When quarantine began, Chris Neff, executive director of creative technology and innovation at The Community, noticed his mother-in-law taking Zumba classes on Instagram Live.
He wondered how these instructors were being paid for their work and discovered that, oftentimes, they weren’t. Instructors can ask for payment via external apps such as Venmo, but there’s no way for viewers to directly pay through Instagram Live itself.
“I found there was no solution in place to actually pay any individual that wanted to livestream,” Neff said. That’s when he came up with the idea for Fundi, which essentially combines livestreaming platform Twitch with payment processing app Stripe to make it easier for viewers to send money to creators who are livestreaming their fitness classes, cooking shows, concerts and more.
Here’s how it works: Creators interested in livestreaming their shows or performances must set up a Twitch account through Fundi, then add their bank account information using Stripe.
Once viewers set up a Fundi account and plug in their credit card information, they can pay creators by simply clicking on a sticker during their livestream. Each click equals $1, so those who tune in can send as much or as little as they want throughout the duration of the stream. Viewers don’t need a Twitch account to watch livestreams on Fundi.
According to Neff, The Community used “a little bit of paid media” on YouTube to get the word out about Fundi, but has mostly relied on organic reach and influencers. Plant-based chef Benjamin Goldman is one of a handful of people who’ve recently used Fundi to share a livestream.
Neff said that The Community has no plans to monetize Fundi in any way.
“During this time, our desire is to help and inspire our communities. Through Fundi, we want to help all those talented and creative people in this time of need, while supporting a future wherein live streaming will continue to play a big part of our lives,” he said. “The viewer gets to learn and enjoy something new, and the talent gets rewarded. We see that as a win-win.”
The Community is currently working on expanding Fundi’s capabilities. For instance, Neff said the agency is working on an enhancement that will let viewers “like” creators and send payment to them even once a livestream has ended. It’s also working on a button similar to Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature that will direct viewers to a random livestream happening once they live.
Neff said Fundi was created with “everyday talented people” in mind, not the “Twitch gamer with a million followers,” explaining that it’s primarily for musicians, drag queens and others who are used to making money in person, not virtually.
“There are people on Instagram that have a good following, who are used to doing things in the real world, that now have to leverage that following and figure out how to do things online,” he said. “That’s who we built this for. Our solution allows these specialists to not only earn funds, but also grow a new proficiency in livestreaming that can carry beyond the pandemic.”
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