Kickstarter CEO says crowdfunding needs innovation—and inclusion is the way

March 3, 2023, 2:32 PM UTC
Issa Rae arrives to the 54th Annual NAACP Image Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 25, 2023 in Pasadena, California.
Aaron J. Thornton—Getty Images

Happy Friday. Let’s talk about our dreams.

Last fall, and with relatively little fanfare, tech and marketing veteran Everette Taylor became the new CEO of the crowdfunding behemoth Kickstarter. It’s big business: The platform has transferred over $7 billion to artists and entrepreneurs since its founding in 2009. Among successful alums are Peloton, Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl series, the Exploding Kittens game, and Oculus Rift.

Taylor joined Fortune CEO Alan Murray and me on our Leadership Next podcast to share his plan to lead a company that has become an industry standard in a category that needs an innovation refresh.

Taylor says Kickstarter is partly about how community can help make the world better and more beautiful.

“This is not equity-based funding,” he says. “A large amount of people contribute from the goodness of their hearts and…want to see the thing actually come to life.” Films, albums, passion projects, they got you. “If you have a performance art piece that you want to put on, I don’t think, you know, Andreessen Horowitz is looking to invest. Right?”

That said, dreams are a business. 

In addition to having a great idea and some early supporters, be prepared to hustle, he says. “I tell people all the time if you don’t have that hustler spirit, then Kickstarter might not be for you. Like, this is actual work.”

He’s taking his own advice.

After a pandemic-fueled slump in 2020, Kickstarter’s revenue is “crushing it,” he says. Now, he’s focusing on new initiatives designed to help a considerably underserved and monetizable cohort of creators find success. According to the platform’s data, creators of color are currently not getting the traction they should, an experience that mirrors mainstream industries like publishing, music, film, game development, and venture capital.

We also discussed why there are still so few Black CEOs in tech, He thinks of it as a missed opportunity of the post-George Floyd era.

“When it comes to people of color—people from underrepresented backgrounds and people that may not have the résumés that others may have—those people are often overlooked,” he says. It’s amazing how having professional-track parents, access to “friends and family” money, or simply growing up unbothered with fast internet can lift some dreams instead of others.

Taylor acknowledges that Black professionals have received more career opportunities in the last three years. “But, you didn’t see a lot of Black CEOs coming around,” he says. He’s taking his visibility seriously, knowing that he is the dream for so many. “It’s really important for me to show what I can do through impact.”

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ruth Umoh.

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Parting Words

“As a black woman, I don’t identify with and relate to most of the non-black characters I see on TV, much less characters of my own race. When I flip through the channels, it's disheartening. I don’t see myself or women like me being represented. I’m not a smooth, sexy, long-haired vixen; I’m not a large, sassy black woman; an angry Post Office employee. I’m an awkward black girl.”

—Issa Rae, launching herself on Kickstarter in 2011

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