Tyler Palmer VP of Operations at Patreon
I am so excited to share this dreamer spotlight on the VP of Operations at
, Tyler Palmer. Tyler is a friend of mine from USC, and he
left his life in LA to take a leap of faith, and begin work at a startup in San Francisco. Tyler joined the co-founders as their first employee, with no real guarantee on where they were headed, but they shared a similar vision of funding the creative class. Patreon recently closed their last round of funding at
, and their platform now helps support over 20,000 creators each month.
Over $50 million dollars
has been given to creators through Patreon’s platform to help sustain creator’s dreams. Tyler is unique in the way that his job is not only a dream job, but he and his team at Patreon are helping make creators’ dream jobs come true as well.
When you were little what did you want to be?
This changed many times growing up. But here are the good ones I can remember:
NHL hockey player --->artist/rockstar--->operations guy
Currently I am an operations guy trying to help artists/rockstars and I play hockey outside of work, so it all worked out nicely.
For someone who hasn’t heard of Patreon, could you explain how Patreon works?
Our team at Patreon believes that people who make great things should get paid for the value they give to the world. Patreon allows fans to give directly to their favorite artists and creators on a recurring basis. Patrons on our site are the most generous people on the Internet, and they have now given over $50M to artists on Patreon.
Installing the new core behaviors wall at Patreon
When did you know you wanted to get into tech or the music business?
From a very young age, I grew up in communities of artists. My peers and mates were super gifted and talented individuals. Yet, as they grew older, most of them were unable to sustain their artistry financially. I wondered why it was that my most talented friends who breathed life into me through their art could not make a living from it? The value exchange felt broken and I decided I would do whatever it takes to solve that problem.
Before you were at Patreon, you were at
. How did you originally get involved with StageIt? How did what you learned at StageIt lead to Patreon?
When I was in college I started feeling like I could be a representative for artists. I felt I could speak their language, as well as the language of engineers, marketers, salespeople, finance folks, etc. I started feeling like I could go to bat for artists and potentially make a difference in their lives.
The truth about my story is that there is nothing remarkable or miraculous about it. It went like this:
- The two things I really dug in high school were music and entrepreneurialism
- I went to USC to study music and business
- Through a guest speaker in one of my classes, I learned of this company Stageit that was just getting off the ground. Stageit is a site for live streaming concerts. Their mission was (and still is) to help artists get paid for online shows. It sounded like a cool concept so I wrote the founder an email offering to bust my butt for their mission.
- I started interning there on the artist relations team.
- I wanted to run the artists relations team and was eventually given a shot to do that.
- Our artists relations team had some success, mainly due to the hard work of my mates who were able to onboard major artists to the platform like Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, and Rick Springfield.
- I ended up running business operations for Stageit
- While Stageit was able to send millions of dollars to artists, the artists were still telling me they needed more income from Stageit. They needed recurring income. Artists wanted us to build out subscriptions, or some way for them to get more sustainable funding.
- Jack Conte, of Pomplamoose was one of our Stageit artists, and he called me with his business idea one day. It was called Patreon and it was going to be the easiest way for fans to give to artists on a recurring basis. The lightbulb didn’t go off in my head - it exploded.
- I originally was not going to join Patreon, but then I met the founders Jack Conte and Sam Yam and I was sold. They were the nicest, smartest, most inspiring founders I had ever met. And I had met hundreds of founders. I knew Jack and Sam would give me the chance to build out Patreon and send as much money as possible to artists. Artists of all shapes, sizes, communities, and categories.
When you left for San Francisco, Patreon was not what it is today--what was the scariest part about taking that leap?
Patreon was so far from what it is today. When I moved up, Jack, Sam, and I lived in different cities in the bay area. Our first meetings were the three of us driving around in Sam’s car telling the others what we were going to work on for the week.
Everything about the move was scary. I left a company of people who I love. I had to leave the town where my family is. The rent and cost of living in SF were scary. The role was scary.
I think that’s why I did it. To be completely honest with you, I fear comfort the way other people fear giant leaps. Everything about the situation screamed risk and instability. But the opportunity to have impact on the lives of artists around the world was too great.
Weekly All Hands In Meeting
Speaking of taking that leap, what gave you the confidence to do so?
