Kickstarter co-founder Strickler '00 visits W&M

Yancey Strickler, W&M alumnus and one of the founders of the popular “crowdfunding” website Kickstarter, spoke with students and faculty on Friday afternoon in Tucker Hall. Students enjoyed free pizza and insight in the new tiered lounge on the second floor of Tucker as Strickler discussed his time at William & Mary and later in the world of entrepreneurship.

Kickstarter, founded in 2009, was a four-year labor of love for Strickler and his friend Perry Chen, a graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans. It is a website founded on the idea that writers, filmmakers, musicians and other creative artists should be able to get funding for their own projects not through corporate backers, but through the public. Kickstarter allows artists to post their projects for the public to see, where anyone can arrive, peruse the available information, and, if they like the idea of the project, agree to give funds. Artists often offer incentives for donations: sketches, extra information about the project, or even copies of books or movies once the project is finished.

“The idea is to get money flowing to ideas,” Strickler said in his talk. “It’s really gratifying to see people care about creative things.”

Strickler also said that Kickstarter receives no funding through ads, refuses to change artists’ projects in any way, and generally adheres to a number of internal rules. “We’re really idealistic here,” he added.

Strickler’s road to Kickstarter was hardly a straight one. After graduating from W&M as a double major in English and literary and cultural studies in 2000, he worked as a freelance writer before being approached by Chen about the project.

“I never wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Strickler remarked. “Creative writing was always my thing.”

From there it was another three-to-four years of gruelling work before Kickstarter finally got off the ground, and in 2009, the website was founded and running. Chen and Strickler got an office in New York, which they still occupy to this day. Starting with five employees, Kickstarter has since grown to include 65 employees, funding over 48,000 projects and raising over $775 million.