67 - Rodrigo Velloso, YouTube & Roblox

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This is a podcast episode titled, 67 - Rodrigo Velloso, YouTube & Roblox. The summary for this episode is: <p>In Ep. 67 of Earned, Conor sits down with creator economy expert and gaming industry veteran Rodrigo Velloso. We begin by learning what attracted Rod, who built his early career in traditional media, to join the then-booming tech industry. Conor and Rod then share their predictions for how the rise in AI technology like ChatGPT will impact industries across the board. We dive into Rod’s time at YouTube in the early 2010s, and hear why the platform’s shifting focus from views to watch time led to increased interest in long-form gaming videos—a completely new genre of content at the time. Next, Rod shares his learnings from his time as YouTube’s Director of Gaming Partnerships, before pivoting to his experience leading creator-led marketing at interactive gaming platform Roblox—which helped fuel the company’s hypergrowth to compete with gaming giants like Minecraft. We learn how Roblox’s monetization model drew an influx of gamers to the platform, and Rod emphasizes how the best content lives where its creators can be properly compensated for it. To close the show, we hear what Rod has learned about the broader creator economy since joining creator commerce platform Spring, and Rod reveals what’s up next for his career.</p>
Why Rod Joined Google During the Tech Boom
04:00 MIN
Conor & Rod's Predictions on the Impact of AI Technology
07:24 MIN
The Rise of Creator-Led Gaming Content on YouTube
10:27 MIN
How Roblox Built a Booming Creator Ecosystem by Introducing Monetization
10:27 MIN
Rod's Creator Economy Learnings at Spring
07:49 MIN

Conor Begley: It's always fun when you meet somebody and you go, we're going to be friends for a really long time. That's how I felt about Rod since I met him a couple years ago. Rod is one of the deepest experts in the world with a couple decades of experience in the creator economy across YouTube, Twitter, Roblox, which is a massive gaming company. I think you're going to love the show. If you do, be a friend, tell a friend and enjoy.

Intro: Explore the minds and marketing strategies behind today's winning brands and businesses. Tap into the power of the creator economy with Earned by Creator IQ. Here's Connor Begley.

Conor Begley: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Earned. Today, I've got Rodrigo Velloso on the show. Welcome to the show, Rod.

Rodrigo Velloso: Thanks, Connor. Great to be here.

Conor Begley: Yeah, I'm excited. So most people won't know this, but I actually got introduced to Rod when he was at Roblox and he was asked to evaluate our company for investment. And he gave the thumbs up, but they gave us a thumbs down. But that's okay. We won't hold it against them. It's all good.

Rodrigo Velloso: I didn't know that outcome.

Conor Begley: It ended up working out. We ended up combining the company with Creator IQ, so it was great.

Rodrigo Velloso: That's great.

Conor Begley: Yeah, we ended up getting other offers as well. But that one, and I liked them too. But anyways, let's move on. So for those that don't know Rod, so he got his master's at Wharton and has one of the preeminent thought leaders and experts in the influencer space, particularly within the gaming space where you've spent, I don't know how many years, probably 10 to 15 years at the director of gaming partnerships at YouTube, and then global director of influencer marketing at Roblox, and now you're the VP of creator success at a company that is very much focused on creators in Spring. So I'm excited to dive in today.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. Yeah. Looking forward to it.

Conor Begley: So let's start at the top. You're originally from Brazil, but you found your way into tech, and then eventually to the Bay Area. What was it that attracted you first to the text space at Google, where I believe you were there for about eight years, and then what was it like moving away from home? That's a big decision.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. I think I was working in media for a big magazine and a publishing company in the late 90s, and so I was there for Web 1. 0, right place at the right time in media, which is probably the industry most impacted by early Web 1. 0 initiatives. And the company got into that very much building websites, and spinning off its internet division and trying to get into the whole IPO, all the M&A that was going on in Web 1. 0. So I got my first taste of tech that way from the media and entertainment perspective. And I was working in strategy and corporate development, but also had a keen interest in content creation. And during my career at this media company, I transitioned from one to the other. About half the time there I was in strategy and corp dev. The other half I was a publisher, an editor of magazines and websites. And that's in that context that I saw tech coming. And Google particularly was like Camelot. Really. It just IPO'd in 2004. I joined Google on this thing called Google Book Search, which was this massive project to digitize the world's books, all of them, and create this digital library of Alexandria. So it was all very, it seemed like the company had IPO'd and it had that, what do you call it? One of its values, I don't know, what do you call this? But it was in the IPO documentation was the whole don't be evil. It was really changing the world. Today that sounds cliche, but at the time it wasn't. At the time, everyone was really buying into that whole, yes, this is something different. And so that's really what attracted me. I was in traditional old school media and there was this shiny new thing. And Google had just bought YouTube as well. So I joined Google in 2007 working on essentially making that bridge between content and technology, bringing content onto these technological products. And so my journey really started there. And then the moving to the U. S., you can tell from my accent, I actually had lived in the U. S. as a child. So my dad was Brazilian diplomat. We lived in New York when I was a kid. I studied at American schools a lot of my life. So it was something I actually wanted to do and I wanted it for my kids, for them to have that experience as well. And the opportunity came up about halfway through my career at Google. So I was in four years in the Sao Paulo office, and the opportunity came to join YouTube and move to San Bruno where YouTube was headquartered and lead our Latin American and U. S. Hispanic content partnerships from here. So I took it. And yeah, it was amazing. Those I think are the two questions.