I trust my ability to solve complicated problems. And a startup is nothing but complicated problem after complicated problem. My pops would start every challenge I approached him with stating “when there is a will there is a way.” I so believe that to be true. I play that phrase through my head on every walk I have with my teammates around Patreon. When they come to me with a problem, I believe there is a beautiful way to solve it.
How has Patreon grown since you’ve been on board?
Patreon went from car meetings, to an apartment, now to a beautiful
south of market in San Francisco.
Patreon is filled with the
I once dreamed of working with. This team wants to change the universe and they will. They are absolute experts in their fields, and they give me so much energy. Any success Patreon has, any rent we help artists pay, is all because of them.
Calling them “passionate” would be an insult and that’s why I love them. “Passionate” does not even begin to describe the unusual dedication and unusual care they put into their work. In meetings, I feel so damn lucky to be placed in rooms with people smarter than I am, who care as deeply as I do about funding art. Because of them, my work has not felt like a “job” for a single day.
Patreon Surf Club
Patreon recently gained $30 Million Dollars in funding to support growth and have raised $50 Million in venture funding to date, what does it feel like to see those huge numbers? What do you think has been key in growing Patreon?
Patreon has raised a lot of money. With large numbers come large expectations, and rightfully so. Our investors, our team, our community of patrons and creators expect us to turn it into billions of dollars for artists around the world. We must do that. When I look at our bank account, I remind myself that nobody has larger expectations for us than I do. That comforts me. My philosophy is that if you keep your expectations higher than everyone else's, you never fall short of other’s expectations.
Gosh, I don't know if there is one “key” to making it all work. If I had to choose something, I think what makes Patreon work, is the attitude our teammates have around learning. We talk often at Patreon about one of our seven core behaviors. It is “Seek Learning Continually.” When we make hiring decisions, we look for people obsessed with self improvement. We look for individuals who have a deep desire to take that extra course, who have sought out a mentor, and who are constantly trying to grow in areas they feel underdeveloped in.
I think if you have an attitude like that, you are ok when things break at a startup. My frameworks for Patreon break every 3-6 months. And they should! When you are growing as fast as we are,
your stuff will just break
If you have a growth mindset, and are always seeking to learn, you will come out the other side better than you were before. I think that’s all you can ask for. If you have this attitude and mindset, do check out
or send me an email below.
Patreon's 1st Birthday
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
“No written word/nor spoken plea/Can teach our youth/what they should be./Nor all the books/on all the shelves./It’s what the teachers/are themselves.”
-Coach John Wooden
For someone who’s looking to get into startups or follow a path similar to yours, what you would tell them?
If the mission of the company is not of paramount importance to you, do not do it. If it’s not worth struggling for it, do not do it.
A group of high school students came in to tour Patreon the other day and they asked me this very question. I broke down my story for them just like I did above. I was trying to make a point. That nothing miraculous or crazy happened. I did not and still do not have some epic life plan. I followed what I liked, and tried to exceed expectations at every stop.
Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself as a college senior?
Major in computer science. I kid.
She’s not the one. I kid.
Invest in people. Find inspiring people and build relationships with them. Try to meet one unusually gifted person each week. One day, you might be fortunate enough to build a team to solve a problem you care a lot about, and you want to know exactly who you would call to join you.
Patreon creator John Green, Tyler, and Taryn
What’s been the toughest and most rewarding part of following your dreams?
The toughest part, is that when you care so deeply about something, the highs are very high, and the lows are very low. Patreon will succeed because we will not let it fail. It’s too important to fail. When you are doing what you love, what you feel you were destined to do, there is no separation of work and “life.” Patreon is my life’s mission, and that brings me insane joy, and at times, some suffering. However, I have found that the joy far surpasses the difficult times. If you are fortunate enough to find your personal mission (and it’s my sincerest, greatest hope that you do), buckle up.
If there is anything I can do to help you on your journey, please say hello:
Thanks to Tyler for sharing a slice of his journey in pursuit of his dream with IfYouCanDreamItDoIt.com!
Want to work at Patreon?
Post Lunch Jam Session at Patreon
How cool is this PaTREEon showing how all of their employees are connected? Another awesome thing about Tyler’s journey, is he’s brought some of his best friends along for the ride too, and they also work for Patreon!