After Nearly 5 Years And 5M Backers, Kickstarter Gets A New CEO As Two Founders Step Back

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As it approaches its fifth birthday, Kickstarter’s star continues to rise, as the indie crowdfunding goliath announced yesterday that five million people have now collectively pledged nearly one billion dollars to its crowdfunding projects.

Today, in a somewhat surprising turn after yesterday’s milestones, it appears that an impromptu version of the “Management Shuffle” will be rolling into Kickstarter. In a blog post today, Kickstarter co-founder Perry Chen announced that he will be stepping down from his role as CEO and will instead assume the role of chairman beginning January 1st.

Chen explained that the move will give him more time to pursue his own creative projects: “I’m looking forward to stepping away from the day-to-day to consider our path from a new perspective … [and] I’m also looking forward to having time to work on creative projects of my own, after all these years working on an engine to support them.”

But Chen isn’t the only co-founder to depart as part of the company’s management shuffle. Charles Adler, who “has long been itching to move with his family back to Chicago,” is also planning to leave his day-to-day role at the company and will assume the role of an adviser.

In Kickstarter’s version of the management dance (we’re still waiting for the music), when two co-founders step back, one must step forward. With Chen and Adler set to depart, Yancey Strickler, who has held a number of roles within the company, with community, communications and customer service among them, will be taking the reins as Kickstarter’s second CEO.

Considering that its leadership has remained largely unchanged over the years, the Management Shuffle represents a significant change for Kickstarter. Usually, when companies undergo signficant changes to its founding leadership team, it’s not a good sign. These kind of moves always produce speculation and a few worried looks, but Chen assured readers in his post today that the move shouldn’t have any impact on the company itself — or its mission.

In fact, Kickstarter PR Chief Justin Kazmark tells us that Chen plans to stay involved, both in company projects and by supporting Yancey in his transition to CEO. Instead, by assuming the role of Chairman, Chen is looking to use the position to gain a new perspective on the company’s trajectory and plans to spend a significant chunk of time focusing on the big picture and keeping Kickstarter close to its core mission.

In fact, Union Square Ventures co-founder and early Kickstarter investor Fred Wilson sees Chen’s fingerprints all over the impromptu management shuffle. Reflecting on the changes in a blog post today, Wilson quipped, “like all things that involve Kickstarter, this is a classic Perry move.”

The company and its CEO have always marched to their own drummer, and Kickstarter’s Management Shuffle is yet another example of this freewheeling mentality, Wilson explains. While its expected that the company’s investors would look to temper speculation and air on the side of its founders, Kickstarter has given them plenty of very legitimate reasons to do so. To illustrate the point, Wilson described the long-time CEO as an entrepreneur that was very “wary of taking money from VCs … and had no intention of taking the company public and no intention of selling it,” and was determined to put creators first.

Although he was initially skeptical of the founder’s motivations, they decided to invest anyway. Over time, the investor said that Chen ended up proving him wrong, and his perspective ultimately led to just as much, if not more, value creation — a model which remains in place today:

Four and a half years after launch, Kickstarter is a very important and sustainable business. It will continue to grow, it will continue to fund creativity, and it will continue to do things its own way. Kickstarter was built in Perry’s mold and the unique culture and mission of the Company are derived from him. I suspect his decision to step up to Chairman and allow the team to run the business day to day is Perry’s way of saying to the team that they have his confidence to lead Kickstarter into the future. Kickstarter will always be Perry’s work and we are very happy to be a part of it and be inspired by it every day.

As Om pointed out in his coverage of the management changes today, Kickstarter’s success can also be attributed to the role it plays (and how it’s taken advantage of) the industry’s macro shift away from infrastructure dominated by industrial manufacturing and “toward the maker economy.”

Ultimately, considering Kazmark also tells us that Kickstarter is in the process of rolling out in Canada and plans to launch in Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks — as long as the company can continue to represent the interests of creatives and creatively-inclined entrepreneurs as the shift to a Maker Model (and its own expansion into new markets) continues — it should be able to stay the course. Assuming these management changes go as advertised, of course.

For more, find Wilson’s post here and Chen’s announcement on the Kickstarter blog here.