Conor Begley: Well, it's funny. I mean, obviously you shorten that down, but that was a 10- year thing. That was a big chunk of your early career. And to have gone through, like you said, an industry that was probably most impacted by the internet. If you were a magazine publisher back then, it was changing times to say the least. And actually, I'd be curious to get your opinion on the changing times for Google. So you've got Chat GPT that's come out recently, as well as a litany of other AI tools. And I know that Microsoft was a big investor in open AI that they put a billion dollars into it, and they're now going to start introducing some of that into Google search. What's your prediction for where that goes? Do you think it will end up having a pretty big impact on Google's business?

Rodrigo Velloso: Oh yeah. I think what business is it not going to have impact on, right?

Conor Begley: Right. Yeah.

Rodrigo Velloso: AI is this universal technology that's going to change everything. How it's going to impact Google's business specifically, I think a lot of Google's business is search and ad based. Even YouTube, when you look at YouTube, it's the second- largest search engine in the world after Google, at least it used to be. So I think the ways that AI helps people, let's say if we go back to Google's core mission, and this has probably been updated since my day, but at the time it was organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful.

Conor Begley: Universally accessible.

Rodrigo Velloso: Universally accessible. Exactly. And I think the unspoken part of that is and make money doing that. And so those are the questions you have to ask is, okay, well how does AI impact that? And not just search, does it help people search better? Does it help people create more content to be searched? Does it complicate finding truth? Because there's so much more just clutter or static, whatever you want to call it, interference in between accurate information and just information. So it's fascinating to think about, I don't have an answer for you. I wish I did. But I would look at it from that lens of, okay, well how does this impact information? How does it impact the finding of, not just information? When you think of content, it's really, information is one, entertainment is another and education is the third. Those are really the three types of content. And Google helps find, and in some cases consume a lot of those types of content. And so it's really how does AI impact that part of the equation? And then how does it impact the other part of the equation, which is the monetization of that content, whether it's through ads, which was Google's first model, but is not the only model these days. Google has a lot of other revenue sources developing, some based on the same content, some based on different content and technology.

Conor Begley: Yeah. I was reading something that was interesting saying that the biggest risk to Google in this whole thing, because Google supposedly has similar technology. It's just in- house, it's not necessarily provided to the public, et cetera, and potentially even more powerful. But the problem is that it is tough to integrate that into their existing revenue model. If you're not sending them to another site in order to get this, then people aren't going to advertise for that. If you're just answering the question yourself, how do you generate revenue off of that? It's more difficult. I mean, there's ways to do it. But, yeah-

Rodrigo Velloso: I agree with that though. If you think about algorithms, that's the business. And AI is kind of like a living algorithm, if you will, may be one way to look at it. So even before I left Google, we were already on at YouTube working on AI to identify content, and understand what content was and identify similar content. And when you think of the implication of detect truth, that becomes super interesting. At Google News, for example, we looked at, okay, well how do you know what is the best? Is the best the most truthful? Is it the one feeds into your perspective? Is it inaudible.... Yeah, what is the definition of best?

Conor Begley: The one you're most likely to click on.

Rodrigo Velloso: Well, that wasn't always the case, actually, because there was a longevity component to this. So if you can click on something, but if you repeatedly click on serve up the most clickable thing, over time you might actually be suggesting that you're not trustworthy because you're providing not content that's not the best and the person detects that over time. So that definition is very important to the business and to the whole content model. Anyway, but those are some great applications of AI, is you can think of it from the perspective of, oh, it's going to convolute things because it can cause so much more content to be created, but it can also do the opposite. It can really accelerate the detection of what is fake and what isn't.

Conor Begley: Interesting.

Rodrigo Velloso: You could look at it from, as with all technology, there are applications that are good for humanity and applications that are bad, and hopefully we'll be smart enough to tell the difference and pursue the ones that help us.

