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  • Beyond TikTok: Tejas Hullur's Bold Moves in the Creator Economy

Beyond TikTok: Tejas Hullur's Bold Moves in the Creator Economy

Pivoting to a New YouTube Era, Long-Term Brand Partnerships, and an Ice Cream Shop Co-Founder Role

The Creator

I think the biggest lesson that I've learned in the last 2 years is I've been taking one step on 12 different paths in my professional career thus far, and this year I want to take all 12 steps on 1 path….

Tejas Hullur is a 22-year-old college dropout who’s built a brand in the Creator Economy community as one of Gen Z’s top metacreators! Since, 2021, Tejas has talked about personal finance, personal development, and the Creator Economy across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Substack, while expanding his business to co-founding Dylan Lemay’s NYC ice cream shop, CATCH’N Ice Cream, and launching into traditional media as a host on Nickelodeon’s Nick News!

I’ve been following Tejas since his meteoric rise in 2021, and I was super excited to chat with him and learn more about his business. He shares a vision and approach that is deeply mature and uniquely Gen Z, on everything from reprioritizing his entire business to how he prefers to work with brands.

I hope you find the conversation valuable!

For Superlogic subscribers, today’s The Stack reveals insights from Tejas on:

  • Why he’s willing to pay 10% to a talent agency despite knowing how to negotiate his own deals

  • How he uses ChatGPT to improve his content’s performance

  • The unique fan think tank he’s built to enable quality ideation week after week

But first, let’s get into The Business for Tejas Hullur!

The Business

Breakdown

Links

Observations

In the Creator Economy, especially on LinkedIn, we talk a lot about niching down in order to find your core monetizable audience. The beauty of how Tejas approached TikTok, with is a giant mass market platform, is that he niched down in a pool of a billion people, and ended up being able to build a very large niche audience.

On TikTok:

It was the lowest barrier to entry, and so I started creating almost once a day on that platform.

I would look at TikTok as my megaphone platform. That's what I call it, right? To reach as many new people as possible.

It's a lot of using Tiktok as a virtual resume, right?

I pop up on an executive at Nickelodeon's feed on TikTok because they're trying to figure out this new world of short form, and they probably went through a hundred people that are dancing and doing comedy bits on on the app, and then they came across one of my videos.

The majority of people won't like it because it's not dancing or comedy bits on the app, but the 10% that do want something like that - that's great, right?

On YouTube:

In terms of priority, in terms of where I put most of my energy, it's like 90% YouTube, 10% the other ones.

The platform that I’m putting the most effort into at the moment is YouTube, and this is kind of a new era. It’s a new focus that I've started. YouTube long form is how I'm defining my 2023. I only have 3000 subscribers right now on YouTube but, well, let’s connect at the end of the year. I'm curious what I'm going to say about the number there.

I think the biggest lesson that I've learned in the last 2 years is I've been taking one step on 12 different paths in my professional career thus far, and this year I want to take all 12 steps on 1 path, right? It's this idea of focusing my energy into one thing, and for me, I see the most long-term benefits coming out of YouTube, not only monetarily, but also just the relationship I would have with the community. So that's why I'm really putting 9 out of 10 of my eggs in in the YouTube basket.

I’m a big believer in focus. This goes against my nature - I’m an ambitious, curious person and I want to do everything. However, as I learned early in my career that “shiny ball syndrome” - i.e. trying to catch all the shiny balls that are always flying through the air - is a great way to not catch anything.

Talent agents are a great analogue for this.

The agents, like me, who tried to work on all types of deals and chase all types of opportunities (eg YouTubers, podcasts, esports, games licensing, etc etc) eventually churned. We were a mile wide and an inch deep.

The ones who picked a lane, focused, and became true experts (like my friend Ben Davis, who built his career as “the King of Podcasts” and is now the co-head of Digital at WME) flourished.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness and (difficult) prioritization Tejas is showing by identifying his priorities and then really focusing on what matters to him most. It must be HARD to put an audience of half a million people on the backburner to focus on building from an audience of 3000, but if that’s what will enable him to achieve what he truly wants to achieve, that’s exactly what he needs to do.

On Instagram:

I've noticed that fanbase, through Instagram stories, is a little bit more close right? I think I have a deeper connection with them. So I call Instagram my platform where I have my top 10% fanbase - the people willing to watch my Instagram stories and really have this back and forth through DMs, etc.

This is a super interesting POV. My guess is that it’s uniquely Gen Z. For my generation (millennials), Instagram is a highly polished, highly curated space. Certainly my personal friends and I have a relationship through DMs (it’s sort of replaced Facebook in that sense), but I never lean in with the creators I follow - even the ones who have small enough followings that they might pay attention.

