Hello and welcome to the first ever Chartr Sunday edition! In this series, which you can expect in your inbox for free every two weeks, we’ll explore a trending topic and dive deeper than we get the chance to in our weekday sends. First to be given the Sunday treatment? The ever-growing empire of YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, AKA MrBeast.
Jimmy Donaldson — aka MrBeast — has established an online multi-platform empire with nearly 200 million followers, planted ~25 million trees, given millions of dollars away, and even helped 1,000 blind people see again. He’s also 24 years old.
Donaldson was just 11 when he posted his first video on YouTube — an unspectacular clip of a niche videogame called Battle Pirates. While the video has since been taken down, Donaldson’s said that it garnered 20,000 views and got him “hooked from day one”, a humble start for a YouTuber who would go on to become the biggest creator on the platform a little over 10 years later.
The MrBeast channel has become a de facto home on the video-sharing site for cash-guzzling, often clickbaity content such as "I Paid A Real Assassin To Try To Kill Me" — and the internet cannot get enough.
Just 5 years ago, the MrBeast channel had accrued more than 4 million subscribers, a very respectable count that millions of YouTubers could only dream of achieving. But since then, Donaldson's channel has exploded, taking his sub count to more than 145 million today. Not to give Donaldson any new video ideas, but if those subscribers formed a nation, it would be the 9th most populous on Earth.
In a typical month his videos are watched more than a billion times (based on the average of the last 6 months), and he racked up an astounding 1.8 billion in December 2022 alone. That's taken the total for his channel to just shy of 25 billion — enough for about 3 views from every single person on Earth.
Remarkably, those figures are just for his main channel. Donaldson has built other huge offshoots under the Beast umbrella such as MrBeast Gaming (32m subs), Beast Reacts (22.3m), MrBeast 2 (21.1m), Beast Philanthropy (12.5m), and several dubbed channels with millions of subscribers from the international market too.
Next on the menu
While Donaldson’s been dominating the YouTube game in recent years, he’s also found time to expand the empire into the culinary world as well. The creator’s initial foray into the world of food and drink came back in 2020 when he opened up “the world’s first free restaurant”, as the eatery’s website puts it, just a few miles from his hometown in North Carolina.
The stunt racked up 150m views, but it also served as an announcement for the new chain of 300 virtual MrBeast Burger restaurants across the US. A burgeoning force in the world of modern food delivery, virtual restaurants or “dark kitchens” are establishments where items like the Beast Style Burger can only be ordered via online delivery apps. However, Donaldson did actually open his first permanent MrBeast Burger store in late 2022, with ~10,000 people showing up at the New Jersey branch’s grand opening.
A sweeter side
Just over a year after the announcement of his new chain of burger joints, the 24-year-old launched his snack brand Feastables. In typical MrBeast fashion, there was a video to help promote the product where Donaldson offered every fan who bought one of his Feastables chocolate bars the chance to win a purpose-built chocolate factory or $500k in cash. The confectionary has rolled out to Walmarts nationwide since, with MrBeast even controversially offering fans $5k to help maintain in-store presentation in some branches.
In addition to his business ventures, which have each come with massive hype at their launch, Donaldson has used his platform to promote charitable initiatives as well. He was a co-creator of Team Trees — the fundraiser that's planted almost 25 million trees — and ocean cleanup project Team Seas, working with other YouTubers on his environmental endeavors.
With sky-high production values, crazy giveaways and extreme challenges, Donaldson and his friends have created a feedback loop that's been the underlying engine of the media empire's success — and it's very simple.
More viewers means more money for Donaldson... which means more resources to invest into even wilder videos. In the early days that might mean giving away a few hundred dollars here and there, but with a typical Beast video now racking up ~100m views, that means millions of dollars in prizes. Indeed, Insider estimates that the channel gave away more than $3.2m in cash in 2022 alone, and that's without mentioning the private jet or island that were also given to lucky winners or the money spent on the ideas themselves (the viral SquidGame recreation reportedly cost north of $3m alone).
It goes without saying that Donaldson's laser focus on his YouTube audience, which he then leverages for his other ventures, has made him a very rich 24 year old, even after all of the giveaways.
Last year, Forbes estimated he made $54m, and he was reportedly seeking to raise $150m in funding for his business at a whopping $1.5bn valuation. Presumably any prospective deal was tabled after the turn in the funding environment, but — billionaire or not — Donaldson represents a new breed of modern media mogul like no other. The internet means the media barons of the next generation won't be in their 50s or 60s at the height of their power, they might very well be in their 30s... or even 20s.