Conor Begley: Yeah. I think this has definitely been one of the most eye- opening in terms of just public response. I think the stat I saw, it was something like, it took Netflix five years to get to a million subscribers. It took Facebook five months. And it took Open AI five days. And people are starting to use it in meaningful ways. I was like, oh, I wonder if it can write a summary given my podcast transcript, and it was done. It was like, oh, shit, copy and paste my podcast transcript, write a four paragraph summary of this, done. And it's just shocking. And it's just so early. Anyways.

Rodrigo Velloso: And I think that's the real question, Connor. I mean, it is early and certainly that stat is impressive of adoption. But I don't know how much that stat has to do with the tech versus with the distribution and awareness factor, because every single technology that has come has been adopted faster. It's not like this is a new thing. You can make that graph. Facebook was adopted X times as fast as Twitter, which was inaudible... was adopted X times as fast, and Roblox, and so forth and so forth. So I don't know how much. I think the key question is to your point is how useful is it? How much time do people spend on it? How much does it become part of their everyday utility, and entertainment, whatever?

Conor Begley: Yeah. Okay. Well, let's get back to you. So I want to take a step back and just talk a little bit about your early days at YouTube. Obviously you were there during a period of time when it was really rising to prominence. And I also think YouTube is unique, particularly at the time in their embrace of the creator as a core component. It goes to something simple as revenue sharing. It was the first ones to actually do revenue sharing with the creators themselves. Talk about some of your earliest learnings from that space, and then just what that period was, that hyper growth.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. I mean, YouTube, I think, and if I was lucky, I always say this, I mean, this is not my idea, Connor, opportunity is the combination of luck and experience or skill. And so I do think there was a big luck factor involved in my just being at the right place at the right time, which was around 2011, I want to say, that YouTube shifted its primary performance metric from views to watch time. So we were shifting from, hey, we want to have a billion views a day or month, I don't know how much it was, to a billion hours per that same time period.

Conor Begley: I remember hitting a billion hours a day a few years ago. It was four or five years ago. Billion hours a day on YouTube. It is a shocking number.

Rodrigo Velloso: inaudible... It's so hard to wrap your head around how much that actually is.

Conor Begley: It's a thousand millions. The one I really liked, I'm going to get the exact numbers wrong, but it was like, how long is a million seconds? It's like, oh, it's 23 hours. It's like, how long is a billion seconds? It's like, oh, that's like 30 years. It's like, what? Some obscene number. It's not that. It's a factor of a thousand X. But it was like, oh, shit. You go from a day to four years. It's like, what the heck? Anyways.

Rodrigo Velloso: Crazy. So that shift actually really changed our view of the business. And gaming, which was an interesting vertical, it was maybe number seven or eight in terms of viewership, it really popped when we started looking in terms of hours, because the videos were long and people watched them for just a long time. And so I was tapped to figure out what content and content partnerships look like for that vertical or should look like, because our mission as the content team was to bring on content that would grow viewership, or in this case now going forward, hours, watch time, and subsequently bring in revenues through that time, whether ads or otherwise. And so, as a strategy guy who's coming from media, coming from that universe, it did not take me long to realize a couple of key things about this. One, this was entirely new content. This stuff didn't really exist on TV. It didn't really exist in any traditional media. Well, yes, in Korea it did, but I only found out about that later. So up until that point, gaming for me was a topic that I would see covered in men's magazines, and maybe there was one or two small dedicated hobby titles in the traditional media space. So entirely new content genre, let's call it that, was the number one realization. And the number two realization was, okay, well who's driving the viewership of this new genre? It's not the game publishers. It's not the game media companies. It wasn't even the pro tournaments and the sports vibe thing. We explored all those hypothesis and came to an understanding that it was these independent, individual creators driving over 90% of that viewership. And that was really an amazing realization. It's not like we weren't aware that... The term creator economy did not exist at that point. Obviously as YouTube, it's like, it's YouTube. It's you broadcast yourself was the old inaudible... Was absolutely about giving individuals a voice or a channel from distribution of video content. And we certainly understood that there was burgeoning ecosystems of creators, separate independent creators in lots of different spaces, from comedy to fashion and beauty. So it's not like we didn't understand that. But generally speaking, in every other vertical, over 50% of the viewership was being driven not by those creators, it was being driven by traditional content. So you think of music, for example. Music was probably the number one, probably still is the number one vertical. Lots of repeat listening, repeat viewing of music content. So that really drives that volume. And when you look at music, a lot of the work that was being done was saying, okay, well, A, it's people taking traditional music and putting them on other types of content to enhance that content. So a big chunk of the business was just identifying that stuff and monetizing it on behalf of the labels or the true owner, the artists, or the label or whoever was managing the rights. But of when you look at original content, most of it was still being put out and created by the traditional media industry. And of course there was a growing in the artist movement, and it's still growing. But I would say, I would argue today, even today, it's still majority traditional media industry driven. So gaming, I think was the first vertical where we started saying, actually this vertical, our largest partners are creators, they're not traditional companies. So we, as the direct partnerships team, needs to start working directly with creators. And I'm not sure if that was the start of that at YouTube. I believe it was. It was one of my partner managers was one of the first on the direct team to work only with creators. But that was, for me, certainly the wake- up call that things are changing, completely new genre of content, completely new class of enterprise behind it, whatever you want to call it. Enterprise, I say the initiative to take that and make that a livelihood in a business. And that was just fascinating to me. So that put me on the path that I'm still on.

