Linktree CEO Alex Zaccaria spent countless nights working until 4am making his side hustle a global brand. Now he wants to pay it forward.
Linktree’s Alex Zaccaria: ‘Now We’re In A Position To Be Able To Give Back’
Alex Zaccaria’s pinch-me moment involved a 15-time Grammy winner. In 2019, Linktree, the startup he founded with his brother Alex and their close friend Nick Humphreys, was starting to see user sign-ups soar. Then one big name came on board.
“The moment we realized it had taken off was when Alicia Keys signed up,” he recalls. “That a musician of that calibre had signed up showed we’d created something of use to people.”
A few years later, Linktree has grown into a business with more than 14-million users in 234 countries who belong to more than 250 industries, averaging 32,000 signups per day. It’s been championed by Forbes, raised over USD$55 million in funding from investors and been dubbed “the new digital storefront.”
A-listers like Selena Gomez, Jamie Oliver and Pharrell Williams have joined the platform along the way, but Alicia Keys still marks the moment Linktree stopped feeling like a side hustle and started being Zaccaria’s full time gig. That was a huge deal for him.
Creating a business of his own was always Zaccaria’s dream. He grew up watching his parents run their own business, a music retail store in Melbourne, Australia. It shaped the way he thought about work.
“My siblings and I would get home, my parents would make dinner and they’d constantly be talking about the business at dinner. Then we’d go to bed and they would keep working until 1am,” Zaccaria says. “It was very much this mentality of, ‘You have to do everything yourself.’ And I think that influenced me to think that I would always work for myself, or create something of my own.”
Now, Zaccaria wants to pay it forward to help other creators, founders and entrepreneurs achieve their own success story. That’s why Linktree is teaming up with Square to launch the Passion Fund —a grants program where online creators and entrepreneurs can apply for the chance to receive financial support to further their vision.
The Passion Fund will disburse a total of $250,000 USD to 25 to 40 creators, artists, side hustlers and small businesses, with entries judged by Zaccaria alongside the likes of Queer Eye star Karamo and Grace Beverley, the founder and CEO of fitness brands TALA and Shreddy.
The Passion Fund was inspired by the growth of what’s called ‘the passion economy’ —something that Linktree has helped facilitate over the past 12 months, as the pandemic has inspired people across a range of industries to go online and find new income streams.
Unlike the gig economy, where the work you do is still controlled by a third party, the passion economy is entirely self-owned. The rise of Linktree—as well as platforms like Cameo, Patreon, Substack, Twitch and Gumroad—has removed the middleman and given creators complete agency over how they monetize their work. It’s a “tectonic shift” that Zaccaria says is democratizing online entrepreneurship.
“I think it’s an amazing evolution that creatives can make a living from their profession and consider what they do their ‘real job’,” he says. “Because what they do and what they create for the world is as serious and important to the world as any other job.”
Zaccaria is proud of the role Linktree has had in spurring the growth of the passion economy.
“Creative audiences live in so many different places, in a fragmented marketplace. To be able to unify them all in one place is hugely important,” he says.
But as well as being an easy way to connect all of your online profiles and begin email marketing, Linktree now allows users to collect tips or payments on the platform. It’s a functionality that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for creators. Users can now accept payments from their audience to make everything from videos to songs and special recipes. As Zaccaria puts it: “Linktree is a one stop shop to be able to monetize your audience.”
Creating simple but powerful solutions is something Zaccaria has a lot of practice in. After years spent running music events and managing DJs, Zaccaria teamed up with Humphreys and his brother to found an agency called Bolster that managed digital marketing and strategy for music industry clients. But on the job, they kept running into the same problem again and again: every time an artist had a new tour or release to promote, they needed to swap out the link in their Instagram bio. The trio wanted a way to put everything an artist had to promote in the one link, so they created Linktree.
But already running Bolster as a full-time job meant that for a long time, Linktree was something they had to work on after hours. Often, the trio would stay up until 3 or 4am in their share house tinkering on the product.
The hard work paid off. But the years spent side hustling means Zaccaria knows how demanding balancing a day job with an after-hours pursuit can be–even when you’re doing something you’re deeply passionate about.
“Linktree was born as a side hustle, so we know what it takes to be able to create something that you love,” Zaccaria says. “And now we’re in a position to be able to give back and create more opportunity for creatives to turn their side hustles into their full time passion. We’re extremely excited that we’re able to do that.”
So as someone who’s managed to make a living doing what he loves, what is Zaccaria’s advice for getting your passion off the ground?
“Do it yesterday,” he says. “If it’s something you love doing, there’s never been a better time in history then now to be able to make a living from your passion. So get out and do it.”