– We became people’s lottery ticket

Photo: Yancey Strickler


Yancey Strickler tells the story of how Kickstarter went from its first 30$ success to over night million dollar project fundings.

On a rainy October noon, people from NTNU School of Entrepreneurship masters programme and phd-programmes have gathered to have lunch with Yancey Strickler, co-founder and previous CEO for Kickstarter, to listen to him sharing his story and experiences. He’s visiting Norway for the first time, to speak at the UKA technology conference this afternoon.

– Everyone said it was a terrible idea

Kickstarter was founded in 2009 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler. It’s the world’s largest crowdfunding platform, based on the idea to help bring creative projects to life without having to depend on traditional investment systems. The concept is quite easy: Every project sets a funding goal, and if reached, funders credit cards are charged, if not, there’s no funding. It’s all or nothing.

The first time Strickler heard about the idea of crowdfunding was in a restaurant in Brooklyn where he was a regular. There he met Perry Chen, who presented his idea of crowdfunding online. They agreed to try to bring the idea to life. According to Strickler they tried and failed repeatedly. One of the reasons seems to be the lack of coding skills.

This was in 2001, and like Strickler says: The Internet was a  whole lot different back then.

An unconventional path

While telling the story from how he went from growing up in a farm, wanting to be a writer, to moving to New York and being a critic for Pitchfork amongst others, and to becoming co-founder and CEO for Kickstarter, Strickler’s story doesn’t seem to strike the audience as the conventional entrepreneur story.

– I didn’t take any business classes in college I wasn’t even interested in that sort of things. With an BA in English and literary and cultural studies, I might not appear to be a stereotypical entrepreneur, Strickler says.

The first success

Strickler values the importance about sharing your ideas with other people. By people’s reactions you can tell when your idea sounds boring.

– Through talking about something that doesn’t exist, you learn what’s interesting about it.

You know when your listeners lose that little spark of interest in their eyes? That’s when you know you’re boring them, according to Strickler. After sharing their own ideas, getting good people on board, and not to mention a few trying and failing projects, the Kickstarter founders made their first success in 2009. With a 30 dollar goal they raised 35 dollars for a drawing artist.

– Looking at it now, it seems quite humble, Strickler says, and laughs.

– It’s hard to do without true partnership

But it’s clear that what they learned from their first success is more valuable than that. Not only does the personal development seem to be huge when you’re invested in a project like this; you will also experience the importance of good partners. Partner’s who’s also invested on a personal basis like yourself will help you the most.

– It’s hard to do without true partnership. They’ve got their skin in the game, their reputation on stake like you do.

Another benefit with true partners is having someone continuingly pushing you forward. Without someone to keep you honest and keep you doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re more likely to stop, according to Strickler.

– People could become millionaires overnight

In 2012, only three years after their first success, Kickstarter had its first project to cross a million dollar in funding. And a lot of projects followed close behind. Crowdfunding had become a «thing».

– We became people’s lottery ticket. Now people could become millionaires overnight, Strickler says.

This summer he left his position in Kickstarter. On question from the audience if he would do it again, the laid back, good-humoured former CEO is pretty clear that he wouldn’t.

But he doesn’t seem regret anything, and encourages everyone with an idea to go for it. I can’t speak on behalf of the others in that room, but I sure left lunch this day quite more inspired than before, eager to share my own ideas with the world.