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Headed by Lebanese CEO, UAE-based startup Million launches content monetization app

Founded by Lebanese CEO Julien Hawari, the app — developed by UAE-based startup Million, allows online content creators to get paid for their content, via a subscription model. 

Headed by Lebanese CEO, UAE-based startup Million launches content monetization app

A cell phone user opens the Million app in March 2024. (Credit: João Sousa/L'Orient Today)

BEIRUT — A new app launched by a Lebanese entrepreneur is now online and building its user base, promising online content creators a platform for monetizing their posts.

Founded by Lebanese CEO Julien Hawari, the app — developed by UAE-based startup Million, allows online content creators to get paid for their content, via a subscription model.

Born in Beirut, Hawari lived most of his life in Paris. Together with his brother Alexandre Hawari, he went on to launch publishing and media company Mediaquest in Dubai in 1997.

At a dinner party a few years back, Hawari came up with the concept for his new venture — he says it was by accident. “I was seated next to a content creator and I remember her telling me how she felt like she was in a glass cage. She felt like she was trapped by advertisers who restricted her freedom by telling her what to do and what to wear.”

He noticed a bigger problem. “When you look at a legacy social media business you see on the one hand, creators creating content, and on the other hand, people consuming this content. But today, there is no real transactional relationship between those two,” explains Hawari. “There is no way for creators to monetize the work they do.”

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The moment creators post content on any legacy platform such as Instagram and TikTok, the monetary value of this content is basically zero, he adds.

“Creators usually live off sponsors and advertising brands that support them.” This oftentimes creates a situation where social media personalities end up simply relaying the narrative of the brands paying them, losing control over the narratives they actually want to post, he says.

“Along this way, the current social media model is creating a world where authenticity is lost.”

A survey from 2022 had shown similar numbers, where only 27 percent of content creators in the US had declared receiving actual funds for what they offer across the digital sphere.

Hawari saw a need to transform the current structure and create a new system, one that would reshape the relationship between creators and their audiences directly.

A platform like Million allows content creators to “live off their crafts [be it content, products, merchandises or an e-commerce business], start monetizing it and actually make a living out of it,” says Hawari.

Is Million really different from other legacy platforms?

Creators will be able to directly charge their audience a subscription fee on a monthly basis — similar to other, existing exclusive content platforms like Patreon.

“If you had 1,000,000 followers on platforms like Instagram or Tik Tok, moved 100,000 of them to Million, and charged $2 per user every month, that’s $2.4 million a year for the creator,” he explains, more than what the average brand would be willing to pay celebrities and influencers today. This would allow them to individually scale their businesses.

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Just as they hope to enhance creators’ way of business, they also aim to reward their users. Thus, as a fan of a certain celebrity, personality, or creator, the more time you spend on the app, the more money you’ll be able to earn. “No more dumb scrolling, it’s scrolling that will actually help users make money,” he says.

“Million is not targeting the average fan,” but rather the “super-fan” who is already engaged with their favorite creators’ social media accounts and is ready to pay for their content, according to Hawari.

These fans “want to know what’s going on in the backstage.”

“Take a fan of Beyonce for example, super-fans would be able to see how she creates a song, and feel like they’re a part of it through the platform” explains Hawari.

Plans to scale up

Given the recent geopolitical tensions and Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, creators have suffered from waves of shadow-banning and other restrictions across their Meta-owned platforms due to expressing support for Palestinians living under fire. “Creators eventually realize that they’re building a business that they do not own, and could lose everything at a flip of a button, says Hawari” Million, he says, aims to counter these hurdles.

For the time being, Million has been funded by friends, family and through partner companies, which he did not name. “But we are presently gearing up to bring in more institutional investors that will help us accelerate the growth of the platform in the region.”

When asked about the startup’s revenue stream, he tells L’Orient Today that they’ll be taking between 30 to 40 percent off of every transaction that occurs on the platform. In comparison, platforms like Amazon pay out a commission between 1 to 20 percent of each sale to creators, depending on the product. Apple charges 30 percent on books sold.

While already available, Million will continue to gradually launch a series of extra features through phases. 

A previous version of this article stated that "If you had 100,000 followers on platforms like Instagram or Tik Tok, moved 50,000 of them to Million, and charged $2 per user every month, that’s $1.2 million a year for the creator." The example has been amended in the article on Wednesday, March 6.

BEIRUT — A new app launched by a Lebanese entrepreneur is now online and building its user base, promising online content creators a platform for monetizing their posts. Founded by Lebanese CEO Julien Hawari, the app — developed by UAE-based startup Million, allows online content creators to get paid for their content, via a subscription model. Born in Beirut, Hawari lived most of his life in...