Conor Begley: Yeah. Again, going back to time spent, the amount of time spent with people, and specifically on YouTube with these individuals, it's a lot. And I know that I personally, I was like, I want to get into gaming. I know gaming's going to be important for us. And so I started watching Twitch. And it's like you start to spend a lot of time with these people, and it almost feels like you're hanging out with them for an hour, two, three hours a day. And that's just a much more direct connection than you can get with a nameless media entity. And so it's meaningful and it has impact.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. When you think about time, we actually looked into Twitch as an acquisition opportunity. And certainly when you compare live, and you compare video on demand and you compare all these different platforms today, I think that time component is still a critical way to understand things. TikTok, up until recently had a one- minute cap. Now it's 10 minutes, but I'm betting the majority of the most watched videos are still short, because that's just the pattern of how people view it. Whereas YouTube, maybe fashion, beauty, the average YouTube used to be around three minutes of viewership. The average gaming video was three times that, 10 minutes. The average live- streaming session of on Twitch was three times that, 30 minutes, spending 30 minutes. A lot of them were actually spending 90 minutes in 30 minute increments because they just had to walk away for a minute or whatever and come back. So absolutely. And that drives everything to my mind. It's 100% about engagement. It's 100% about community. And that's really the fascinating thing to me is that community creation and community sustainability through content, and through distribution and communication technology. That's, for me, what's fascinating about this space.

Conor Begley: So talk to me about that community building element in the context of Roblox. So you joined Roblox in 2018. And I don't know, I'd be curious, I don't know the exact numbers about the size at that time. But obviously over the next four years, went public. At one point it was valued close to$ 100 billion. And I think the stat I saw that was wild was half of all children were playing it at one point. Over half of all children were playing it at one point in 2020. So talk to me about how you leveraged that concept of community building in the context of Roblox, as well as what was Roblox when you started? How big were they? And then what was it like through that period of time?

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. I mean, I started Roblox 2018, as you mentioned. Memory serves, it was around maybe 60 million monthly active users at the time. And it had been growing really fast for a few years. I like to say I discovered Roblox. I found it on Google Trends. I was trying to figure out what the most popular games to create on YouTube were. And Roblox, to me was a Minecraft copycat. And when I saw it on Google Trends, it was like, oh, number six, seven showing up, top 10 on YouTube sources of gaming content. And that was surprising to me. Minecraft had long been number one, and Fortnite was at its peak almost bumping up against Minecraft. So I was surprised to find Roblox. And I dug in and I'm like, I was astounded by it. I understood this is not a game. This is a platform for creating interactive content. And it seems to already have an organic creator ecosystem, a parallel creator ecosystem on YouTube, on video, which to my mind was I already understood that interactive needed that video window. I'd been working gaming content on YouTube for years. And that's the only way for you to see into the interactive experience other than to go and play it, which is sometimes a higher bar or higher barrier entry than just watching a video, which is why it's the main marketing channel for all content today is influencer or creator content. So lost my train of thought a little bit there. Anyway, so-

Conor Begley: The community building element around Roblox was one of the things I talked about.

Rodrigo Velloso: So it was around 60 million. We're talking about how big it was and how I'd found it. And so I joined with this understanding that, okay, well, here is a interactive content platform that already has this organic discovery or marketing, if you want to call it, engine that's growing with it. And that was really the understanding that I brought to the table. I saw that from the outside. I saw that they were looking for a director of influencer marketing. I had never held any role with the influencer marketing title. And before I joined, I tried to change it to something else, because creators don't particularly being called-

Conor Begley: That word. Yeah.

