We thought about this as a sort of public trust. It made sense to us that in society, there should be a place reserved
for new ideas, and that is a place that
should be protected. It is not something that should be sullied by overt
commercialization or advertising, or
any of those sorts of corrupting forces;
it should be kept as a place for ideas as
pure as it can be.
We have always operated with that
mentality. Last year, we took an additional step to legally formalize that, becoming a public benefit corporation.
It is a very new thing in the U.S. This
legally binds you to have a positive influence on society; you draft a charter
to say on what basis that will happen.
For us, it was about supporting artistic
and creative works, especially those in
less-commercial areas. It includes a
pledge to not employ legal but esoteric
tax avoidance strategies. It includes
a pledge to engage with issues facing
artists and creators beyond our walls.
It includes pledging to donate 5% of
our after-tax profits every year to organizations fighting to end systemic
inequality, and organizations fighting
to provide arts and music education in
New York City.
These are the things that are important to us, and we have legally bound the
company to follow those principles for
as long as it exists. This is how those ideals that were so present in the creation of
Kickstarter and are so present in the 120
of us who work there can be maintained
throughout Kickstarter’s entire life.
The third point is to be generous.
To be perfectly honest, acting out of
integrity and values is a harder road in
a lot of ways. It means you are not go-
ing to have that big check because that
VC who asked you whether you would
do anything if we give you this $40 mil-
lion, right? You don’t do those things.
Instead, you are operating within your
means. Every choice you have to make is
a real choice. It is a slower road; you are
not going for hockey-stick growth. You
probably won’t be huge overnight; it is
a longer haul.
In more important ways, it is easier,
because in those decisions where there
is a moral question about what to do
and balancing the needs of the busi-
ness with what you believe to be right,
there is more clarity. There is more
freedom to act with conviction.
Being generous is important be-
cause it takes a lot to choose this path. It
takes a lot of strength, a lot of fortitude,
a lot of conviction. We have to support
people who choose to do that. We have
to support other artists, other creators.
You have to support them directly.
People are willing to do this. Look
at the statistics for Kickstarter to date;
in seven years, $2.5 billion, 100,000
successfully funded projects, 11-mil-
lion-plus backers. These are people
supporting projects just because they
think they are cool, because it is in-
teresting, they like the idea of a world
where that exists. This is not for finan-
cial self-interest. This is not the money
monoculture. This is people just want-
ing to support someone else who is do-
ing something cool.
There are lots of ways to do that. If
you have been listening to someone’s
album on Spotify or SoundCloud, go to
Bandcamp and buy their record. Make
sure you give them money. Support
independent businesses rather than
chains. Choose to spend your money
and put your energy toward people,
toward artists, toward companies that
are behaving in this way. If gravitation-
al forces start to shift in that direction,
it will shift culture. It really will.
Kickstarter’s internal handbook,
when new employees start, includes
a lot of our philosophy and thinking
about the world, and the final page
states: “We champion and celebrate
the creation of art and culture.”
Our mission is around creative projects. The way we are trying to accomplish this is through encouraging art
and creativity and a richer, more diverse culture that is less controlled by
money, that is more controlled by individual voices and by audiences. There
The idea of selling
out being bad—that
has gone out of
style. Now, selling
out is cool—that is
are lots of ways to do that; there are lots
of ways to challenge the status quo.
A Rare Opportunity
This is the reason I was really excited
to come to Berlin. I think this is a very
interesting moment in the life of this
community. After what happened in
the U.K. with Brexit, it seems likely
that the gravitational force of technology will shift squarely to Berlin, and
that is going to mean a lot of changes.
It is probably going to mean a lot more
money coming into this community. It
is going to mean more people coming
here to start things.
At a moment like this, there is a very
rare opportunity for this community to
define what it means to be a company
If you think about American companies, Silicon Valley companies, there is a
lot of focus on hyper-growth, on disruption, things along those lines; a lot of
power being amassed on platforms, and
users having very little power. I would
suggest that for Berlin, there is an opportunity to balance that, to build a code
around building products or services or
exploring creative projects that empow-er the individual, that are about decentralizing the Web, that are about giving
everyone more power over their data,
over what their experience is online, that
are about paying creators and supporting people pursuing open source or pursuing projects that are not simply looking to make as much money as possible.
The Internet needs a force like this.
It needs a counterbalance. It needs
someone looking out for the rights of
the individuals, because we are moving toward the future at a very fast rate.
Just a few projects here can define a
new way of thinking and a new future
for the Web.
This is a moment where groups of
people can make choices, can draft language, can think about what it means
for this city to be producing schools of
thought that are shaping the world in
a more positive and diverse direction.
This is the moment where you can define that, and I encourage you to take
advantage of this moment.
Yancey Strickler ( firstname.lastname@example.org) helped to
launch the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform in 2009;
today, he is its CEO.
Copyright held by author.