ibly liberating thing. It lets you call the
shots and do what you want to do.
For Kickstarter, we have operated in
the black since our 14th month of business; June 2010, we were in the black for
the first time, and we have stayed there.
We operate within our means. Every
dollar we spend, we are quite thoughtful of because this is not a big VC check;
this is money that was earned through
people having success with our service,
so we think very carefully about how we
spend that. If you are able to have your
own source of revenue, you are able
to sustain yourself. You do not have to
sell out; you can continue to operate in
whatever way you like.
That leads to the second point,
which is that you should be idealistic.
When you start a company or any sort
of project, you are compelled by some
deep, burning thing in your heart; there
is something you really want to change.
There is something you really want to
be different. Those things come from
very idealistic places, but the challenge
as something exists and is out there in
the world is that every day, there are infinite opportunities to compromise on
that vision. It could be that a competitor
has done something that seems like it
might be successful; it is not something
you ever thought you would do, but “oh
wait, do we have to do this now?” Is this
the new term of engagement?
You have to be very careful about
your beliefs. You do not want to sink
into the morass of industry standards,
because industry standards are lowering every single day by everyone trying
to chase growth, chase revenue, and
stay alive. It allows other people to do
the same. You have to lock in your values and the ideals behind your project
from the very beginning, at that nascent stage where it is all romance, and
you are just dreaming how big, how
powerful can this thing be. Think about
the things that are important to you at
that early moment, and lock them in.
Make sure you always stay true to those
things, that you act with integrity.
Protecting New Ideas
We were very clear about this for Kickstarter from the very beginning; I
and my co-founders Perry Chen and
Charles Adler vowed from the beginning that we never wanted to sell Kickstarter, we never wanted to try to IPO.
cal businesses, small shops run by
New Yorkers for their community. But
commercial real estate has become
the new easy way to make money, and
so the rents get jacked up. The person
that has been there for 30 years gets
pushed out, and a Bank of America
goes into its place. This is how a city
dies. This is how a culture dies, and
this is increasingly happening.
Battling Moneyed Imperialism
This is the globalization that is appearing around the world. It is a moneyed
imperialism that is changing local cultures. It is really hard to talk about, and
it is really important to talk about at
the same time. Berlin is feeling this. It
seems like any city that has any kind of
dynamic culture or where young people live starts to experience this, and
it is unclear what to do about it. This
is true for entrepreneurs, it is true for
cities. This is the big battle of our age.
So what can you do about it? I do not
have a solution, but I have three places
where I think it starts.
The first is, don’t sell out.
Now I am 37 years old. I grew up
with the Kurt Cobain, “corporate rock
sucks,” “selling out is the worst thing
you could ever do” school of thought,
and “selling out” means you have a
great idea, and then you use it to personally enrich yourself, and who cares
about what happens to it afterward?
The idea of selling out being bad—
that has gone out of style. Now, selling
out is cool—that is to be celebrated.
“Oh, they exited for how much money?
Wow, they’re super-awesome.” It is very
shortsighted. It creates a very bottom-line thinking that is not in the broader
interest of society, that is just in the
self-interest of those entrepreneurs, of
those people who hold all that equity.
“Don’t sell out” also means you don’t
sell out your values or your culture to hit
a short-term gain; you have a clear set of
values that you are operating with.
Taking a big VC (venture capital)
funding round is another type of selling out because once you take a big
check, you are not able to guide your
mission on your own terms; you have
to follow somebody else’s. To not sell
out, it is important that you are sustainable as a business, so you have a source
of revenue that allows you to continue
to operate and grow. This is an incred-
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