Aussie social media startup success story Linktree is setting out to back more up-and-coming entrepreneurs, artists and activists with a US$250,000 ($321,000) Passion Fund, designed to help people turn big dreams into a full-time reality.
The fund launched today in partnership with payments platform Square and coincides with the launch of Linktree’s Commerce Links capability, also powered by the fintech giant.
Commerce Links allows Linktree users to monetise their online presence through direct transactions and faster paths to purchase.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Linktree co-founder and chief Alex Zaccaria explains the fund is designed to take this one step further, helping people turn their passions and side hustles into a career.
“Ultimately Linktree was born as a side-hustle,” he notes.
“It became my passion.”
Founded in 2016, Linktree now has some 12 million users worldwide, and in March last year raised $60 million in funding. Zaccaria wants to give others the cash boost they might need to do the same thing.
There are a total of 30 grants up for grabs, split into ‘gold’, ‘silver’ and ‘bronze’ tiers.
Nine gold grants of US$20,000 will be handed out, along with 10 silver grants of US$4,000 and 10 bronze grants of US$1,000.
Recipients of these grants will be selected by a panel of judges, including Zaccaria himself, along with US TV host and Queer Eye star Karamo Brown, venture capitalist Li Jin, fitness entrepreneur Grace Beverley and Square’s global head of marketing Lauren Weinberg.
A ‘people’s choice’ winner, voted by the public, will also receive US$20,000.
To apply, applicants must submit a 60-second pitch video.
There are no strict eligibility criteria, or obligations around what they do with the cash, Zaccaria explains. The cash is for them to “do what they need to do” to grow their business or take the next steps in their activism.
Prizes also include access to expertise and workshops, but ultimately winners are free to do as they see fit. That could include building systems or products, investing in building audiences, learning new skills, or simply supporting themselves while they work on their passions.
That said, there are a few things the judges are looking for in a winning pitch.
First of all, they’re after creativity and originality. Then, it’s about innovation, personality and how applicants stay true to themselves and their vision. Having a clear vision and a sense of purpose is also important, as is adaptability and the ability to overcome obstacles.
Applications will be accepted from all over the world. And, while Zaccaria is excited to see what Aussie applicants have to offer, he warns with a laugh that there will be no favouritism in his judging.
Now Zaccaria has seen some success with Linktree, he sees the fund as a way to give back to the community and help foster more innovation.
It plays into a growing trend in Australia that is seeing founders of hugely successful tech companies backing new startups as angel investors, mentors or advisors, or even launching their own investment funds.
Early employees of those tech companies are also seeing their stock options vesting, and becoming angels themselves, or launching their own ventures.
All of that is indicative of a tech sector that is maturing.
“That’s incredibly important to the ecosystem in any market,” Zaccaria says.
“This is another version of that,” he adds.
“Those that have talent and creativity just need to find an audience. If we can help them with that, it’s great for the world.”
Applications for the Passion Fund are open now until July 7 at 11.59pm AEST.