Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter, has confirmed the crowdfunding platform will not be getting involved with crowd equity. Strickler was in conversation with TechCrunch’s John Biggs, here at TechCrunch Disrupt New York.
“We’re planning on sitting that one out,” said Strickler when asked whether Kickstarter would be extending its platform to allow projects to offer their backers equity in exchange for financial support, rather than just rewards, thanks and the chance to see something that doesn’t currently exist get created which the platform currently supports.
“I think that what we really like about Kickstarter is that projects are funded just because people think they’re cool. Because they’re excited about them. Because of that you get all sorts of really weird, crazy things that get funded, and it’s just an incredibly diverse universe of people making things just because they’re excited about them,” added Strickler.
I love the idea of opening up that funnel to things existing just because people want them to.
“That was always a real motivator for us from the very beginning, when we first started working on this — for Perry [Chen, co-founder and now chairman] that was 12 years ago. Which is that the sort of art and culture that we like are things that we knew are hard to get funded. Because it wasn’t going to make anybody money.”
Kickstarter’s management team has previously said it also has no intention of taking the company public, or selling it — a point noted in the previous session here at TechCrunch Disrupt by Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, a backer of Kickstarter — so the platform’s plan to eschew crowd equity is not too surprising.
Investors’ brows may furrow when they discuss the “current Kickstart management team’s” focus on content, rather than cold hard cash, but Strickler argued that that focus is exactly what makes Kickstarter stand out in what has become a crowded space, in the five years since the platform launched.
“If you look at the way the culture industry or investment models work, someone gives you money and hopes that they will make money themselves — and obviously that is the point of investment but I think art works by different rules, creative things work by different rules. If you look at everything through that prism the concept of what becomes possible becomes much, much smaller,” he said.
“So I love the idea of opening up that funnel to things existing just because people want them to — and I think that’s enabled many more things to exist. So for us we are an extremely mission driven company — and our mission is to help people bring creative products to life. And my hypothesis is that our current model is going to best serve that mission.”
“I think there are things that are more important than money. I think the community is something that our hearts instinctively look for, and so for me I feel a great resolve and a real privilege to be able to devote my life to,” added Strickler, drawing impromptu applause from the Disrupt audience.
Strickler pointed to board games as one of the community-driven enthusiast areas that the platform has been able to support — noting that as of this week Kickstarter will pass $100 million having been cumulatively pledged to board games.
“Last year there was actually more money pledged to board games than video games,” added Strickler. “It’s like $55 million in board games. It’s kind of counterintuitive to the way that we think the world is moving but I think the board game market on Kickstarter is very illustrative of what it is that we actually do.
“I remember meeting someone is 2009 or 2010 — really early for us — who said that Kickstarter was the first thing to change the board game industry since the early 70s. Basically it’s this huge fan community… They weren’t in a scale to where the Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley would drop a huge chunk of change on it. So we ended up stepping in and being this perfect conduit for these communities to exist.”
Strickler went on to describe crowdfunding in general as “bigger than ever and smaller than people think”.
“The projects that you see on Kickstarter get tonnes of attention, and Kickstarter itself seems to be like a top 20 brand on the Internet or something, even though traffic wise we’re nowhere near that. But these things have resonated in a very big way,” he added. “About six million people have backed a Kickstarter project, which is a lot, but still — thinking in Facebook terms, that’s nothing.”