Meet the people behind the product: John Edstrom
Meet John, the Director of Engineering for our Platform and Creator teams. John tells us about his journey to Patreon, his love of history podcasts, and the massive opportunities ahead.
Tell me about the journey that landed you at Patreon.
Prior to Patreon, I was at Instagram for nearly nine years building tools to help business owners leverage the platform. One of the core cohorts we began building for was creators. At the time, they were an emerging group of users, but over the last few years we noticed more and more creators trying to figure out how to make a living funded by their art and creativity. That’s when it started to come to life for me, and I realized there was a new class of people that needed products built specifically for them.
What excited you about the team and ultimately got you to join?
I’ve always been interested in the creators, the creator economy, and observing how digital creators are becoming more prominent. As I was exploring roles, this opportunity really spoke to me because of how our product empowers creators around the world and lets them have full control of both their audience and content releases. It really inverts how other platforms are tackling the problem.
Where did you first learn about Patreon?
I’m a big fan of many podcasters and YouTube creators, and Patreon has been a common thread between many creators that I follow. There’s this one podcast called History of Japan, where the host Isaac goes into incredible detail about Japanese history. He often mentions his Patreon and his member benefits, so that’s one of the ways I learned about Patreon’s impact.
At Patreon we love creators and admire their grit, creative process, and connection with their audiences. How does creativity show up in your work at Patreon?
Before starting my career, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as a creative person. But with engineering, creativity really comes into play in manifesting ideas. If there’s a system that could be made better by a refactor or a re-architecture, that’s an idea that you can go manifest in the world.
Taking a broader view: Engineers at Patreon are empowered to make changes that they think are going to create a better user experience. Being able to see something subpar and make it better is a powerful act of creativity.
What stands out to you about the people you’re working with?
A lot of people I’m working with are avid users of the product, both as patrons and creators, which reveals the diversity of my teammates’ hobbies and interests. We all have deep connections to creators, but those connections are really different. Some people are into history podcasts, some are into woodworking, and some are into funk music. It’s interesting to see how those connections help me get to know my teammates better outside of work.
What kinds of things are you learning in your role?
I’m new to Patreon, so I’m still learning a lot about our creators and their members. One thing I’m specifically paying attention to is how we’re entering this stage of high growth as a company.
We’re scaling up the engineering organization and there are a ton of opportunities that come with that.
How do we ensure onboarding is really efficient and fresh? How do we make sure that our developer tooling is world-class? I’m taking a deep look at those systems and making sure that we’re ready for the growth happening in the next year.
What’s different about building for creators?
I recently became a part of our creator Discord community, and one thing I’m learning is that there’s such an immediacy of feedback. In many tech industries, it’s difficult to get high-signal, high-quality feedback. But many creators spend their days on the internet interacting with fans, so they’re incredibly up-to-speed with digital tools, which means we get very immediate feedback on our product releases.
Another thing that’s unique is how savvy creators are when it comes to the metrics. Our insights surface on Patreon.com is something we’re constantly improving. Some business owners might not be as concerned with referral traffic or conversion rates, but a lot of digital-native creators are really interested in understanding data, so their expectations for what we deliver there are very high.
What would you say to a future teammate considering joining Patreon?
Just do it! In all seriousness, the big thing that sold me on joining Patreon was the size of the opportunity. We’re a company that has sent billions of dollars of payouts to creators with an engineering team of roughly 60 people. The engineer-to-impact ratio is just so incredibly high. Creators love using our product, and it’s currently helping them make a living. At the same time, the investments we need to make on the product are so substantial and foundational that we have an incredible runway to continue growing. The opportunity ahead of us is truly staggering.
Outside of work, how do you spend your time?
I have a one-and-a-half-year-old son, so following him around the house and the yard is taking up most of my time. He’s recently been enjoying the park, so that’s been one of our favorite pastimes.
Who’s your favorite creator on Patreon?
I’m in a Fantasy Football league this year and love The Fantasy Footballers. They started their creative work totally as a hobby, but have now built a whole business on Patreon. They release a podcast a few times a week and it has helped me do much better in my league and my draft. Their content is so engaging and it’s the perfect blend of niche and fun.
Who’s your favorite creator not yet on Patreon?
I’d love to see The Tallest Man on Earth start a fan community on Patreon. I’ve seen him live a few times and his talent and banter between sets was just so astounding. I feel like he could make amazing behind-the-scenes and exclusive content to share with his members.