Linktree CEO on turning a side hustle to a main hustle

Linktree linktree company website with logo close up
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Postmodern Studio)

Link-in-bio tools have rapidly become a common sight on the profiles of avid social media platform users, toppling the humble website as a platform that brings multiple links together in one place. 

Many social media users will likely have come across a link-in-bio tool that was created to solve the minute, but equally stressful pain point of having to pick one link to share on these platforms at a time.  

Brothers Alex and Anthony Zaccaria and their business partner Nick Humphreys identified this common pain point when running their digital agency, Bolster, managing social media accounts for their clients and decided to do something about it.

Birth of Linktree 

Speaking to TechRadar Pro, Alex Zaccaria, co-founder and CEO of Linktree, a freemium social media reference landing page that’s now used by over 30 million people worldwide, takes a trip down memory lane as he recalls wanting to be an inventor at an early age, inspired by Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin, as well as all the other inventors kids would often learn about in school.

“I was always tinkering with things thinking I was an inventor. In a way, it kind of manifested with Linktree. The platform is about innovating as much as we possibly can and coming up with creative ways to help our users,” he explains.

“Our ultimate goal is to help anyone in the world with an internet connection represent and express themselves. Are users are in the millions so we have a lot of growing to do and need a lot of innovation to get there. I think I was pretty close but as a child, I was expecting to invent physical things not digital things so I went a different way on that one.”

Zaccaria went to university after finishing school but when he was in school, he was doing a lot of entrepreneurial things.

“I used to run parties when I was in year 9 and 10 for the year 12s and university students. I left school then went to university and realized that university wasn’t for me so I left during the first semester and went to my parents’ business (they imported instruments) and started some new businesses for them,” he adds.

“One of them was us selling music consumables like guitar strings and drumsticks as well as vending machines. I then started another business called Happy Hobo which is a mattress that you can put at the back seat of your car to convert it into a bed or use as a couch. I also continued to run club nights and parties, joining forces with my brother. 

“We noticed that the music industry was not taking advantage of what brands and ecommerce were taking advantage of in terms of marketing technology - things like brand marketing so we set out to solve that problem for festivals and for artists and then decided to stay with the agency.”

Woman running her business from home.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Both Alex and Anthony Zaccaria were running a digital strategy agency that specialized in music and entertainment. The agency focused on building out market strategies, and doing the marketing for artists, festivals, and record labels. 

“We realized that there’s no real way to roll out social marketing campaigns in an easy way, especially for artists, where artists and creatives have a whole bunch of different revenue streams - it's a really fragmented industry,” he says. 

“They will have ticketing on a bunch of different platforms, and another platform for their merchandise, and another platform for video content, etc. If they are only able to link out to one of those revenue streams on their social media, it’s problematic. Linktree was initially designed for these specific use cases to solve that problem for our clients at the agency. 

“It turned out that many more people had that problem. One of our first signups organically was the Melbourne City Council. We realized that there were use cases outside of music and we continued to build on that as a side hustle to the agency for a few years.”

They worked in the agency during the day, and then went home at night to continue working on Linktree. 

“Fast forward a few years, by around 2019, we were recognizing that it was actually the entire Internet that became that fragmented. Places where people would find their audience exploded, such as TikTok and Twitter and all these other platforms that you now need to have a presence on,” he adds.

“We also saw places where you needed to drive your audience to explode as well. Linktree continued working on driving that unification of platforms all in one place and got to around three or four million users by 2019.”

Similar to a landing page or a website builder, a link in bio tool is a clickable URL that is usually added to a social media profile section. Most social media platforms give you the option to add a link in your bio to take followers to content. Zaccaria believes that link-in-bio tools are in with a fighting chance of overthrowing website builder services in the long run.