Rodrigo Velloso: And it wasn't really what we were looking for, but it was certainly marketing. It was certainly the main source of awareness for Roblox, the main source of engagement. We were seeing that. The company was already seeing that from its research, its marketing research, and that's why it was looking to hire someone. So it was really just a strong match. And I came in with a lot of understanding of the YouTube side of that equation and what drove creators, and brought that understanding to Roblox. And I think what really late stage startup, so the environment is very resource constrained, as you can imagine. Platform that's growing super fast, that has 60 million active users, but 400 employees, I think when I joined, and 75% of those by design, product and engineering. And when I say by design, because that's the philosophy, Dave, as a CEO, had and continues to have. I think wanted a platform centric team. And it's growing so fast that doubling every year, that it's really challenging to say, hey, we should take some of our resources and put against marketing.

Conor Begley: Yeah, totally. It's like, well, we are already growing pretty fast.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. So the trick there, if you want to call it, was just to raise awareness of go get the data, say, hey, look how symbiotic these two things are. Look how much sometimes one is the leading indicator, sometimes the other is. Here's a theory about how those two things interact. Here's what's going on in other properties in the interactive content space. There's dissimilar correlation, like Minecraft, Fortnite, et cetera. So something is there, for sure. Attribution was always a challenge. But at the beginning, it's just such a strong correlation and it makes sense to-

Conor Begley: It's so logical. Yeah.

Rodrigo Velloso: It's so logical to say, let's go experiment. Let's go inaudible... understanding this better. And that was the pitch, essentially. And as we started seeing the results and seeing that was working, or at least we were continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate, accelerating actually, gaining share and gaining positions. We went from being the eighth, like I said, seventh, eighth source of gaming content on YouTube to being the second after Minecraft. And so we were gaining in share, we were gaining in volume. The company continued to grow super fast. But the attribution remained the challenge to get more resources. Okay, well, how do we know that this wouldn't be happening anyway? It's very tempting to think that when you're growing so fast. Because our product is great. And it is also that, for sure. I don't challenge that. But yeah, I think the fascinating thing about Roblox was it was, I think one of the learnings is that I think it really started to grow really fast around 2014, 2015 when two things happened. One, it introduced monetization, which I think is the key thing. When you look at where the best content is, it's where creators of that content can get compensated for. And there's a path to building a business around that, because the more creator can dedicate themselves to making the content, the better that content becomes. The more expertise they can bring into that craft in areas that they don't necessarily dominate, even if they are a great entertainer or a great artist, the better it becomes for them. So that ability is what drives the growth in the long term, the ability for artists and creators to get compensated. And that's what Roblox introduced in 2014, the ability for devs, it's called DevX on Roblox, so the ability for developers of content on Roblox, creators of interactive content to convert Robux back out into-

Conor Begley: Cash.

Rodrigo Velloso: Cash in varying currencies. And YouTube is the other kind of platform that has a really strong monetization model. So that was one of the drivers. The other one I think was Minecraft's acquisition by Microsoft, and at least the initial restructuring that happened around Minecraft content, which was a very open platform in which Minecraft wanted to put a little bit of a wall around, which ended up alienating some creators who saw in Roblox the opportunity to do this fascinating thing, which I think still is fascinating, which is to build a multimedia content business. I'm in video, but I'm expanding into interactive content. A lot of Minecraft creators were already doing that. A lot of Minecraft YouTubers had roles or equity in Minecraft servers where people did multiplayer, whether it was Hypixel, or what was that Minecraft Hunger Games game? I forgot.

Conor Begley: Oh, I don't remember. I know what you're talking about.

Rodrigo Velloso: ...all these different iterations of Minecraft, so people could have just a regular server to play vanilla with friends and there was a cost to that, or they could have a whole version of the game that was modded by independent developer. So there was that independent developer or that indie aspect to Minecraft, which was a little bit alienated when Mojang was acquired. And that was enough to kickstart the Roblox video ecosystem, because a lot of those creators said, oh, here's another interactive content platform that has its own own business model.

Conor Begley: It's surprising that more of the social companies haven't moved towards revenue sharing models, because I think as a social platform, you can really deliver, there's two different kinds of value. So one is cash, I can make money. So that happens in YouTube, Roblox, et cetera. The other one is distribution. So a lot of people moving towards TikTok because there's so many people on TikTok and there's not enough content, and so there's a chance to gain distribution, you gain followers. But it's just been shocking to me, because again, I think a big part of YouTube's success is that a lot of people, that's how they earn their income reliably, is on YouTube. And the fact that other platforms, I mean, again, it's probably hard to say, well, we're making all this money, we're going to cut it down by 30% and give it to other people once you're making all that money. That'd be hard for Instagram to do that. But in terms of longevity, it just seems so critical. Yeah. I don't know

