From Los Angeles to Silicon Valley, a trend has emerged among social media influencers and startup founders to move into a mansion with ten or so employees, work together day and night to achieve fame and fortune, and hope your new roommates will do the dishes. But across the country in Atlanta fast growing technology center, the Black team has rethought the idea. What if a collective of influencers could be truly collaborative and not fodder for the depressed reality show netflix?
Famous influential teamThe Collab Crew (formerly known as Collab Crib) has had a tumultuous few months since TechCrunch met them at VidCon. Founder Keith Dorsey resigned focus on his mental health by appointing Robert Dean III (@robiiiworld) take the lead. Why is the name changing? Unfortunately, they are no longer a “crib” – their house in the Atlanta area was sold, so they could not renew the lease.
Now Collab Crew is trying to make the most of the situation. Instead of living together outside of Atlanta in Fayetteville, Hamira Sykes (@queenkhamyra), Chad Epps (@chadio), Calin Castle (@kaelincastle), Tracey Billingsley (@traybills) and other co-authors launch Collab Studio ATL. Located just minutes from downtown Atlanta, Collab Studio ATL describes itself as “a technology one-stop-shop for content creators, HBCU students, and young entrepreneurs to achieve their business goals.”
At the age of sixteen, Sykes was already featured on Forbes 30 under 30 list along with other members of the Collab Crew Theo Wisse and Castle. But because she is so young, she did not live in the collective’s house. Now she’s happy to work in a studio that’s more about business than home, which also doubles as a living space.
“My company putta crown on it has the ability to host classes, promotional shoots and more,” Sykes told TechCrunch via email. “I feel like the studio could be a great place for writers like me to thrive. The productivity in the studio is much higher than at home for business and content.”
By moving away from the influencer house model, the Collab Crew can also expand to attract more BIPOC creators and entrepreneurs in the Georgia capital.
The studio is currently partially funded through partnerships with Monster Energy and Snap 523 program, which supports small content companies and creators from underrepresented groups. There is an application process and participation fee for Collab Studio ATL members, but the group hopes these costs will be subsidized by partners in the future – they say the application process is more about assessing the needs of the entrepreneur or creator and what services they require from the space. The cost of membership varies depending on what kind of resources the applicant is looking for, whether it be marketing, helping to connect with potential brand partners, or using the studio space.
Participants estimate that at launch, one-day access to the workspace will cost $25, while studio use will range from $150 to $250 per hour. Depending on how often a member wants to book a studio, the monthly membership will range from $85 to $250.
Collab Studio ATL says the goal of the application process is not to turn people away, but to make sure new members fit in well with the community. They also plan to build a professional music studio and sound stage. At the launch, core members of the Collab Crew welcomed partners such as director Giron Griffincreative director Elijah Brown and publicist Brandy Merryweather.
The group says they drew inspiration from similar community-focused technology incubators in Atlanta, such as Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, PROPEL Center as well as Gathering placebut Collab Studio will focus more on the entertainment industry.
The new studio could inspire a cohort of creators who have succeeded despite major setbacks.
Both black influencers and startup founders face systemic barriers to their growth. Just like the black founders unfairly overlooked in venture capitalblack content creators had their work stolen as well as earn less brand deals than white creators, studies have shown.
AT documentary As for the Collab Crew, Castle even said she dyed half of her hair pink because she felt the TikTok algorithm would be more likely to show her videos when it saw the brighter colors. Since TikTok’s algorithm is so confusing, it’s hard to confirm this particular claim, but it makes sense why Castle is worried that she might be unfairly suppressed on the platforms – as has happened in the past.
For example, at the height of the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, TikTok posts with hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd like 0 views. TikTok later apologized for what it called “the technical errorbut the creators of Black continue to voice concerns that they are being repressed on the platform. One year later, Ziggy Tyler revealed in a TikTok video, how the TikTok creators’ marketplace wouldn’t let him say “black lives matter” but would let him say “support white supremacy.” And again TikTok apologized. (The platform claimed the error was due to Tyler’s post also having the word “audience” in it, which had the letters “die” in it – combined with the word “black”, this triggered automatic moderation of TikTok content.)
“We have to work five times harder to reach the minimum on any platform,” said Dean, a 31-year-old filmmaker. He and his younger colleagues were disappointed to learn that their white peers were earning more than they did for the same job.
“I was working with one of my friends who happened to be white and we were talking because we were both in the same campaign. […] and they were clearly getting paid more than me,” said Epps, a 23-year-old with over 7 million TikTok followers. “I just feel very sad that black creators and the black community are underrepresented and underpaid. But again, this adds fuel to the fire and I keep working harder and harder.”
BUT recent report in The Washington Post supports claims that black authors were underpaid. It emerged that Triller, a competitor to TikTok, specifically hired black creators as partners but failed to meet its payment obligations, the creators said. The report notes that due to Triller withholding payment, some creators said they lost their homes and went into debt, but Triller still plans to go public in the fall. As part of their deals, some creators, including members of the Collab Crew, were to receive a financial stake in the company. But it is not yet clear whether this will be implemented.
When Collab Crew was asked about their reaction to Triller’s murderous investigation, they emailed TechCrunch. statement, but declined to reveal if and how it affected its members. The Collab Crew said they hope that creators who didn’t get the money they were promised could get the money.
“Collaboration, moral integrity, genuine ethical business practices, and consistent investment in BIPOC creators and businesses may eventually close the gap,” their post reads. statement said.
The idea of ”continuous investment” is key to how Collab Crew wants to run their studio by offering long-term support to their members to grow. Companies like TikTok, Meta, YouTube, and Snapchat have launched programs that provide funding and resources to select black creators, and that quick capital is useful, but Dean believes the disparity on these platforms is deeper.
“Some of these programs are cool, but after that? Some of these white hat creators were set up just because they fit the algorithm,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s harder for black creators to even run YouTube than it is for a regular white writer.”
Whether you live in the same home or work together in your new studio, Collab Crew is following the same strategy to give black creators the opportunities they deserve: collaboration and mutual support.
“We all teach each other […] We have strong and weak platforms, but if we are all together, everything will be fine, ”Sykes explained.
“Unlike other bands where it’s every man for himself, it’s more like teamwork,” Dean said.
Credit: techcrunch.com /