Rosie Nguyen is not your typical startup founder. Her Instagram grid perfectly reflects the two sides of who she is: in one post, she’s live on CNBC, speaking out against Apple’s developer fees. In the next, she poses on a wooden floor with the caption, “Day 89 No Sex: Sit on the floor so I can feel hard wood beneath me.” And in the post after that, she shares her front page appearance in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nguyen is the CMO of Fanhouse, a monetization platform that rivals Patreon and OnlyFans, but as she builds Fanhouse, she’s also building her career as a content creator. Online, Nguyen is known as jasminericegirl, whether she’s streaming games like Valorant on Twitch or posting raunchy jokes to her 157,000 Twitter followers.
“I’m a creator at heart and always will be, and just because I’m a founder now, doesn’t mean I’m not a creator,” Nguyen said. She sees these two sides of her persona as complementary, rather than at odds with each other, or – god forbid – unprofessional. “It’s something positive that really goes hand in hand, and I think a good investor will see that.”
As it turned out, Nguyen was right. Fanhouse just secured a $20 million Series A round from Andreessen Horowitz, and the platform is on the cusp of surpassing $10 million in creator payouts in less than two years. The creators include The Chainsmokers (who are also pre-seed investors), Andrea Botez, Yoshi Sudaruso and more.
It’s not unheard of for a YouTube star or TikTok sensation to be the face of a creator economy startup, but usually when this happens it’s with extremely established, high-earning names looking for new business opportunities, such as MrBeast with Creative Juice or David Dobrik with Dispo. As a young emerging creator, Nguyen understands what the “creator middle class” – people who make some money on social media, but don’t get into it – now needs to grow their business.
“I met Khoi [Le]my co-founder, on Twitter, and we became best friends,” Nguyen told MovieUpdates. “I told him all these things, like, OnlyFans sucks, I hate it, I want to get rid of it, but I need the money. .. Or like, Twitch takes 50% of the subscriptions, it’s so exhausting.”
Le, a Stanford graduate with an entrepreneurial background, told Nguyen that they could build her dream monetization platform together, so they started experimenting with ideas that would later turn into Fanhouse. The founding trio is completed by CTO Amy Shen, who brings technical experience from Robinhood and Google.
“I was one of those people who never really knew if I had a dream job,” Nguyen said. Raised in a low-income household, her goal was simply to earn enough money to lift her family out of poverty. When she graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she took a job in investment banking for salary alone. But she soon found herself staying up late into the night working on the idea for Fanhouse.
“I realized I have a dream job, and this is it,” she said. “I wouldn’t say my passion is entrepreneurship, but my passion is helping content creators.”
Unlike OnlyFans, Fanhouse doesn’t allow NSFW content – too many hoops to jump through credit card companies and fundraising. Nguyen isn’t against the idea, but she believes there needs to be “a more societal and legal shift” before that is feasible for Fanhouse. OnlyFans faced its own debacle last year when it nearly banned NSFW content due to changing credit card company guidelines.
Fans can pay a monthly fee to access exclusive content, including text, photo, video and audio uploads. Fanhouse just rolled out an integration with Spotify too, so if you’re one of the top listeners of The Chainsmokers, for example, you can subscribe to Fanhouse for free.
But what sets the platform apart is its commitment to protecting creators. This, of course, is related to Nguyen’s own experiences in the public eye.
“On Twitter, I receive unsolicited cock pics, report them, and never get a response from Twitter,” Nguyen said. She also remembers receiving threats from subscribers to OnlyFans. “I wanted to change all of these problems I’m experiencing on platforms.”
as Nguyen tweeted from the Fanhouse account last week: “Just a reminder that when someone leaks private fanhouse content, not only will our support team track down who leaked it to fine and deactivate it, but they will also site DMCAs. we’ve removed entire subreddits and discord servers before. don’t mess with our creators.”
Nguyen says Fanhouse can remove leaks and find out who leaked exclusive content because every creator upload has a watermark. Each fan has their own personal watermark, so if they leak content, Fanhouse can trace the leak to their account.
Each account on Fanhouse must also be associated with a phone number, and once a user is banned, they cannot create another account using that phone number.
When it comes to payments, Fanhouse takes 10% of its creators’ revenue, which is small compared to OnlyFans’ 20% or Twitch’s 50-50 split. But despite being a new app with about 25 team members, Fanhouse has already opposed Apple over the 30% cut in in-app purchases.
Apple’s 30% discount is hugely controversial – Fortnite maker Epic Games has taken the tech giant to court over this.
“If a subscription was $10 and someone paid an app $10, now the maker just gets $6,” explains Nguyen.
So Fanhouse developed “coins”, an in-app currency that fans can purchase on the web and then pay creators in the app at no cost since the coins are already loaded into their account. If a fan wants to buy coins in the app, they will be charged an additional 50% to offset Apple’s discount, encouraging them to simply make the purchase on the web. Other platforms like Twitch are trying to do this by selling in-app currency such as “bits,” which can be purchased online and handed out in-app.
“It’s not the easiest way to get creators paid, now there’s just an extra step, but we’d rather take that extra step because the other alternative is to have the creators’ revenue taken directly from them,” she said.
Starting a startup is always a risk, and for Nguyen the risk is personal – she still wants to achieve her goal of supporting her family, and that would certainly have been easier if she had stayed with investment banking. But so far, her decision feels like it was worth it.
†[Growing up], we used to potter around,” she recalls. “But I’d rather do Fanhouse and live like that than bank and be more stable.”