Kickstarter boss tells Web Summit public value as vital as profit

Crowdfunding platform has forgone potential fortune from going public or selling

Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Strickler at the  2015 Web Summit in the RDS, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Strickler at the 2015 Web Summit in the RDS, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

 

While the Web Summit appears to be predicated on the notion that every start-up in attendance has the potential to develop into a billion-dollar “unicorn”, a contrary note was struck by Yancey Strickler, one of the cofounders of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Instead of pursuing the usual route to profit, Kickstarter recently changed its terms of incorporation, becoming a public benefit corporation in Delaware, with a legal obligation to consider the impact of the firm’s decisions on society, not just shareholders. It was Mr Strickler’s and cofounder Perry Chen’s belief that the change in focus fit the ethos of the platform, while remaining a for-profit company.

In doing so, the founders have forgone the fortune that could have been raised by going public or selling the company. “Nevertheless, all our investors were keen on it,” Mr Strickler told David Rowan of Wired magazine during an interview on the central stage yesterday afternoon.

Crowdfunding platform

Charles Adler

These include seven Oscar-nominated movies and projects including the Pebble smartwatch and the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

“We have allowed independent artists and creators to make stuff they’re excited about just because they’re excited about them, the sort of things that traditional investors are not going to find that compelling.

“But most of the great ideas in life come from people who have no interest in making money: they just want their ideas to exist. I feel like what we have done is create a way for people to create things they want to.”

Kickstarter recently branched out with a fundraising effort for Syrian refugees, which Mr Strickler felt was in keeping with the company’s new status as a public-benefit company.

But he emphasised this wasn’t the start of a new charitable crowdfunding platform.

“Our focus on creativity is important; our clear dedication to culture is an important part of our relationship with the artistic community,” he said.