After months of earning online shopping credits through the Nate app, Libby Rasmussen had over $500 left on her account going into December. She planned to use her remaining money on Christmas gifts for her family — until the credits abruptly disappeared from her account earlier this month.
Rasmussen, who works in social media marketing and sells home decor products like disco balls, has used the Nate app since October to curate lists of products for followers. The app, launched in 2018, completes the checkout process for shoppers and also allows influencers to share products in exchange for a commission when fans make purchases.
Rasmussen says she quickly saw the benefits of using Nate over other marketing tools. In addition to earning a 5 percent commission, influencers that were part of the creator program could cash in when they hit certain milestones, according to a now-defunct page explaining the program. Users could earn $500 for getting 50 people to make a Nate account and follow their lists or $750 plus sponsored giveaways for 150 followers. Rasmussen says she earned $1,500 within the first two weeks and knew of others who had made upwards of $10,000. Though influencers couldn’t cash out their balance, they could spend their Nate Cash on anything on their lists, Rasmussen says.
When Rasmussen noticed that her balance was suddenly zero, she reached out to Nate last week and received a comforting assurance: the company was aware that user wallets were having issues, and a representative would reach out as soon as it was fixed.
“We seriously cannot thank you enough for your partnership”
By Friday, Nate’s tone had abruptly changed. The company was “going through some unpredictable and turbulent times,” read an email to influencers, and as a result, Nate was halting some operations, including the creator program (the news was first reported by Business Insider). That meant content creators would no longer be able to earn cash to spend and that they wouldn’t be able to spend any credit they had left.
“We seriously cannot thank you enough for your partnership in this journey and your excitement in curating and sharing the products you love with the world,” the company said in the email, obtained by The Verge. “You’ve been incredible in inspiring people around you.”
A bullet point at the bottom of the list explained the disappearing credit: Nate Cash would be disabled “for now.”
Apps like Nate or Liketoknow.it are important tools for content creators and influencers to monetize their platforms, particularly on TikTok and Instagram. In Rasmussen’s case, she was already making content about products she uses; Nate and other tools allow her to earn a cut of profits resulting from her posts. Because users must download the app and create an account to view and follow influencer lists, Rasmussen was also helping the company acquire new users from her own following.
On TikTok, dozens of other creators responded to Rasmussen, saying they, too, had lost out on the remaining credit they had earned. Some say they lost a few hundred dollars, while others say thousands of dollars of credit was wiped out overnight.
“I had $4,000 left to spend on the app,” another content creator wrote. “Free promo for nothing.”
At the time of writing, Nate had not responded to The Verge’s questions.
This isn’t the first time the startup’s practices have come under scrutiny. Nate has raised over $50 million to date by marketing itself as a low-effort shopping tool that completes purchases for users using artificial intelligence for a small fee.
But according to a report by The Information in June, the high-tech “AI” Nate was using to purchase items was actually just human workers in the Philippines who manually completed the checkout process between 60 and 100 percent of the time in 2021. The company said the figures in the report were “incorrect.”
In August, Nate laid off around 30 workers, according to The Information, following a previous round of layoffs that cut 20 percent of its workforce.
Nate launched the creator program last October, hoping to entice influencers into spreading the word about the startup. Creators promoted product lists with followers, shared “haul” videos of items purchased using credit, and extolled the benefits of using Nate over other tools.
But after having their credit taken away without warning, Rasmussen and other influencers responding to her TikTok say they feel misled by the company they took a chance on. Rasmussen says she takes some responsibility for promoting an app she trusted and endorsed but is particularly frustrated for other creators who lost out on the earnings they were promised.
“At the end of the day, we all worked hard to create space for this app, and we deserve compensation in exchange for it,” Rasmussen says.