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Kickstarter Shows How It’s Trying To Put Principles Before Profits

For the first time since becoming a public benefit corporation, the company is revealing how it’s living up to its objectives.

Kickstarter Shows How It’s Trying To Put Principles Before Profits
Photos: courtesy of Kickstarter

Later today, Kickstarter will release its first annual benefit statement since incorporating as a Public Benefit Corporation in 2015. In taking that step, the crowdfunding platform joined Patagonia and a few other companies that have accepted a legal obligation to benefit society, rather than just focusing on maximizing shareholder value. Every two years, Kickstarter is required to report on its progress in achieving a long list of objectives laid out in its charter—in other words, it has to prove the benefit that it’s providing the public.

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So far, it appears that the company is making a lot of progress toward fulfilling that charter when it comes to charitable donations, gender and racial equity, and pay equity, according to a copy of the statement obtained by Fast Company. The document also reveals plenty about its overall financial health. In 2016, Kickstarter users pledged $658,053,820, which works out to just shy of $30 million in revenue (it takes 5% of every successful pledge—about 90% of all pledges are successful, according to Kickstarter VP of Communications, Justin Kazmark).

Talking to Kickstarter’s cofounders, investors, and employees over the last three weeks, it became clear that while the bottom line serves as a guideline for success, it’s not the metric that motivates their team. The statement highlights the number of full- and part-time jobs that Kickstarter claims to have created (more than 300,000, as measured by an independent research team at the University of Pennsylvania) to the combined effective tax rate it paid (25%), to the demographics and pay of its executive team.

Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler says that disclosing these numbers and focusing on the company’s social impact is about living up to the values that they preach. “If we’re saying that we want to build a more safe and equitable world, that starts in your own backyard. Change starts at home,” he told me.

Yancey Strickler

In 2016 Strickler’s salary was 2.33 times that of the average employee’s salary, and his total compensation (including stock and salary) was five times the average employee’s compensation. By comparison, the average tech CEO made 95 times their average employee’s pay, according to a study conducted by Mercer last year.

Kickstarter’s demographics are also impressive: 53% of employees are women and 50% of executives are women (compared to the 12% average for executives in the tech sector reported by Fenwick & West LP in 2014). And 50% of the executive team is also non-white (compared to the 43% recently reported in the tech sector by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Its racial diversity numbers are average for the industry, according to the EEOC. The benefit statement shows that employee demographics are: 70% White/Caucasian; 12% Asian; 12% two or more races; 4% Hispanic or Latino; and 2% Black/African American.

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Below is an infographic showing some of the other highlights from the statement.

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