Monday, March 7, 2016

11 Takeaways from Kickstarter Founder, Perry Chen

In February, I left the National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives challenged by William Nelson's closing remarks, "Get involved in things you can’t do alone." Last week, I announced my post-graduation plans, and unveiled the biggest project I've been a part of in my life. Just the other night, it all came together at late night lecture on campus.

Perry Chen, one of the founders of Kickstarter was at Iowa State. Perry told his entrepreneurial story and opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn't know about crowdfunding. Here are my top 11 takeaways from his talk:

1. For those of you who aren't familiar with crowdfunding, Kickstarter = (Funding + Democracy) + Sweet Incentives. Backers show their support for a project or idea by contributing their own money. In return, they feel great about helping something they like move forward, and may get a gift like a t-shirt or exclusive content.

2. Did you know the Statue of Liberty's pedestal was paid for by crowdfunding? Donations were solicited and in return, supporters received replicas of the statue in varying sizes based on their gift. I had no idea crowdfunding had been around so long!

3. The Oscars happened recently. Did you know an Oscar winning documentary was funded on Kickstarter? Kickstarter has helped hundreds of creative people get their work off the ground.

4. "We have the opportunities to try and fail that people have never had before." This statement really made me think. It's so true. I don't have to spend my whole day harvesting and preparing my meals or walking from place to place. My day isn't consumed with basic survival. I have time to think and try out my wild ideas. I need to stop taking this for granted.

5. The safe path and decisions... are not so safe. The crooked path of following your passion and taking risk for your ideas may reward more. I've known for a while that I wanted to follow my passions and do my own thing. Each time I began seriously considering it, I worried it wasn't a safe decision. What if my business was a flop? The work could stop coming in. I wouldn't be able to pay my rent. Then I realized, the what if game could go the other way too. Taking the safe path and accepting a salary with a large company may not be so safe. The company could be acquired. I could be laid off. Traveling to all 50 states blogging about agriculture is certainly a crooked path, but it's following my passion, and I'm already seeing the priceless rewards.

My friends at KinoSol got to hang out with Perry Chen.
They've been an awesome group of entrepreneurs to
brainstorm with over the last few years!
Photo credit: KinoSol
6. "Many companies have a mission, but many times it comes second to maximizing profit." This doesn't mean all companies work this way. As an Econ student, I'm perfectly aware that profit maximization and keeping shareholders happy is the driving goal for many organizations. Profit is necessary to be sustainable, but if it means sacrificing the mission statement, maybe things need to be reprioritized.

7. "The change with all this is not just funding, it's building community around your work." This is the part of crowdfunding I'm so excited about. Personally, I'm killing two birds with one stone if I can find people that are excited to follow #RootsRoadtrip and willing to help me raise funds to get around the country. I think having people engaged with the businesses around them strengthens the community.

8. "As you guys know, sometimes when you have a really special idea, it just won't go..." I love meeting other people who've had this experience. It's always reassuring to know you're not the only one that feels this nagging itch to run with an idea.

9. "We want to help each other bring our ...each others'... creative ideas to life." It's pretty cool to be a part of a community striving to achieve great things together, don't you think?

10. "Profit based decision making doesn't lead to the best art and culture." After studying Econ for the last four years, I understand the place of profit based decision making. It's a valuable tool, especially during the lean times. But life would be boring if we let profit maximization lead the way in every situation. Think of all the joys in life you'd miss if we eliminated them to save a buck or two.

11. There is no financial upside for backers on Kickstarter, and that is what opens the floodgates for support. It's about affinity. This is another reason I love crowdfunding! People are putting their money where their mouth is. People are opening their wallets because they believe in you and they genuinely want you to succeed. How encouraging is that?!

I'm super excited to release my own crowdfunding campaign this spring. This road trip isn't something I can do alone. I'm so thankful for the support I've received so far! Thanks for reading! 


  1. I love crowdfunding. I think at the basic level people love to help each other and there is nowhere this is more obvious than in crowdfunding

    1. Glad to find another crowdfunding lover! :)

  2. I love the 'Risk v Reward' concept - sometimes you've got to go for it! Crowdfunding is another thing I'm just learning about and it seems to be really successful!