Every community-oriented company I’ve worked or consulted for looks at Instagram’s lack of community as a problem to be solved. For Tejas to point out that this is where is superfan community is flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

On LinkedIn:

Linkedin has also been kind of this new focus. I actually really like posting on there. It feels like the people are as obsessed with the space as I am on there. I can get a lot deeper in terms of topics than I can on TikTok and Instagram because of the nature of the audience on there.

On getting paid for consulting:

I like to call myself a foot soldier in the space, right? I'm someone that's really business-minded. I’ve actually worked as a creator-in-residence for companies like Stir, which are building in the space, and I've been creating as well. So I understand both sides: where the business side of things are and then where the creator side is.

There’s be a lot of conversation happening lately (led largely by folks like Peter Hollens, Cat Valdes, and other creators-turned-businesspeople) about how companies - especially Creator Economy companies - should hire Creators as advisors, consultants, and employees. Based on Tejas’ experience, it does feel like this is starting to happen!

On production deals:

I would make videos for other platforms. Like LinkedIn right? I have a YouTube video on their platform and I would also do small things like…they would pay me to do a course on their platform, right? I'll call that production, you can call that courses as well.

Hiring creators to produce content is an effective way for content platforms (like LinkedIn Learning), as well as brands who want to do content marketing, to fill their content coffers without worrying about having to manage the creative or production process. Whereas before there might have been a limited number of trusted agencies, creative, and production houses, now there are infinite famous faces with creative and production skills to match your business’ needs!

On brand partnerships:

I'm very very very fortunate in that I've never pitched myself to a brand thus far. I've always had some sort of project in my tank, for the last two years right, and I think it's because of the content I make and it's because of the niche audience, right? It’s also especially good right now, with the the state of the economy and ad budgets pulling back…people want to work with creators that have a more niche audience at the moment.

I think ever since I started, I've always had a brand or at least a project to work on. One thing I've always focused on as well is that I only really promote brands now that I actually use and I'm really organic with. Adobe is a great sponsor of mine. LinkedIn is a sponsor of mine. These platforms that I use regardless. I truly promote.

I ask these brands:

“Hey, I use your platform, you're a North Star brand for me. Instead of this one-off brand deal, what if we did a six-month partnership, or a year-long partnership.

It's mutually beneficial in that I've worked with their teams already, right? So they know me, I know them, I know how they work, so a lot of the intermediary steps are taken out.

On the ice cream shop:

CATCH’N Ice Cream did pay a small salary just to help move Dylan and I into New York City for that one year, for 2022, but in terms of revenue for Tejas Hullur LLC, I'm not getting paid from CATCH’N Ice Cream just straight up.

We raised and we wanted to make sure that our burn rate was low, right?…I was living in college. So it was just a little bit to get comfortable living in Manhattan, New York City, which is one of the most expensive areas in the United States. So it was really a nice gesture from our investors, but we wanted to keep it low.

Tejas’ involvement with the ice cream shop, aside from the small amount it paid him to move to NYC, is purely as an entrepreneur building a business and hoping to get paid out on the equity - another great example of a creator leveraging their audience to build a bigger business. While equity compensation is much riskier than cash compensation, the potential payout is higher in success.

Lightening Round

#1 tool to save time and money?

Oh my gosh, can I say my co-founders? My teammates? Is that a tool? Yeah.

With free money, who would you hire?

I would bring both of them full-time right now. I don't know if I need another person, I think I only want to take the Ryan Trahan approach of keeping a small team, so I don't have to feel like a manager at times.

Biggest risk to the business?

Not innovating fast enough. For me, I think the reason I'm putting all my eggs in the YouTube basket is because the only way I see longevity as a creator is through YouTube, right? Not only monetarily, but through the relationship I have with a fan base. I think there's a big difference between an algorithm picking my content for a fan versus a fan opting in to watch my content, and so I want to change that behavior with them. So I think the biggest risk is if I don't stay consistent and put enough time and effort into YouTube.

What’s contributing most to your growth?

Being able to cringe at myself month over month. If I don't, then I know I haven't done something enough, whether that's like being able to tell better stories, branding, ideas, etc.

My mission is to enable millions of people to benefit from the emergence of the Creator Economy. I believe that the more successful both Creators and the companies that serve Creators are, the better off humankind will be.

If you’d like to work with me directly, book a session.

Subscribe to Superlogic to keep reading, as we go in-depth on this creator’s Operating Stack!

