How To Make Better Decisions & Lessons From Kickstarter | Yancey Strickler on Conscious Creators Show with Sachit Gupta

Check out the Conscious Creators Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Yancey Strickler, founder of Kickstarter, didn’t quit his job at a record label until Kickstarter had been live for 2-3 months; he found it difficult to risk abandoning his job stability having come from a family with little money
    • “Both knowing to stick with it and then also making that choice to commit, those were massive existential questions at the time” – Yancey Strickler
  • With the advancement of the internet and remote work tools, Yancey sees more people moving out of big cities. Some companies are already full remote.
  • Up until recently, if you wanted to raise venture capital you had to be in NYC or San Francisco just for the relationship-building required
    • However, today Twitter gives people the ability to share their brand, building a strong following, and network with amazing people including investors
  • As a CEO, you need to have a vision of where you want to go and constantly make choices that help you get there. It sounds easy but it’s hard:
    • You have to convince and remind employees that this is the right choice and direction to go
    • There will be obstacles daily to stop you from where you want to go 
    • You will encounter distractions to shift directions or take up your time
  • A helpful thought experiment from Yancey: Imagine two years from now you’re leaving your house and you’re remembering the quarantine. What 3 things are you glad that you did during that time?
    • “I can see how I’m incrementally working towards a larger goal. Everyday that we survive is a day toward achieving goal number one.” Yancey Strickler
  • Kickstarter actively avoided tech and business press because they wanted artists to join the platform and didn’t want other tech people starting a similar company
    • “We didn’t want to be in that news cycle because we just didn’t see any benefit. We saw only downside.”  Yancey Strickler
      • “The focus was to stay quiet, don’t get too much attention”

Intro

Books Mentioned

Yancey’s Life Journey

  • Yancey grew up on a farm in Virginia
    • He kept himself busy with books, Lego, and video games
      • His dream was to become a writer
  • Yancey later moved to New York on a whim and got his first job writing the news blurbs for radio stations
    • Yancey eventually became a music critic for The Village Voice 
      • Around this time, Perry Chen approached him with the idea for crowdfunding and the idea for Kickstarter began
        • He and his co-founder struggled for several years as non-technical people trying to build a tech company. It took them about 4 years to launch Kickstarter.
          • Yancey didn’t quit his job at a record label until Kickstarter had been live for 2-3 months; he found it difficult to risk abandoning his job stability having come from a family with little money
            • “Both knowing to stick with it and then also making that choice to commit, those were massive existential questions at the time” – Yancey Strickler

Shift In Remote Work

  • With the advancement of the internet and remote work tools, Yancey sees more people moving out of big cities. Some companies are already full remote.
    • If you’re open to hiring remote workers, you’re increasing your chances of getting a top candidate (ex: A top engineer can live outside a city but still work for you) 
      • However, some people can find it difficult to move out of a city because they tie their identity to where they live 
  • Yancey thinks that with the recent interest in living in less urban areas, there may be a development of “flyover tech” or rural/red state tech, particularly with the increase in working remotely
  • Up until recently, if you wanted to raise venture capital you had to be in NYC or San Francisco just for the relationship building required
    • However, today Twitter enables people to share their brand, building a strong following, and network with amazing people including investors

Making Better Decisions

  • As a CEO, you have to know where you want to go and constantly make choices that help you get there
    • It sounds easy but it’s hard:
      • You have to convince and remind employees that this is the right choice and direction to go
        • “There’s just this immense challenge of maintaining a consistent direction”Yancey Strickler
      • There will be obstacles daily to stop you from where you want to go 
      • You will encounter distractions to shift directions or take up your time
        • “Did we just stay busy or did we actually build anything here”
  • Yancey shares more leadership advice in his book This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World  
  • Yancey found himself thinking about his future and where he wants to go, and realized he could divide it into Now Me, Future Me, Now Us, and Future Us
    • He asks himself a few questions in each of these quadrants in order to guide his decision-making.
      • He called this “Beyond Near-Term Orientation,” or BENTO, like the Japanese Bento box  
      • “Now the bento is how I make every choice in life” – Yancey Strickler
        • Yancey created Benotism.org to help people make better choices in life
          • You’re trying to identify what’s important to you and make the best decision that aligns with your core values
            • Yancey now does a bento box review every week and makes his schedule based on his answers
              • During lockdown, he has used Bento check-ins to shift his mindset from a self-focus to a group focus, thinking about the new responsibility of homeschooling his 4-year old as an additive experience instead of something that takes him away from his work

Start Thinking Ahead

  • A helpful thought experiment from Yancey: Imagine two years from now you’re leaving your house and you’re remembering the quarantine. What 3 things are you glad that you did during that time?
    • Yancy’s answers: He would be glad that he took care of his family, that homeschooling was a fun family adventure, and he spent his work time on a single project
      • “I can see how I’m incrementally working towards a larger goal. Everyday that we survive is a day toward achieving goal number one.” Yancey Strickler
  • Don’t just react to current events, be actively aware of the future and spend time anticipating and shaping future events 
    • Passive awareness says buy frozen foods
    • Active awareness says buy seeds

Lessons From Kickstarter

  • Yancey and his co-founders told investors from the start that they weren’t planning on an IPO or exiting the company anytime soon
  • Kickstarter actively avoided tech and business press because they wanted artists to join the platform and didn’t want other tech people starting a similar company
    • “We didn’t want to be in that news cycle because we just didn’t see any benefit. We saw only downside.”  Yancey Strickler
      • “The focus was to stay quiet, don’t get too much attention”
  • Within 14 months of the site going live, Kickstarter was profitable and have been ever since
    • Strive for a profitable startup because it gives you more independence 
      • Don’t try to push growth too quickly, you want to make sure you’re growing the company in the right way and maintaining the company’s culture

Success & Profits

  • Kickstarter became a public benefit corporation to produce a public benefit to society
    • Companies shouldn’t sole define success by profits but the benefits they provide to their customers, the community, and society as a whole
      • Although finance will be the main metric companies use to define success, Yancey believes in the next 30 years there will be several additional metrics added to define how successful a company is operating
  • From 1948-1973, the wages of the average American grew by over 90% 
    • From 1973-today, the average worker has only gotten a 10% pay-raise
      • “Productivity in workers has continued to increase but their pay has stopped growing” – Yancey Strickler
        • Meanwhile during that same time, the top 10% of the average executive in America has gotten a 1,000% raise

Life After Kickstarter

  • After leaving Kickstarter, Yancey did a SWOT analysis of himself and came up with 5 possible projects to pursue:
    • Teach, start another company, go into film, be a journalist, write a book
      • Yancey tried out these hypothetical careers and would spend the day imagining himself in that role and paying attention to his physical responses to that imagined reality. Writing a book felt like the right choice for him.
        • To make sure he was moving forward, Yancey would give himself deadlines. He gave himself a year to write his book. 
          • “All of these things are means of just forcing me to behave in these ways that would be harder for me otherwise”  – Yancey Strickler

Yancey’s Book Recommendations

Additional Notes

  • “I don’t think that we’re born individualists or we’re born a member of a community, but I think all these spaces are real. They all exist for all of us.” – Yancey Strickler
  • “With climate change, what we’re going to see is that the Chinese and the Eastern perspective of long-termism and collectivism is going to be far more adept at creating scalable solutions to climate change than the West.” – Yancey Strickler
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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