“Many of our users now use Linktree entirely in replace of a website, especially with the introduction of our marketplace this year, where we are enabling partners to be able to build their own link outs into Linktree. We are seeing a lot of the tools and products our users use to run their business now deeply integrated into Linktree and it’s simple to add them in a couple of seconds, and it’s completely free,” he says.

“Restaurants and artists really don’t need a website at all and that’s been a big part of what we care about - this idea of optimizing digital presence. It’s about absolute simplicity in removing decision fatigue and cognitive load so that anyone can jump online and create their digital presence. There's a lot of ways we go about that but it’s certainly easier than having to drag and drop templates and figure things out on a major website builder.”

He goes on to say that often businesses, brands and content creators are linking to content on platforms that are incentivizing users to keep the content on that platform.

“Because of that, having a website doesn’t always necessarily make sense, when you can have a reach that’s just about simplifying the user journey and getting your audience to where you need them to go so you can grow things as quickly as possible,” he continues.

“It’s actually much better for your SEO as well, and what we’re finding is that Gen Z and younger demographics coming through actually want to just be able to get something as quickly as possible and are less likely to engage in really brand-immersive websites where you have to click around to find the information.”

Ecommerce and monetizing on Linktree 

As valid as that point is, Linktree doesn’t currently offer ecommerce store capabilities that many website builders do. When asked about this, Zaccaria says it’s definitely something the Linktree team are thinking deeply about because it’s a big part of how creators monetize. 

“At the moment, we really see Linktree as a way to unify your digital ecosystem and is less about keeping people on the platform and more about being able to facilitate the transaction of driving users to the intended platform,” he explains.

“We want to be able to be neutral in that way and connect everything together. Our path at the moment is really about connecting the tools they use together. Shopify is deeply integrated, so if you’ve got a Shopify store, you can showcase your products, and there are a few other ecommerce platforms integrated into Linktree too.”

Despite the lack of a direct ecommerce functionality , in January 2023, Linktree launched a new “Buy Me a Gift” button that is similar to a Tip Jar, but online.

“You’re able to connect your online wallet to accept tips and requests as a creator to be able to make something for someone. The Buy Me a Gift feature enables your audience to buy things on your behalf. There’s a hierarchy of needs to think about when it comes to creating features and a big part of that is being able to monetize and the other part is building an online presence,” he says.

Similar to a paywall, Linktree also has a functionality called Link Blocks that allows its users to put a block on any link that can then be used to ask audiences to do something to be able to access that content. 

“It might be to prove you own a particular NFT or enter a password, but we’ve now launched a payment version of that so your audience can pay before gaining access to certain links,” he explains.

Side hustle to main hustle 

Statistics from says that there are are 62 different link-in-bio tools and around 31 million Instagram users have a link-in-bio tool, figures that have been predicted to grow significantly in the future.

The Australia-based company raised a combined $55.7 million over the last two years, and announced a $110 million all equity round led by Index Ventures and Coatue Management in March 2022. The link-in-bio tool is now valued at $1.3 billion.

As the conversation drew to a close, Zaccaria tells TechRadar Pro that despite the many challenges presented in the economy today, there’s never been a better time to build a business that can be scaled from home:

“Now is the time to hustle so if you see an opportunity to go and build a product outside of your business, do it. I would also say bootstrap for as long as you can. That’s what we did - we bootstrapped Linktree and it was cash flow positive for many years before we decided to take Venture Capital (VC) funding and that put us in a much better position in terms of negotiations and what we wanted to do with VCs."

Abigail Opiah
B2B Editor - Web hosting & Website builders

Abigail is a B2B Editor that specializes in web hosting and website builder news, features and reviews at TechRadar Pro. She has been a B2B journalist for more than five years covering a wide range of topics in the technology sector from colocation and cloud to data centers and telecommunications. As a B2B web hosting and website builder editor, Abigail also writes how-to guides and deals for the sector, keeping up to date with the latest trends in the hosting industry. Abigail is also extremely keen on commissioning contributed content from experts in the web hosting and website builder field.