How Kickstarter Survived Rejection Before It Found Success

Kickstarter is a wildly successful company by pretty much any standard. It’s almost single-handedly responsible for taking crowdfunding mainstream. But the company’s success wasn’t always guaranteed. Laurie Segall sat down with co-founder Yancey Strickler to talk about the ups and downs of getting Kickstarter off the ground and his new book, “This Could Be Our Future.”

Read an edited transcript below, or listen to the full interview on the First Contact podcast.

There’s already too much art in the world. Nobody needs this.

Yancey Strickler: I remember one of the very prominent VC’s telling us, “There’s already too much art in the world. Nobody needs this.”

Laurie Segall: What do you do when someone says something like that to you?

Yancey Strickler: Well, you’re just like, “This meeting isn’t going well.” …I just remembered there was a moment where…you sort of let that hang in the air and it’s like, “Okay, well, you know, anyone you think we should talk to?” You’re just like, “Let’s try to get some value out of this.”

Laurie Segall: …Even for people like you who’ve had a lot of success, part of success is just having a lot of people be like, “This is a terrible idea.”Did you ever kind of question yourself, and be like, “Am I crazy?”

Yancey Strickler: Yeah. Yeah. I haven’t stopped. (laughs).

Laurie Segall: You said in the book, “The truth is everything is made up.” What an interesting statement. You said, “The truth is there is little order. The status quo persists because people continue to wake up and believe in these ideas each day, or they’re so deeply embedded, we don’t recognize them as ideas anymore.”

Yancey Strickler: …I grew up thinking that the world makes sense… That there’s people in charge, that history is logical, and there’s natural progression. And I just trusted in those things. And when Kickstarter started being successful, it freaked me out. It freaked me out because I kept waiting for like, “Where’s the five people with clipboards who come by our office, and like make sure that we’re allowed to do what we’re doing?” You know? Just this notion that we can put out this idea that we had made and that people just believed in it and then it was real. And now it was just this thing that was so strange to me. And it just made me feel less certain about almost everything in life. I felt terrified by that for a while. And then eventually I came to feel a kind of like a superpower of, “Well if Kickstarter works this way, then other things work this way too.” And that leads me to the conclusion that the world is far more shapeable than I’ve been taught to believe.