Rodrigo Velloso: I mean for me, and I don't know if this is the correct diagnosis, but having worked at Twitter also in between there for just about a year, I think the feed model has a lot to do with that. When your traffic, when your viewership is all coming from the feed, which is let's say a curated experience, which combines and say, not the content that people make and publish, but also how you display that content, first of all, it makes you think that it's the curation that is what people are inaudible... because people are scrolling through things. And so of course you understand that content is critical to that, but you can't necessarily compensate all the content creators. There's not much of a difference between... It's harder to value, okay, well what did the New York Times article link do for keeping that person on the feed versus their friend versus something else that they follow? It's harder to measure, let's say, what's keeping the person on the feed. And the ad is coming in between two different pieces of content. So even if you wanted to attribute it to one of them, you'd have to question, how do you actually attribute this-

Conor Begley: Yeah. Who gets credit for that?

Rodrigo Velloso: It's harder because of the feed model to say attribute. At Twitter, when I was there, we introduced a video, and it was much easier to say, oh, somebody's watching a video that this person posted. That's very clearly, if we serve an ad within that, after they've already been viewing force, then that's very clearly coming from that creator. And we did try to introduce that model. I can't say why it didn't continue. It was successful early on. I think the company has a lot of, and sadly continues to have a lot of management inaudible... which is part because of it's this whole confusion about, oh, it's the town square, and it's the conversation, and it's what's happening now beyond just a distribution platform. Anyway. So I think it has to do with the feed model. That would be my theory, that the feed model makes it complicated, but just it fits the facts. Facebook has Facebook itself, Instagram, both feed oriented.

Conor Begley: I feel like you can solve it though. There's a lot of smart people. You could come up with some proxy. But yeah, the feed model definitely makes it more difficult, for sure. And maybe, I'm sure I'm underestimating it. You mentioned management issues at Twitter. Are you a believer? What do you think? Is it going to implode, or do you think Elon's going to take it to the next stage? Or does it just continue along?

Rodrigo Velloso: I'm skeptical of someone who has no real media or social media experience. Just as brilliant as they may be in other fields... I've seen that happen. Just to draw completely different comparisons and not speak just to the person, because I think I'm not a believer that anyone does anything alone.

Conor Begley: Yeah, of course. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Rodrigo Velloso: I find that whole meritocratic idea a little misleading. So it's not just about that individual. But I feel like when there's no background, no history, no experience at that top level, it gets complicated. And there's great examples of this happening across tech. If you look at Google Stadium, Google Plus, just to stick with one that I had a first inaudible... those are attempts to do something that was beyond the core of the company or of the team. As much as folks, it was just not in the DNA. So I just feel like that's the problem there. It's there's not a core DNA. It's an alien organism and I don't think that works out. Which is not to say the company doesn't thrive, or doesn't find that isn't realized fairly quickly and the right team is found. That happens with investments all the time. So I really think it's around about putting the right team in place. And I just feel like it's moved away from that. I'm not sure that this kind of like, hey, let's start from scratch on that front is the best approach. So I will say this, I love Twitter. Having worked there for only a year, it's still one of my favorite apps. It's certainly a big amount of my screen time goes to Twitter. So I really hope that it will find its path, that that team will be found. I think that might take longer than it would have in another structure, but I'm hopeful it will happen. And I really think it comes down to that. It comes down to bringing the experience and empowering the right vision of it.

Conor Begley: I was always surprised, I always felt like the right path for Google to build, because Google Plus, they were trying to compete in the social space. It always felt like, I mean, you already have YouTube. Make YouTube. Why not have a feed experience where people can share? You know what I mean? You already have people interacting there. I don't know that it would've worked, but it always felt like that would've been the path. And they're doing this in some ways, in a totally different way, which I think is fascinating. I love YouTube TV as well. But it's build off of the back of that. You already have the users, you already have content. You could build a feed- based experience that included text and other media formats. And they're doing that a little bit with YouTube shorts. But it always felt like the right path to me. But I don't know.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. It's hard to argue with success.

Conor Begley: It's worked out pretty well for Google. So let's talk about Spring. So you've been at Spring for six months now. Obviously now the creators are your customers in a lot of ways. So that's really, you're enabling them to monetize. So they've now built up this distribution, this audience. And I think one of the primary ways that they connect with their audience as well as monetize their businesses is through gear, stuff, shirts, all these kinds of things. What was it that made you excited about Spring to join? And then what have you noticed in terms of, obviously you had deep experience with the creators in the gaming side, but Spring doesn't only work with gaming creators, they work across the ecosystem, so what have you noticed that's different about the broader creator ecosystem that maybe you didn't know before?

