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Kickstarter’s billion-dollar man

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Kickstarter’s Yancey Strickler on how his crowdfunding website became a phenomenon

“On a Tuesday evening in 2009, a guy raised $35 from three people,” Yancey Strickler tells ShortList, seeming still surprised about it. “But that was huge because it said, ‘Holy sh*t, this thing actually works!’” Five years on from that first pledge (for an online illustration resource called ‘Drawing For Dollars’), and Kickstarter – the crowdfunding website Strickler co-founded – gives anyone with an idea the power to raise $1m in a day. In fact, as of last week, a total of $1bn has now been pledged to fund local art projects, space missions and, er, a DeLorean Hovercraft (above).

So how did it happen? And why are people just giving away money in a recession? “That’s the question every investor asked back when we were just three guys with an idea. For me, Kickstarter’s success is that it appeals to human instincts. We all want to be part of something bigger. And people get a direct say in our culture – it goes back to the Medicis and the patron system."

But while Da Vinci would have approved of the crowdfunded, human-powered helicopter, how does one gain backing?

“Be your authentic, weird self,” says Strickler. “That’s what we’re most proud of – the bonkers stuff, like the family who conducted a census of all the squirrels in their park.”

Squirrel-wrangling aside, Strickler is proud of the impactful stuff, too: “The Oculus Rift [virtual-reality headset] is sick. It’s the one thing in the history of the internet that really lives up to the hype. People are going to lose their sh*t.”

It’s a refreshing turn of phrase for a man worth billions: “Honestly? I see it as a privilege to serve this concept. I’m not interested in owning a yacht or seven Siberian tigers. But I tend to buy a lot more drinks these days…”

(DeLorean image: Nick Baker)

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