Josh Richards Is More Than Just a TikTok Star, He's a Mogul in the Making

Parting Shot_ Josh Richards
Josh Richards

"Every single day is just something new and something so crazy."

At just 18 years old, social media influencer Josh Richards has been able to go from TikTok star to investor to be reckoned with in a short period of time. "I was always doing things that were entrepreneurial. So when I was able to grow such a large following, it just made sense." In July 2020, as a ban of the video-sharing service TikTok loomed in the United States, Richards became an investor in rival video social media platform Triller, agreeing also to serve as its chief strategy officer. "I saw the press about China and the data being shared. I knew I had almost a duty because my whole journey has been as a creator first." He also co-founded TalentX, a management company for influencers. "No one had the creators' back. It was all these managers coming into the scene and trying to make a quick dollar off these young kids." With his massive social media platform, two podcasts and multiple business ventures under his belt, Richards is here to stay. "Every single day is just something new and something so crazy."

You've turned your success as a social media influencer into an impressive investment portfolio. Was that entrepreneurial spirit always in mind for you?

A hundred percent. I've been someone that's been business savvy since I was a little kid. When I was 12, 13 years old, I was starting a hockey T-shirt company. I was always doing things that were on the entrepreneurial side. So when I was able to grow such a large following, it just made sense.

Your investments do seem to show a roadmap for other celebrity influencers to expand their reach. Do you think influencers on TikTok and other platforms are more in tune with emerging companies and platforms to invest in?

I think that the kids and young adults that are using the platforms, they know what they enjoy. They know which platforms are going to perform the best because they're the ones using them. They're the ones spending countless hours a day going through that page or scrolling and liking and commenting on videos, pictures, whatever it is. All these kids that are in Gen Z are the ones discovering the apps that are popping off. They know which ones work and which ones don't; that's why they're on them.

Some of the biggest talent on platforms like TikTok and Triller are young people. What happens when you age? How do you grow with your audience?

I think everyone probably has a different strategy. You can grow with your audience. I've seen many people do that. Roman Atwood didn't always do family vlogging. He used to do a lot more of the prank-style videos. He has kids now and a wife, so he's doing family-style videos, which still perform super well for him. He's been able to pivot his career. For me, what I like to do is add depth. I have two podcasts that I'm doing. I'm doing angel investing. I'm doing a lot of equity plays, building out companies, buying into companies. I'm going for more of the entrepreneurial way to add to my portfolio.

One of your most prominent investments was in Triller. What excited you about the new platform and did the past looming ban of TikTok in the U.S. inspire your interest?

I mean, that's what started it all. I saw the press about China and the data being shared. I knew that there was almost a duty that I had because my whole journey has been as a creator first. Always thinking about the people that supported me and got me to where I am. That's why I co-founded TalentX, to protect my friends from managers. So for me, Triller was very forward-thinking. They cared about the creator. They were listening to our ideas, which TikTok had never done. They were wanting to implement new ideas for us, like to monetize better for the creator to really help the creator and the user have a better time on the app. That's what was so exciting about them.

Why do you think it's important for emerging digital talent to have representation like TalentX, and did any part of your early experiences as a social media influencer inspire you to co-found the company?

So what happened with me is I just got off a summer where I had done two tours. Both tours ended up doing shady things behind the scenes with a bunch of influencers: scamming them, not paying them, marking up their merchant prices and not telling them so they can have more of the money. I noticed there was no one ever looking out for the creator or that had the creators' back. It was all these managers coming into the scene saying they could do things and trying to make a quick dollar off these young kids. So that's when I met Michael Gruen in Los Angeles and we started talking. As an entrepreneur, when you see something that's broken, you need to fix it. You know what I mean? I saw something that wasn't implemented into this space, a space that I cared about. So with Michael, we built out TalentX, which signed all these creators who now have a manager that actually is going to work for them. I will mentor a lot of these kids that I bring on to TalentX's entertainment side because I care about them, and I see something in them that I saw in myself.

You're part of Sway House, a collective of other TikTok stars. In a way, it kind of feels like the boy band alternative for social-media stars. What's it like to live and work together with other TikTok stars?

I mean, it definitely keeps the house lively. That's the word I use. Everyone's always doing things. Every single day is just something new and something so crazy. All the boys are always getting in each other's content, always helping each other out. So that's amazing that we're all here for each other to help. I think that's what makes Sway work so well, we really are more than just six kids that are doing social media, we're family. Every single one of us loves the other one so much and would do anything for them.

You co-host two podcasts, The Rundown with Noah Beck and BFF's with Dave Portnoy, both of which are new. Did the isolation of the pandemic play a part in the start of the podcasts?

A podcast has been something I've wanted to do for years now. I've always seen people doing podcasts and just thought they were such a cool way to add more of a closer relationship with your audience. There's no editing. It feels more one-on-one.

@joshrichards

The story of the first time I slide into @nessaabarrett dm’s @bffspod @stoolpresidente

♬ original sound - Josh Richards

What's the thing you're obsessing over right now that you think that possibly could be huge? Do you have any interest in starting your own app?

Apps have never really been a thing that interests me, like building an app. But there are always things that we're building or investing in that are super exciting. Like something to do with 401K match-ups or, you know, the future of going and buying a home. Every single day it's a brand new thing. It's a new call. It's a new meeting with a new founder. It's a new business project that we want to develop. I think it's just as I grow, my interests grow.

I feel like we get a lot of responses from how the pandemic is impacting older people, but not the youth. How has the pandemic impacted you as a young person?

I'm a Canadian citizen, right? Right now the toughest thing for me with this quarantine is I haven't been able to go back home to see my family for almost a year. I'm a young adult, I moved to Los Angeles nine months ago, when I was only 17. I'm 18 now. That's been one thing that's been the hardest for me, I haven't been able to see my family or hometown friends. I've really been relying on all these Sway boys to be that family for me.