Rodrigo Velloso: Well, what drew me to Spring, I think it's my career moment more than anything else. So I decided to leave Roblox in May of last year when I completed four years at the company and I fully vested. Because I felt I had gone through a cycle there, a lot of changes were coming in terms of the growth vision, moving, let's say away a little bit from the core community and looking to how to expand into new segments, particularly older audiences, and also new countries, new languages. And my interest, let's say, I think was in that community aspect, in the connection between content, creator and community and the sustainability of creator businesses through just leaning into that. As artists, as content creators, creators are about creating that connection and about connecting with the people that consume their content through the content itself in a first stage, but then through repetitive consumption of content and increasing understanding of the creator behind that content, it becomes more than that. And that's really cool in and of itself. And additionally, it also is what drives, in my view, the commerce opportunity, or the monetization opportunity, if you want to look at it more broadly, it's that. So I was keen to continue exploring that, leveraging my creator content and growing community knowledge. The desire to go into Twitter, the desire to go into Roblox was very much about enhancing my capability in that community building aspect. And so at least my role, a lot of new leaders came into Roblox with the IPO, right before the IPO, right after the IPO. And with that new direction, I felt like I needed to move on. So I was looking, as I exited Roblox, I started working with a lot of startups in both the creator economy and metaverse spaces, but really trying to find a next opportunity that had a few characteristics. One, that my background experience with creators, with content could drive an outsize impact on the business. And two, that I could have an equity in the business, such that the extent that that happened, I would be a builder. Not just from a financial perspective, but from a realization perspective, from, hey, I built this thing. And so here's where I will share a scoop with you. I've given you the scoop on your podcast.

Conor Begley: Oh, woo. Let's do it.

Rodrigo Velloso: And I didn't say it earlier because I didn't want to interrupt the flow. But with Spring's acquisition, Spring was acquired by inaudible... called Maze in beginning of November of last year, which I think was absolutely the right move for the company and I think it's an exciting direction that they're going in. But with that acquisition and the restructuring that came with it, it really no longer aligns with these core objectives that I laid out. So I actually, I'm transitioned from a full- time employee to consultant as of January 1st, and I'll be consulting for the next several months. But I'm in the process of transitioning out of that role and back to my search for that next thing, where for me, again, it's going back to what drew me to Spring in the first place, which was your question, I'd say it's this idea of commerce and community, and how we enable creators to build those two things together, or put another way, build community in a way that is sustainable for them as creators. I think the most fascinating thing about Spring and the different types of creators, and I was already seeing this at Roblox and other platforms, and I moved away from, if you look at my career path, I see myself as having moved away from ad revenue as a primary source of creator sustainability toward commerce, toward fan- based revenue, whether subscriptions, or events, or I loved all of cameos and all of these different... And what I found at Spring that was fascinating, branching out beyond gaming and the very particular monetization models for creators in that genre can be very different from the monetization models from creators in other genres, like health. I mean, a lot of health and wellbeing creators have much smaller followings, but because of the repeat nature of the interaction, and the intensity of the interaction and the fact that they bring so much know how and useful knowledge, practical knowledge to their fans, they don't need the hundred thousand followers that a Roblox video star needed to have to even show up as a blip. Sometimes they can have less than that and create a sustainable business. And that's really where it gets fascinating to me, is understanding all of these different paths to being a creator, a full- time creator, which some might argue stems back to my own frustration as a creator who never managed to make it as a creator and had to turn to being an executive.

Conor Begley: Oh, man. Well, I think you're going to get a lot of contacts after this podcast, which is good. So I really appreciate you taking out the time, Rod. I've got one last fun question. So obviously you've interacted with, you are a user of social media. I know I share far too much stuff with my friends and family. If there were one person that you shared the most often with your friends and family, could be Twitter, TikTok, whatever it is, YouTube, who is that creator?

Rodrigo Velloso: Oh, man, that is a tough one.

Conor Begley: It's a tough one. Or it could be a genre of content, could be genre of content too.

Rodrigo Velloso: Honestly, I'm a big consumer of series. I feel like the thing I most share is telling my kids what to watch. I have three daughters, 16, 18 and 21 years old. So they share a lot of TikToks with me. But I find it's very interesting to notice, it's very rarely creator based, content based. So it's like inaudible... that are help us connect around an idea of, oh, what a oldest daughter is. So again, content and community. Our family is a community too. But lately I've been really fascinated with LinkedIn. And I'd say as a creator economy guy, I've been sharing a lot of content in that space. So Colin and Samir and these guru, I'm discovering, let's say perhaps late, a lot of the great content around the creator economy that's being generated. So a lot of it journalists branching out into... I don't want to come in here and cite a bunch of your competitors.

