Indiegogo’s CEO on how crowdfunding navigated the pandemic
Andy Yang joined Indiegogo at a turbulent time. As the crowdfunding platform’s then-CEO stepped aside for personal reasons, the service also reportedly grappled with layoffs. Coming on board after a stretch with Reddit, the new CEO would have less than a year at the helm before COVID-19 turned the globe upside down.
Now 13 years old, the San Francisco-based site matured alongside the world of online crowdfunding. And, certainly, Indiegogo had a front-row seat for all of the ups and downs. Indiegogo introduced several million-dollar campaigns, but the platform has often suffered from comparisons to Kickstarter, a service that has become synonymous with the category for many.
Yang sat down to discuss how Indiegogo has changed under his tenure, how crowdfunding has evolved and what both will look like in a post-pandemic world.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
What was your primary objective coming on as CEO?
I was at Reddit doing core product, and when Indiegogo’s board and founders reached out, it was really around, “Hey, we would love somebody with product experience, a background in community.” What was going on in Indiegogo was really an evaluation of, “What’s our core values?” When I took the saddle and the reigns, it was really focusing on that core of who we are, what segments do we want to go after, and where do we want to focus. Where do we want to focus our product?
“We’ve had our number of failures on our site, of campaigns that haven’t fulfilled or just, the campaigns have ghosted their backers, and we own up to that.”
From that perspective, we’ve been really heads-down for the last two years, just working on ourselves, internally, and focusing on the core — what we’re terming “bringing the crowd back in crowdfunding.” I think a lot of the platforms have been very transactional in nature, and so I think backers and consumers and users have been trained by Amazon to click a button and get things two hours later. The premise of crowdfunding is very different.
You may or may not get this perk delivered in the time frame that you’re expecting, and to help educate backers and the community around that is really core to who we are. We’ve been through the last two years with COVID, but we’ve been profitable since I’ve joined, which is huge. We can control our own destiny and really take the time to do things right and invest in areas like trust and safety, like community, that we really wanted to.
The company wasn’t profitable when you joined?
We weren’t profitable. I enjoyed and then we cut to profitability, or at least kind of a neutral state, and with any kind of change in leadership, some tenured folks opted out, and we basically became a new team overnight to kind of re-found the company, and we’ve been slowly adding people over the last couple years, but always with that eye on profitability and controlling our own destiny.
Beyond people changing roles, what had to happen in order for the company to become profitable?
Really doubling down on making sure that we understood our sales pipeline and making sure that, from a supply perspective, that we had a number of campaigns from across a number of categories. Obviously, our bread and butter is what we call tech and innovation, consumer electronics hardware, but also seeing what other categories that we can lean into. We’re definitely strong in comics, travel, outdoors, and what can we do from expanding our wedge and our categories in different areas that we’re seeing growth. I think a trend that we’re currently seeing is a lot of green tech. Just trying to understand what categories are growing, where our brand resonates with entrepreneurs and backers.
That’s what needed to happen — just making sure that we had adequate supply on the platform, and also just from the backer side, we had not traditionally focused on the backer side. We had heavily focused on the supply side, but really starting to, again, return back to the crowd in crowdfunding, leaning on my Reddit experience, just making sure that we can engage the community in new and interesting ways.