Area 120, Google’s incubator division for experimental projects, has officially opened up Fundo — a platform for YouTubers and other creators to host paid, ticketed virtual experiences — to anyone in the U.S. and Canada.
Fundo, as first reported by Variety, has been in beta for the past year with a few hundred “trusted testers,” who can set the price for access to online events and control how many people can attend, says general manager John Gregg. It’s a turnkey service, providing hosting features including video streaming, promotional tools, and payment-transaction processing.
Google takes a 20% cut of revenue generated through Fundo. “We think that represents the value Fundo provides with the end-to-end platform,” says Gregg.
With the official launch of the site (at this link: fundo.town), events now will be searchable and creators can offer an online experience with an open-ended schedule (in which a guest requests a time and pays, the creator then confirms, and they meet one-on-one).
Fundo was originally conceived of as a tool to let YouTube creators organize virtual meet-ups — something that has gained currency given COVID social-distancing restrictions. But the Fundo team has found that it has found a broad range of use cases, including workout sessions, cooking classes or workshops.
“In 2020, a lot of things are online,” Gregg says. “We’re not exclusive for YouTube creators. We think it provides value to any kind of creator… There are lots of different ways it can be used.”
Fundo first recruited creators at 2019 VidCon US. Users on the platform have hosted events with a wide range of price points, ranging from free up to $50 per person, according to Gregg.
Fundo is designed for events on a relatively small scale, allowing for up to 30 people to be on camera at the same time for an interactive session. “The core use cases are meet-and-greets, small workshops, and medium-size group experiences,” says Gregg.
There are no apps for Fundo: Event hosts and their guests access everything on the site using special-purpose video-chat system (separate from YouTube). A feature that hearkens back to its meet-up origins is the built-in “photo booth” feature, in which each attendee gets a photo with a creator-customized frame.
Of course, creators have other options for hosting paid events. Facebook last month launched a paid live-events feature (similarly, entirely hosted on the social platform) and says it won’t take any cut of revenue for at least 12 months, unless attendees pay through iOS apps (in which case Apple takes a 30% cut).
And YouTube’s membership program lets creators charge different price tiers for various perks, including access to exclusive livestreams. Why wouldn’t YouTubers just use that? Gregg says the model is different: YouTube memberships are a recurring monthly charge, while Fundo is for specific scheduled events. That said, Fundo could at some point become a perk to YouTube channel subscribers, according to Gregg.
Fundo remains an experimental project in Area 120, says Gregg, who before co-founding the project worked at YouTube on mobile apps and video-editing tools. “At each step we learn more,” he says. “But we review it regularly… and it could be shut down.”
Pictured above: Fundo meet-and-greet with YouTube gaming vlogger KreekCraft