Conor Begley: Oh no, it's okay. It's all a rising tide, right?

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. But they're super interesting sources of content. So I actually at Spring got to work with Lauren Schnipper and Josh Cohen from Tube Filter do the Creator Upload podcast. And I've been listening also to, I reconnected with Jim Louderback, who's an old friend, and is now doing, I forgot, he's actually on his second creator economy podcast, so I don't want to mess up the names. I think the one he's doing currently is with journalists from The Information, if memory serves.

Conor Begley: Okay, cool.

Rodrigo Velloso: I've been sharing a lot of content about the creator economy. I've been trying to create, let's say, or at least not really create, not with the ambition of gaining a following, but just with the ambition of pushing myself to write more, and writing about what you know is the easiest. So I think throughout the last year, I shared a lot of creator economy content on LinkedIn. I would say other than sharing new shows and TikToks with my daughters, I'd say the more relevant answer for this audience is probably that. I think-

Conor Begley: I think LinkedIn is highly underrated. It's heavily utilized and the engagement on it is significantly higher. There's something about it being a closed ecosystem, rather than Twitter, it's like, I'm afraid to even something on Twitter, because I know, one, I don't know how opinions are going to change over time. You like something and today that's okay, 10 years from now, maybe not. And then separately, I think that it's just so public, anybody can see it. And I think in a lot of ways it was smart. You saw they started showing views on Twitter where you can now see how people view something, which is like, holy shit, it's so much higher than you would expect, because engagement on a purview basis is so much lower. Yeah. So I'm just a huge fan of LinkedIn, particularly for that type of content, professional content.

Rodrigo Velloso: And when we talk about community, and we talk about credibility and content, all topics that we've broached, LinkedIn is very unique in the sense that the credentials of the creator are all very right there.

Conor Begley: Yeah. You can be like, who is this person? inaudible

Rodrigo Velloso: ...the whole resume. Exactly. It's not like, here's my social media and you can find out how many followers I have. It's not a popularity contest. It is that too, but it has this additional layer of-

Conor Begley: Credibility.

Rodrigo Velloso: Credibility, of identity, real identity, deep identity.

Conor Begley: Yeah, that's fascinating. I hadn't thought about that before. Because you go to somebody's Twitter, okay, there's a short bio, but there's not much there. It's like, okay, here's my post and here's my resume with my post.

Rodrigo Velloso: Yeah. And on Twitter it's like, oh, here's what I want my friends and potential outsiders to know about me. That's what I write in my Twitter bio. And LinkedIn is like, here's what I want people who want to hire me or pay me somehow to know.

Conor Begley: Yeah. Yeah.

Rodrigo Velloso: So it's a whole other incentive system.

Conor Begley: Yeah. That's fascinating. Well, Rod, I feel like I could go for another hour, but I want to be respectful of your time.

Rodrigo Velloso: No. It's been a fantastic conversation. I really enjoyed it, Connor.

Conor Begley: Yeah, this was great. And I am excited to see where your next landing spot is. I think we're going to have to talk some advisory stuff here ourselves. And, yeah. And congrats again on all this success. I think what you've accomplished is just so impressive.

Rodrigo Velloso: Thanks so much, Connor. It's been a real pleasure. Thanks for having me. And happy New Year to you and to all your listeners.

Conor Begley: Yes, you too. Bye, Rod.

Rodrigo Velloso: Bye. Thanks, Connor.

Outro: Be a friend, tell a friend and subscribe. Earned by Creator IQ. Creator IQ is your all- in- one solution to grow, manage, scale and measure your influencer marketing program. Ready to unlock the power of the creator economy? Get started with a demo today at creatoriq. com.


In Ep. 67 of Earned, Conor sits down with creator economy expert and gaming industry veteran Rodrigo Velloso. We begin by learning what attracted Rod, who built his early career in traditional media, to join the then-booming tech industry. Conor and Rod then share their predictions for how the rise in AI technology like ChatGPT will impact industries across the board. We dive into Rod’s time at YouTube in the early 2010s, and hear why the platform’s shifting focus from views to watch time led to increased interest in long-form gaming videos—a completely new genre of content at the time. Next, Rod shares his learnings from his time as YouTube’s Director of Gaming Partnerships, before pivoting to his experience leading creator-led marketing at interactive gaming platform Roblox—which helped fuel the company’s hypergrowth to compete with gaming giants like Minecraft. We learn how Roblox’s monetization model drew an influx of gamers to the platform, and Rod emphasizes how the best content lives where its creators can be properly compensated for it. To close the show, we hear what Rod has learned about the broader creator economy since joining creator commerce platform Spring, and Rod reveals what’s up next for his career.