Ever since Stefan Frandsen was a kid, he was obsessed with technology. Computers were primitive 40 years ago, when Frandsen was born, but his family always seemed to have the latest PC. This is not surprising, considering Frandsen’s father, who was equally, if not more, fascinated by what computers could do. Technology was just in the family DNA.
As a teen, Frandsen spent entire days playing games on the computer. When he wasn’t in the throes of Pac Man, he was using chat lines or surfing the World Wide Web to learn even more about how the technology he was using worked. His fascination carried him through high school, college, and into his career in software development.
Frandsen will be the first to tell you he’s not a programmer—nor is he a developer. (He tried his hand at HTML coding once, but “it just didn’t sit well for me,” he said.) Frandsen is a project manager, acting more like the architect for technological systems and products. He loves technology, but he doesn’t necessarily want to build it—he’d rather fiddle with, learn what it can do, and understand how it works. Like his father, Frandsen always has the latest gadgets, whether that’s a new smart phone, computer, or video game. “You name it and I try to play with it,” he tells me, adding that he has a few of his own servers at home, as if it were a secret. “I like to experiment with things, applying new ideas from different people.”
When YouTube and Twitch debuted a few years back, Frandsen got hooked immediately. After watching some random how-to video one day, a recommendation for a similar vlog came up on his screen. He clicked and immediately found himself entranced by Tek Syndicate. In the video, a couple of guys gave their audience a daily rundown of news and controversy in the tech and gaming space. This was exactly what Frandsen was looking for—these were people like him, who loved technology and wanted to stay up-to-date with the latest goings on in the rapidly advancing world. Frandsen started watching the vlog almost daily.
At some point, Frandsen noticed there had been some sort of disagreement between Tek Syndicate’s founders, Logan and Wendell. Eventually, they split up, and when they did, Wendell launched a new, equally nerdy entity called Level1Techs. The vlog still continues to cover technology and how it shapes the world around us. Following Wendell to Level1Techs was a no-brainer for Frandsen—he still got the same content he loved on a regular basis. But it wasn’t for every gamer and tech nerd in the community. Thousands of subscribers chose not to make the switch, and Frandsen noticed the audience getting smaller.
The turnover on his beloved vlog made Frandsen think: he spent so much time watching their videos, maybe it was time for him to show his support too. “They all have regular day jobs,” Frandsen explains to me. “They are doing this on the side.” Frandsen, along with a few other loyal supporters, started bugging Wendell about setting up a Patreon page, saying, “We wanna support you, we just don’t know how.” Within no time, Level1Techs was on Patreon.
Frandsen donates $101 per month. To Frandsen, the time he spends with Level1Techs—anywhere from seven to ten hours a week—is worth the money he puts into it. “I used to have DirectTV,” he says. “And when I cut that cord, I started watching YouTube instead, and that was free.” Now Patreon is just another monthly expense Frandsen factors into his budget. “Besides,” he adds, “I only have so many hours in a week for media consumption—instead of watching movies, I watch Level1Techs.”
“I only have so many hours in a week for media consumption—instead of watching movies, I watch Level1Techs.”
The rewards were also appealing. “The graphic designer on their team hand-draws little pictures for patrons,” Frandsen tells me. “And so now I have these personal images they drew for me that I’ve framed.” But the real perk, for Frandsen, was the newfound accessibility he has to the people making the content he loves. “I get to interact with them in a way that I wouldn’t elsewhere,” he says. “I feel like I know them personally and what it takes to do what they do.” Frandsen loves getting behind-the-scenes pictures and early access to videos. He also participates in a live-streamed Q&A with the founders on a monthly basis. “Even though my contribution is small I know I helped make it happen,” he says.
For Frandsen, there’s a “feel-good factor” to being a patron too. “I get the knowledge that I’m helping someone with something they are passionate about it,” Frandsen says. “I like seeing what they can do with my money.” So far, Level1Techs has lived up to its expectations. In fact, it brings Frandsen so much joy that part of him wants to try being a creator himself. “My girlfriend and I have talked about setting up a vlog on YouTube or Twitch,” he says. “But with the time and effort that goes into it, along with a full-time job, I don’t know how people do it….I think I give to them in the hope that one day, it will come back to me.”