Digital Culture Speaker Series: Challenges and Opportunities of Securing the Bag in the Creative Economy

Lauren Ruffin profile picture

November 18: Lauren Ruffin

Talk title: #FYPM: Challenges and Opportunities of Securing the Bag in the Creative Economy


By the midpoint of 2021, creative-focused platforms had raised $1.3 billion in investments. With more than 220 platforms connected to 50 million creative entrepreneurs around the world, the growth of Influencer deals, NFTs, creator coins, digital art sales and superfan communities shows no sign of slowing down. Yet, these platforms have done little to change structural inequities that allow the creatives powering them to generate wealth. This talk will explore how policy and fintech can work hand-in-hand to spur wealth creation for a new digital middle class.


Lauren is co-founder of CRUX. Over the course of her career, she has become a “Jane-of-all-trades” for small and mid-sized enterprises in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. The hallmark of her work is a willingness to take calculated risks, an interest in scaling businesses using innovative organizational mechanisms and her ability to secure capital for projects from non-traditional sources. 

Founded in 2017, CRUX is the only company focusing solely on bringing XR artistic content from Black creators to mainstream users and audiences. As co-founder, Lauren focuses on creating an organization with core principles that are rooted in liberation movements, as well as anti-racism and anti-oppression, and works closely with partners as they create original content and immersive experiences to delight audiences and expand their digital footprint. Partners include the International Documentary Association, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, New York Live Arts, Urban Bush Women and Black Public Media.

Lauren is currently the interim Chief Marketing Officer of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), where she focuses on amplifying the stories and activism of the YBCA community. Prior to joining YBCA, Lauren was co-CEO of  Fractured Atlas, the largest association of independent artists in the United States. She frequently speaks on a diverse range of topics including ethics in technology, the digital divide, organizational development and culture, racial bias and economic justice. 

Her career began after law school as a lobbyist for a boutique government relations firm where she represented a variety of technology companies, including Comcast and Sirius/XM, providing strategies relating Black and Brown communities nationally.  Her work included efforts involving video franchising, net neutrality and regulatory and utility policy, and international trade policy representing several sovereign governments.  She also oversaw large public/private partnerships and approximately $30 million in appropriations funding.

After leaving the government affairs sector, Lauren transitioned into fundraising, securing nearly $70 million for DC-based organizations Martha’s Table and the National Center for Children and Families. She was also fortunate to serve in various roles at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Children’s Defense Fund, New Leaders and AAUW. 

Lauren graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in Political Science and obtained a JD from the Howard University School of Law. She is on faculty at New York University, teaching an Arts and Entrepreneurship course and has served on the governing board of Black Girls Code as well as the advisory boards of ArtUp and Black Girl Ventures.

Kayla Elizondo-Núñez
School of Arts, Media and Engineering
Online via YouTube