“We need leaders that think beyond our lifetimes” Image 1


“We need leaders that think beyond our lifetimes”

Yancey Strickler, co-founder and former CEO of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, talks about conferences and crowdfunding, making an idea real and leadership.

tw tagungswirtschaft: Kickstarter’s mission is to help bring creative projects to life. Over the years, which project comes to your mind?
Yancey Strickler:
One that stands out was from an artist, a 24-year-old woman. Part of her project was to sail around the world alone. For 15 Dollars she promised to take a Polaroid at some point of her trip and mail it back to you. Two years later I got an envelope in mail with a strange postmark. There was a photo of her in Papua New Guinea in the jungle and she described on the back the scene she was seeing. I found this very beautiful. It is the idea of a deeper relationship with someone’s journey. The emotion just struck me, I didn’t expect that.

For a successful project, what is more important: a good idea or a great story to tell?
(Thinking...) I would say a third thing. When it comes to successful projects, the question is: What have you done before? What’s happening is that people are building on a reputation they got in the past by being a good citizen in whatever they operated before. 40 percent of projects that reach the financial goal but fail in the end are projects of people that are trying to do it for the first time. They have no credibility or any kind of community whatever that is. The entire world is nothing by narrow. So what is a good idea?

One of ten Kickstarter projects fail after they have been successfully financed. Why?
The most common answer is loss of interest in the project. As we all know, it is a lot easier to have ideas than to follow through on them. Being a creator you are making an idea real that it actually exists. But then the actual work to make something exist is something really difficult. People tend to get lost.

“We need leaders that think beyond our lifetimes” Image 2
Yancey Strickler spoke at ibtm world 2017 about “Resist and thrive, how new models and ways of thinking can beat the status quo“.


... is co-founder and former CEO of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, a global community and crowdfunding platform built around creativity and creative projects. Since its launch, on 28 April 2009, 14 million people have backed a Kickstarter project, 3.4 billion USD have been pledged, and 136,757 projects have been successfully funded. 

Are there many conferences and events are among all the projects?

There are a lot of conferences and events, but there isn’t an event category. We thought about it and discussed it, but didn’t realize it. It is hard to set up a category “events”, because they belong to all the verticals like music, publishing and performances, design and technology. I was at a book conference earlier this year in New York founded by Kickstarter. There are music festivals and coding conferences that are founded by Kickstarter or Pussy Riot’s Launch Campaign to fund an Immersive Theatrical Show (Editor’s note a Theatrical Show about what it means to be a political opponent in Russia today). Crowdfunding is a good way to validate the idea of a conference, to set up a sponsorship or to sell tickets.

Would you encourage people who want to create a conference to do crowdfunding?
Only if it is sincere! I would not do it as marketing promotion – honestly it will be too much work. But if it is sincere, if you want to set up a first conference for your 150 core community members, it makes sense. Kickstarter is some of the cheapest money you can have. You don’t have to pay it back. You fulfill your promises and obligations, presumably these are things that fill in the natural flow of things you are doing anyway.

Your keynote at ibtm world 2017 was entitled “Resist and thrive, how new models and ways of thinking can beat the status quo“. What should meeting professionals take away?
The meetings industry is not an industry I have thought a lot about before, although I have seen some magazines and I have been in a lot of meetings. I feel a real passion for provoking people to think about why they are doing something, because we fall often to sleep with what we do. One issue I talked about this morning was the monoculture of business: Money makes everything the same and creates a monoculture. It seems large and insurmountable, but these are things that are possible to change by a serious series of individual actions. Perhaps I am a naïve optimist, but even this act can have a tremendous impact. I am waking people up to understand what is important to them. I am trying to be in as many rooms as I can to encourage them to ask themselves questions about their corporations: Why do we exist?

Did you step down as CEO of Kickstarter after four years, because you are a “naïve optimist”?
Yes, probably. I love being a co-founder, I love being a leader, I love every moment that I spend working at Kickstarter, but I don’t know if I love being a CEO. Perry Chen is back as CEO. At this time I have no day-to-day involvement with the company at all.

What is for you the difference between a leader and a CEO?
Who you are accountable to. As a leader you are accountable to those who follow you or on whose respect you depend. As a CEO you are accountable to the owners and the market on whose performance you depend.

And what makes a good leader?
Clarity of thought. Humility to listen. A generous spirit. Yancey Strickler spoke at ibtm world 2017 about “Resist and thrive, how new models and ways of thinking can beat the status quo“.

We are experiencing turbulent times – which kind of leadership do we need?
We need leaders that think beyond our lifetimes and strive for what’s best for the common man and woman.

Disruptors like you challenge us to do things differently... Do you have already a next “lesson” for us in mind?
I’m always in learning mode. I recommend reading the book “The KLF” by John Higgs for an exciting way to look at the world.  KERSTIN WÜNSCH
“Don’t optimize for money. Focus on personal fulfillment, service to others, literally anything else.”
Yancey Strickler