The Stack

Today’s issue of The Stack featuring Tejas Hullur reviews his full operating stack, including:

  • The startup platforms he uses for email management, project management, calendar management, file transfers, and more

  • The three big reasons he thought it was worth signing with a major agency, despite being business-savvy himself, and

  • How Airrack and Ryan Trahan inspired him to build a superfan “Think Tank” that powers his week to week content ideation!

Subscribe to Superlogic now to get access. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week!

The Stack

Business Management

Newsletter - Substack

  • Not monetized, he really uses this as a “journal” along with two creator friends of his to chronicle their journeys

Email Management - Superhuman

I love this platform. It just keeps me organized in emails. I have all these sub-inboxes to just keep everything organized. I do have the student plan, I am using that price point which is $10 a month instead of the $30 a month plan, which is great. With the $30 a month plan, I'm not sure if I would use it, so I’m finding the value of that between $10 and $30.

Calendar Management - Cron

I use this app just because MKBHD uses it. It's free right now, I think they're going to make me pay for it later. Do I see enough value for me to pay for it? I don't think so yet. But I'm using it right now because it's free.

Banking - Chase

Credit Card - Karat

Finances - Karat

I've used them as my credit card for the last year and we recently just started the tax and bookkeeping service.

Content Creation

Video - iPhone 13 + Sony a7S III (upgrading from a Canon M50)

Audio - Shotgun mic + lavalier mics

Editing - Macbook 2020 M1 + Adobe Creative Cloud

  • Considering upgrading to M2 Pro or Max chips because he’s getting into using After Effects

Ideation - ChatGPT

  • Our first Creator Logic creator using AI!!

I have a video coming out later, I'll probably make it today, about - do you know what mukbangs are? I want to make a video about how they’ve been a genre for almost twelve years and have not lost steam in a long time.

So I have 3 hooks that I wrote to ChatGPT for this… I'm like:

“Which one of these hooks is the most interesting?”

I gave the three, and it gave me an answer, and then I wrote:

“Is there a more interesting hook?”

And it actually gave me an answer, and now I'm using a part of that answer intermixed with one of mine!

(If you’re unaware, a mukbang is simply a video / show where the host is eating while having a conversation with the audience. They’re wildly popular on YouTube and livestreaming platforms.)

Asset Management - Google Drive, Frame.io

  • Google Drive for storage, doesn’t use Dropbox and others because of switching costs (has been on Drive for years)

  • Frame.io for file transfers to his editor - it’s integrated with Adobe

Project Management - Todoist

The #1 productivity app that I swear by, I love it more than anything, is Todoist. It's really a To-Do planner, but I've spent many hours of my life trying to make a Notion template that will keep me organized, and I never found one.

I've been using Todoist for about six months now pretty diligently. It's very simple. The reminder feature is awesome. The sharing feature…I have a team of an editor and five think tank members, and to really organize everything with them is incredible.

So that's the one productivity tool I do use. If you look at my meme, I'm going into that middle section that I just made fun of, but I swear by it. I swear by it. I do I think I play for the annual plan, which is around $3 a month, and I get way more value than $3 a month.

This is the meme he referenced (which he posted on LinkedIn):

Video Distribution - Uploads natively

Website - Friend

  • Doesn’t like bio link pages

I just built my own website,

1) Because I had a friend in high school who liked web design, and I was like “I would love to work with you on this” and he was like “Yeah, I have some time, I'd love to make it”, and

2) It looks better, and I think it it shows a 360 of who I am more than just a bunch of links thrown at your face.

It’s so good. It puts out my mission, it puts out my branding…I think you you get a better representation of me. If you think about the the viewer behavior, why do they click on a link-in-bio? It's probably because they liked a video of yours, and they're like “I want to find out more about this person!”

I want to give them a better experience when they want to find out more about me than any of the link-in-bios could.

Team

Representation - WME

I do have an agent, his name's Andre, he's at WME. I don't have a manager, partly because I like to manage myself. I don't think I need a manager, I think I'm business-minded enough to understand my business, but I also subscribe to Zach Conover's theory that creators don't need managers, they need CEOs, and when I do have a platform and I do have a community where I think I need a CEO to help me with any ventures I start in the future, then I’ll hire one.

I knew Andre before WME, he worked at Jellysmack, and I've seen him at different events. I've always noticed he had an eye for this Creator Economy space as well. He's really into the meta of this whole thing, right? He has an eye for like - okay, who's creating quality over quantity… So it was really helpful to know him.

