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Kickstarter Changed Crowdfunding — But Don't Call It a Disruptor

by Kim Bainbridge and Jessica Shim /  / Updated 

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Fifteen years after the innovative Perry Chen decided to revolutionize the fundraising industry, Kickstarter is still making headlines. The Brooklyn-based crowdfunding startup just poached Erica Baker (Slack, Google) to be its new director of engineering.

Baker made news in 2015 when she aggregated and disseminated the earnings of many of her Google peers. The data that she collected was voluntarily submitted by the participants in her survey. Baker hoped that the data that she collected would highlight unequal pay policies that she and many of her coworkers believed to be widespread at the leader in internet searching. Baker has since been an outspoken advocate for diversity in tech and equal pay for equal work.

Baker’s hire seems to be in line with Kickstarter’s oft mentioned commitment to transparency. In an interview unrelated to Baker’s new role, Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler had the following to say:

“There's only one way to move forward. And always being very open and direct with people just serves you in the long run.”

Strickler and Charles Adler joined Chen to launch Kickstarter in 2009. Chen hatched the multibillion-dollar crowdfunding idea after failing to raise enough money to fund a Kruder & Dorfmeister concert in New Orleans in 2002.

Today, Chen, Strickler, and Adler are widely lauded as tech and crowdfunding disruptors — a characterization that Strickler rejects.

“Disruptor, to me, feels aggressive,” says Strickler. “Film, games, the art world, product design, technology, these are all industries that are very different in a post-Kickstarter world. But for the most part, we are collaborators.”

Despite Strickler’s sentiments, Kickstarter did fundamentally change the project-funding business. Kickstarter has already funded more than 100,000 projects and disseminated over $3 billion dollars for diverse projects. Kickstarter has even gotten the attention of celebrity fundraisers from Zach Braff to Zosia Mamet.

In 2013, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored its first Kickstarter-funded film, “Inocente,” with an Oscar — shattering all conventions surrounding feature film production and fundraising. And the public can likely expect Kickstarter to push boundaries for many years to come.

“As a leader, as a founder, that is your responsibility,” says Strickler. “To always see what it could be and to push for that — to advocate for that.”

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