How I Built This: Kickstarter: Perry Chen

  • One of my first jobs was to day trade someone else’s money: We were buying and selling something in a minute. You might hold it for 5 minutes. It was like a combination of playing Mario Brothers and surfing. After a while, I realized I’m not helping anything. I’m just shuffling numbers from one computer to another.

  • Where the idea for Kickstarter came from: I wanted to put on a show for some electronic music artists. I thought what if the people that want to come to the show could have a say in if the show exists? If enough people signed up before a certain point then the show could happen. And if not, it doesn’t. That was it. That was the beginning. 

  • Perry put the idea for Kickstarter in the back of his mind: A few years passed and the idea wouldn’t go away. I knew I was going to pursue Kickstarter. It was my plan A.

  • I was working at a restaurant in Brooklyn. That’s where I met my cofounder:As we would talk about it [the idea for Kickstarter] we simultaneously became better friends. It naturally came together. We decided to work together.

  • How did you learn how to build a company: I was reading blogs by people who had built internet companies. I did a ton of that. You can learn a lot by googling.

  • We knew the business model from the beginning: We would charge a small fee [5%] if, and only if, the project gets funded.

  • Kickstarter took a long time to get off the ground. Most people would quit. Why didn’t you? Sometimes you just see it. We saw it. As the web changed we saw that what we were building was more needed, not less. With the rise of social media and YouTube, people could engage with Kickstarter more easily. The time between getting the first investment to launch the website was 2.5 years. 

  • Kickstarter did not have exponential growth: Growth was really nice and steady. We could build the culture we wanted easier because we only needed to hire one person a month. Sometimes less.

  • We knew we weren’t building Kickstarter to sell it: And we weren’t trying to build a public company. We were honest with investors upfront about our goals. You can find investors that understand this. Kickstarter became profitable within the first 18 months.

  • We aren’t interested in doing special deals with large companies: If you want to post a project go for it. But you aren’t better than any young creator who is working on their first idea. We aren’t going to give you any special deals. That is not what we do.

  • The thesis behind Kickstarter: People want to help each other bring good and interesting ideas to life. We are enabling that desire.

  • If a corporation was a person it would be a sociopath: When you want to create something you want to be sure it shares your values. That is one of the reasons that we wanted to hold onto control. We don’t want outside forces driving the company.

  • Full podcast here.