to provide tools for creators to independently grow their businesses and be economically successful, and now we are empowering brands of all sizes to help fuel their growth through creator commerce. I’m excited for the next generation of creators – the small business owners who are empowered to build their own business on their own terms, and who have the freedom to be direct-to-consumer.

What are some of LTK’s priorities over the next few years?

We’re looking to be the largest global e-commerce destination powered by creators. We believe the retail experience is better when it’s both human and creator-guided, inspiring us to build the best shopping platform for people across the world.

We also want to be the largest digital marketing platform powered by creators. Today, we view influencer marketing as a tactic within the marketing department. Instead, creators should be seen as a holistic strategy to drive results, and that shift will be powered by the creators on our platform.

What do you think LTK does well relative to other e-commerce platforms?

As a shopping app, LTK provides a focused experience for consumers who come to shop. LTK humanises the shopping experience with products featured in the context of real people's lives – a better way to shop by people you trust.

LTK empowers shoppers to search and discover creator-approved products and looks by your favourite or newly discovered brands, personalised for you.

Tell us about LTK Connect and the impact you think it will have on supporting your ecosystem.

Empowering creative entrepreneurs – whether a creator or brand – has been a driving force for LTK. Bringing the LTK platform to brands of any size and budget has been a goal for the company for some time. Providing access for these brands to the trusted LTK influencer platform that has driven success for thousands of larger brands is a huge disruptive force for direct-to-consumer brands looking to grow their business.

How have you built trust among brands, creators and customers?

Our mission from day one has been to make creators economically successful. By staying true to that mission, we have built trust with creators, brands and consumers. Being focused on driving transaction revenue has allowed us to perfectly align the interests of the three audiences we serve.

How does technology accelerate that goal? How can it enable trust?

At LTK, technology allows our platform to marry digital content with real-world experiences. Working in retail for the better part of a decade, I wanted to modernise and digitise what I did for my customers for creators and their audiences. On the brand side, we’ve taken what works offline, such as in-store commissions for sales associates, and used technology to scale it for the growing number of creators and consumers around the world.

What’s accounted for the explosion in creator content over the last few years?

The tools to create content are already in our hands. Creators no longer have to purchase a DSLR camera or high-end editing software. Distribution platforms have also grown exponentially. When we first started LTK, there were blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Today, there are many more platforms – like Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Clubhouse – with new ones arising and sticking nearly every day.

The expansion of creator types – in art, entertainment, lifestyle, education, and more – has also been an open door for content, and I’m proud that LTK has made that a reality. Creators now can monetise their content, so they are incentivised to be less of a consumer and more of a contributor. That ability to meaningfully monetise your content is what has driven the growth of this universe.

Where do you see the creator economy going over the next few years?

To predict the creator economy, you ultimately have to start with money, and that money comes from two different places. The first is that consumers are buying online. Ecommerce is seeing significant growth rates, which we’re seeing reflected in LTK’s growth. The second driving factor is the increasing shift to direct-to-consumer. With LTK Connect, we’re making our tools available to brands and budgets of all sizes to actualise this growth, and we’re partnering with Stripe to do that.

What are your thoughts on building versus partnering when it comes to a technology platform like LTK?

Cost and opportunity cost are the two core aspects in determining building versus partnering at LTK. We also make the decision based on a core value of efficiency for users. We often ask, “Can we get to market faster by partnering?” If the answer is yes, that holistic view allows us to determine who has the best technology and whether they also share LTK’s value of putting the user first.

Where do you think Stripe and LTK are uniquely aligned?

It’s ultimately about efficiency for users. Our mission has always been to empower creators to be as economically successful as possible, and part of that is making sure they are paid in an efficient and timely manner. With Stripe, these values in efficiency and business empowerment are deeply aligned. We both hold ourselves to be best in class, and this is a big reason why we selected Stripe, in addition to its focus on always doing right by the user.

How has Stripe helped LTK in supporting its overall goals?

LTK is on a mission to make creators as economically successful as possible. The faster they are paid for their work, the faster they can reinvest in their businesses. With LTK Connect, powered by Stripe’s infrastructure, brands can invest quickly and simply – which brings more opportunity to the entire retail ecosystem. Additionally, Stripe is helping creators on the LTK platform get paid faster, which is critical to sustaining their economic health. In both examples, Stripe is helping both LTK and the entire creator economy succeed.

How can Stripe and LTK continue to partner effectively on behalf of creators?

LTK will continue to focus on technology that greases the wheels for our brands and creators so they can more easily build their businesses. Stripe gives us a lot of leverage in this department. For example, Stripe’s infrastructure helped us build LTK Connect. We’re thrilled to continue building together, especially as more creators turn to LTK around the world.

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