So when he got to WME, I actually didn't think he was considering me as a client, right? Because when I think of WME, I'm like "All right, that's where the big dogs are,” you know, like “One day….” but he and I, we had dinner actually almost exactly a year ago, and he said:

“Man, I'd love to represent you, I'd love to help you build up your business, I'd love to, you know, be this person that is on outreach.”

I couldn't say no.

I know one of the big things that people warned me about going with the big agencies is that you don't want to be a small fish in a big pond. But luckily, I think because of the relationship I had with Andre previously, I've never felt that. Andre's been absolutely an incredible agent for me thus far, he's helped me with every deal right? It’s crazy because I know he's probably getting 10x as big of deals with other clients. But he believes in me. He believes in the space. And he works hard to go above and beyond with me.

So my whole thing is - what value am I getting for that 10%?

1) Andre can negotiate better than I can. He's got better skills, but also, he has more information, which gives him more leverage. Let's just say he's negotiating a deal with XYZ brand, right? He can talk to all the other agents at WME who've worked with XYZ brand and get more information on how to do this. That’s pretty valuable.

2) He's the bad guy when I need him to be the bad guy. I've had things with brand deals where something happens, and I don't want to be the guy that's like, “Hey I'm not going to do this.” He's the guy that says is, and it helps me with my name because you never know what social media person is going to work at a future company, and you don't want them to say anything. He takes the brunt of that.

3) He saves me hours in my inbox in contract negotiations in figuring out deal terms, etc.

So for those 3 things for 10%, that’s worth it for me at the end of the day. I think that's a good value.

I do think that he has actually either brought business with value over that 10%, or he has negotiated well enough to make that back. That fee is net profitable from a cash perspective.

There are some great takeaways here for people looking to partner with top creators:

  • Relationships take time to build, but can pay off down the line

  • Expressing excitement and enthusiasm goes a long way

  • Ultimately, however, all that matters is delivering on your promises

IF WME never brought Tejas a deal he’d still be happy to pay the 10% because:

  • WME has better info and can get better deal terms

  • WME can act as the “bad guy” when there are inevitable challenges

  • WME takes work off his plate so he can focus on being a creator

While not all creators feel this way, all three are 100% valid reasons to pay 10% of revenue.

Content Production - “Think Tank”

This is a fascinating model he’s using to brainstorm ideas - a weekly think tank featuring 5 of his smartest, most creative, most driven fans. Here’s why he’s doing it, where he got the idea, and how he executed.

Why:

I knew ideas are the most important thing, like you're much better off having a great idea and mediocre video than a mediocre idea and a great video, because a viewer’s going to click on the idea, and then we see who's going to watch the video. So I knew if ideas - literally ideas - are the most important thing, then I have to invest in ideas themselves.

Where:

I didn't come up with the idea, I should say that I stole it from Ryan Trahan and Eric Decker…They were the first two that I thought had this idea, but I think it should be more popular. I think it'll create a really cool ecosystem, like I can see myself being in Ryan Trahan’s think tank, I can see like a big creator being in a smaller creator's think tank, just because it's really 1 hour a week and you're creating this whole cool synergy map.

How:

My process was: I put on an Instagram story - again, Instagram's my top 10% fan base - I put on an Instagram story where I said “Hey, if you're interested in being in a producer role…give me a really quality email.”

I had 70 people email me. Out of the 70, 35 of them are like “Hey, I can make cool ideas. Let me join” and I'm like”These people didn't give me a quality email” so I was left at 35 of them.

Then I created a Google form in which I basically asked them 3 kind of deep questions, like “What is the biggest lesson you've learned”, “What is the thing that I'm doing wrong”. Roast my brand, be as blunt as possible. “Give me an example idea.” I wanted to make sure that these answers were great, so out of the 35, I selected 20, to interview with, and out of the 20, I picked 5.

They meet with me once a week, come up with ideas, help me formulate ideas, and structure videos in that sense

Operations - Creative Director + Pre-Production Leader

I have one, I call her my creative director. Her name is Liz. She helps me with everything post-production, right? So she'll help me with that but also…she's a cofounder of this business.

And then one of the guys in the think tank, his name is Nick, I recently just brought him to New York because I want him to be more of a leader in the pre-production stage. So Liz is my post-production stage, I want Nick to be my pre-production leader, and I want to call both of them cofounders.

Thanks for being a paid subscriber! Your membership makes the amount of time and energy I’m investing into interviewing and analyzing these creator conversations worthwhile. I am grateful for your partnership!

If you have questions you’d like me to ask creators, or want to work with me on your Creator strategy, please reach out to me at [email protected]. I can’t promise I’ll get every question answered, but I can promise that I will do my best to get the most relevant, interesting ones!

Thanks again for being part of this community. See you next week!