Simply put for those of you who are not familiar with crowdfunding, it is where any Internet user can finance creative projects, movie ideas, technology innovations or almost anything under the sun, for as low as US$1 as a minimum pledge for some projects. A couple of forerunners in this crowdfunding space include Indiegogo, Crowdrise, GoFundMe and more importantly in the context of this article, Kickstarter.
What is noteworthy about Kickstarter is that their three founders Charles Adler, Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler all came from artistic backgrounds. Since its inception, they have gathered more than 2 billion dollars in pledge funding from over 9.7 million pledgers and have helped 94,314 projects come to life – that’s 94,314 dreams that might not have seen the light of day. Kickstarter started back in April 28, 2009 and the rest is pretty much history.
We caught up with Charles Adler, one of the three co-founders and Kickstarter’s former Head of Design, who was invited by NUS Enterprise for a fireside chat at Block 71 in Singapore last week. Tech Storm’s new video presenter Ki’ern Tan scored a chance to speak with the man himself.
KT: What are some of the challenges that you have faced, working and launching a tech company?
CA: I don’t really know if I consider myself an artist. I don’t what I really consider myself, because I don’t really consider myself an entrepreneur. I think generally when starting a company, it is sort of an interesting process in solitude. You are usually paranoid and you don’t share your idea. And yet, you also want and desire feedback for that idea, so it is a pretty dark existence for a long time.
In this aspect of this of, I guess they call it passion. This desire to kind of keep pushing forward and accomplish the mission that you are trying to accomplish. Or change the world in the way that you want it to make the change. There is a bit of a psychology to that, psychosis to that which keeps driving you. So, there is this tension between the solitude of protecting that idea and the tenacity that it takes to getting that idea out into the world.
KT: Now, what made you leave Kickstarter after five years?
CA: So I think it is pretty simple. I was turning 40 and had spent 7 years building Kickstarter with my co-founders up to that point and building the team around the platform. We had accomplished a lot, I will admit that I didn’t feel like I was necessarily done.
But you are almost never done, right? You are never done raising your child, right? And for all of us I think it was definitely our baby. As a guy who is turning 40, I wanted to see what else I could do and I more time and freedom to explore.
KT: So what are the three biggest lessons that you have taken from Kickstarter?
CA: One is focus, I think it is really easy to be distracted as an entrepreneur. Everyone is giving you advice when you do actually share that idea that you have and it is coming from all ends of the earth. It is very easy to be consumed and distracted by that advice.
Focus and then the connection back to why you took that leap of faith in the first place. What was it that got you to the point to quit the job that you had and just focus entirely on this thing, or even start the project at all - if it was a moon lighting project.
And I think the third piece is, if you get to the point where you launch. If you get to the point where you share that idea with people, the water changes. If you get successful or if you don’t, I think there is this aspect once you get out of having potential of losing the plot. Again, why did you do this in the first place? Remind yourself why you did this, remember what the plot was.
KT: Did you ever imagine when you first started, that Kickstarter would be able to clock over one billion dollars’ worth of pledge funding?
CA: I think there are always those late night dreaming moments when you want to have exploding growth. But you know, the reality was that we want to help out the friends around us that were artists, makers, designers and engineers that couldn’t get project off the ground, or couldn’t get projects to see the light of day. That bumped us out, that depressed us.
So really, the ultimate goal was seeing our friend’s projects come to life and their friend’s project to come to life and we knew that, it was a project bigger than the community of people around us.
KT: What are three of your most significant ways, that you think Kickstarter has changed the lives of creators and inventors?
CA: That is an interesting one. I think ultimately Kickstarter is about creative self-expression, creative control and in keeping the control in the hands of the creator, the creative that brought that idea to life. And if anything I think that, that’s probably the most important component. That person has sole responsibility and sole creative control of where their vision takes them. They can fill that vision up to whatever their dream was.
KT: So what was the most memorable project for you?
CA: That’s the unfair question. There isn’t a single one. I mean there are projects from the very early days that you know I have a lot of love for, because they take the chance on this quirky little thing that we have launched. So there is a different kind of love for those.
Then there’s those that you know put us on a bigger map, those that took on of a little bit more of viral success. Still there are all these amazingly beautiful projects that maybe you don’t see in the press and then there are ones that you see in the press. Those that are nominated for an Oscar, or the half dozen or so that make it to Sundance and do incredibly well at Sundance - at the film category at least.
Those are big moments for us, those are heartfelt moments for us. You are sort of with them celebrating and they are sort of exciting, yeah.
KT: So what has been keeping you busy after 2013?
CA: Yeah, well I have been spending a little more time with my family, which is pretty awesome and have been travelling quite a bit. I spent 7 years doing this Kickstarter thing and I worked really hard in those years to make sure that I didn’t lose the plot, was sort of grounded and connected to why we exist in the first place.
After 7 years of sipping some Kool-Aid, you tend to get a little bit drunk. I wanted some time to reflect and step back. So, travelling is a big part, a huge part of my life. Seeing other cultures, it’s a big reason why I am here
KT: So final question, the most interesting question as well. So, are there any new start-ups that we can look forward to?
CA: There are a lot of new start-ups to look forward to, what they are? I don’t know yet. That’s kind of a tough question, I don’t really have a great answer for you on that one.
Watch the full interview here!
By Geralyne Kaye / October 21, 2015 15:50PM GMT+8 Singapore
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