Perry Chen, co-founder and chief executive officer of Kickstarter — the New York-based crowdfunding platform — is moving on to become chairman of the five-year-old company on January 1, 2014, the company announced today. He will be replaced as CEO by his co-founder Yancey Strickler. In addition, co-founder Charles Adler is moving back to Chicago and transitioning to become an adviser to Kickstarter.
This is a significant change in the company’s management structure, but it shouldn’t impact the company and its mission, Chen outlined in a blog post today. Explaining this decision (one he has been thinking about for some time), he pointed out that he will focus on the big picture and help Kickstarter stay focused on the core mission. In addition, he wants to explore some personal creative projects. From the blog post:
“It’s been almost five years since we launched Kickstarter to the world in late April 2009. Since then we’ve grown from an idea, to a start-up, to a strong, independent company. The team has grown, too. From Yancey, Charles, and me, to 68 of the best people I know.
As early as 2005, Yancey and I would spend hours together imagining and debating the possibilities. Soon Charles joined us. After we launched, Yancey answered every customer service email, then built our Community team, and then our Communications team.…Yancey, who has been helping guide Kickstarter since we started working together eight years ago. Yancey has the love and respect of the team, first and foremost me.”
As someone who has followed the company closely, even from before it was a company, I can attest to that statement about Yancey. He has been the co-CEO of the company for a while, although he didn’t enjoy the title. And Kickstarter has been on a tear: In the five years since it opened its doors, the company has seen five million people back a Kickstarter project. Those backers have successfully funded over 50,000 projects and the success rate is around 44 percent. In a few months, about a billion dollars will have been pledged on Kickstarter.
I am one of those 5 million people and I have been fascinated with it since the first time Perry told me about it. It was years before there was a company, but the idea of peer-to-peer funded creativity made perfect sense. And even today, Kickstarter is more than just a company — it is a socio-economic movement, one that has turned out to be so powerful that it has reshaped the narrative around how creative projects are built and brought to light.
This power to change is one of the reasons why we closely follow the company. One of the reasons why Kickstarter has been able to achieve what it has been able to achieve is because it isn’t run like a classic venture-backed startup — it hasn’t buckled to the pressures that come with over $10 million in venture funding. That non-traditional approach and purity of mission has helped Kickstarter keep its momentum (I wonder if that will change with these new moves). Most of the company’s investors are onboard with Perry’s non-traditional vision, including his reticence to going public.
In a blog post, Kickstarter’s lead venture investor Fred Wilson said:
Four and a half years after launch, Kickstarter is a very important and sustainable business. It will continue to grow, it will continue to fund creativity, and it will continue to do things its own way. Kickstarter was built in Perry’s mold and the unique culture and mission of the Company are derived from him.
That said, I can totally relate to Chen and his desire to step away from a day-to-day role. He has been obsessing over the idea of Kickstarter for nearly a decade. If you spend that much time being immersed in this one thing, you need to remove yourself from the daily routine to get context for where we need to be. I have personally done it and I am better for it, and so is our company.
My view of Kickstarter is summed up by a line I have used before: “it is part of an important shift away from the industrial manufacturing era & toward the maker economy” and it is more important than just an individual. In a wide ranging interview with me, Chen shared his vision for the platform for creativity, and we also spoke at our RoadMap conference last year, the video of which is embedded below.
At this year’s Roadmap (which is next week November 5th & 6th), we’ll be talking about how crowd-funding is changing design, with Indiegogo founder Danae Ringelmann, and Mladen Barbaric, founder and CEO of Pearl Studios, who led the design of Misfit’s Shine wearable (which raised $845K on Indiegogo).