Tony Tran, Co-Founder and CEO of Lumanu, on Creator Finances & Revenue Management
Creator finances can be messy and complicated. However, a solid financial infrastructure can save creators and small businesses significant time and money. Tony Tran, Co-Founder and CEO of Lumanu, shares about the Lumanu for Business Launch and how this launch is helping creators, talent managers, and agencies with payment and financing solutions.
What is Lumanu?
Tony Tran started Lumanu with his two co-founders in 2017.
When asked what his company is all about, Tony explains, “The best way to think about it is we are building the financial infrastructure for the creator economy. One of the big trends we’ve noticed is creators, and not just creators themselves, but a lot of people that have this creator ethos want to work from where they want, when they want, and make money doing it.”
This prevalent attitude and change in mindset have led some to call this generation a 1099 generation, deviating from the typical nine to five jobs.
Tony shares, “There’s a whole lot of problems in the space around managing your money, getting paid fast. There’s so much that goes on to being a creator beyond just creating, and Lumanu wants to take care of all the back office anxiety, the pain. Sometimes we do it with technology. Sometimes we do it with community. Sometimes we do it with education.”
Lumanu for Business
When Lumanu had about 40,000 users on its platform, Tony and his team began noticing that the line between creator and business was almost non-existent.
“Many creators over time start off as a business of one, a solo entrepreneur. Once you get big enough, you might hire, for instance, a part-time bookkeeper, a part-time assistant, and a lot of the problems that they encounter, a lot of the tools they use are no different than the tools that a startup or small business would use.”
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Tony even had creators asking if they could also use the QuickBooks integration for brand and agency customers. This led Tony and his team to realize that Lumanu could help creators every step of the way.
“When we think about what a creator does, it’s very similar to what an agency does, right? They’re working with the same clients. They’re producing content. It’s just one does it by themselves. The other has a staff.”
Tony ended up refining and packaging the creator, business, and agency tools together, creating Lumanu for Business, which launched in July. Tony notes that the reception so far has been really great.
Lumanu for Business Features
Lumanu for Business offers three primary features or ‘buckets’:
- Lumanu EarlyPay
- Invoicing and payment management
- Payout features
The first feature, Lumanu EarlyPay, helps creators get paid before the client pays them, giving them peace of mind that they will be paid for their hard work. At times, Lumanu is financing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for this feature.
Tony adds, “We’ve noticed huge adoption, a huge word of mouth awareness. One of the really cool things is we have one photographer who was using Lumanu [to] invoice an agency. He got paid early, and the agency [was] like, “What’s That?” After they learned about Lumanu, they signed up as well. Not only to get paid early themselves, but to give the same great experience to all the other photographers, videographers, [and] freelancers they work with.”
Tony explains that they’ve seen a sizeable organic spread among independent creators and businesses they work with due to this feature.
The second feature deals with invoicing solutions and the invoicing and payment experience. Many accounting and invoicing tools can be overwhelming to creators or creative businesses, and many have tools they don’t need. Lumanu eliminates this confusion while providing specific, creator-friendly tools.
For example, “If you’re an agency that works with five freelancers on a project, you can send an invoice to your client for a hundred thousand dollars. As soon as that invoice gets paid, our product can actually do something called a split payment, where we automatically pay out all the freelancers that were involved in that project.”
Tools like that effectively streamline the process, saving creators and businesses time and money.
Lastly, the payout feature eliminates stress and wasted time manually tracking payment statuses and invoices by automatically tracking incoming and outcoming payments on Lumanu’s simple dashboard. Users can also export data into their existing accounting systems, like Quickbooks.
“A lot of businesses and agencies are using part-time workers, freelancers, contractors. So in order for them to work with those folks, it’s not just paying them and working with them. There are tax obligations and paperwork. So, Lumanu takes care of all that. If you’re a small agency working with 50 freelancers, you do the paperwork equivalent of working with one freelancer because the [Lumanu] monitor streamlines everything else.”
These features save immense amounts of time, helping small businesses to scale without needing to hire a full-time finance team.
Revenue Management for Creators
Tony shares that the biggest weakness creators often have with revenue management is time.
“You can always get more money, but it’s impossible to get more time.”
He explains that everyone is limited by the hours in a day and smaller businesses are even more limited by time.
For example, “Let’s say you just signed a really big contract with someone for a hundred thousand dollars, and you know it’s Pfizer or BMW, and they’re a big dog, right? You can’t really negotiate payment terms with them. They’re only going to pay you 90 days after the fact. That’s time that you as a business owner or a creator have to deal with and time that you would never get back.”
That lost time could have been spent pitching better projects, building your portfolio, or developing more creative ideas. Tony shares that this balance of time and revenue is one of many creators’ biggest challenges.
When asked about future currency options, like blockchain, Tony shares, “The very first thing we did was build a strong, what I call banking as a service foundation, so that foundation allows us to really scale with the unlimited ways that a creator can make money.”
He explains that no matter what currency is used in the future, creators will still need to pay taxes in their country and run business finances.
When asked about Lumanu’s future, Tony says, “I think over time, we’re going to see that the ways people make money is really going to dictate how they should manage their money and how that money is going to give them… more bang for the buck, so that it’s not just sitting, accumulating a little interest.”
For Tony, it’s all about building an excellent financial infrastructure that allows users to manage their money better and in a way that is relevant and specific to their unique business model.
Lumanu is also going international. They’ve recently launched support in 10 different currencies.
“That’s really exciting for us over the next couple of years to keep expanding internationally… So, it’s been an exciting few months on the international frame.”