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Monday, May 16, 2022

Catching up with Indiegogo’s new CEO – TechCrunch

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In late-April, Indiegogo announced a new CEO. Becky Center — formerly of Healthjoy and Groupon — stepped into the role following Andy Yang’s quiet exit in late-2021. From the outside, at least, the crowdfunding service looks to be on more solid ground than when Yang took the reigns amid layoffs two years ago.

Indiegogo appears to have largely weathered the crowdfunding cycle. And there’s some opportunity to grow its presence, as its largest rival — Kickstarter — battles user blowback amid union struggles and blockchain concerns. Its own CEO, Aziz Hasan, stepped down in April after three years with the company.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, of course. Questions remain, including how to address growing concerns around user trust issues from one too many unfulfilled campaigns. Center joined us to discuss why she took the gig — and what the future looks like for Indiegogo.

TC: What was the number one thing you wanted to instate on day one?

BC: Day one for me — and this is already part of the Indiegogo culture — it was authenticity. That means me, in my role, being authentic to who I am, as a leader, as a human, as a team member, as a part of the company and as the CEO. Encourage the team to bring their whole selves to work, to be authentic to who they are. And then, authenticity through our brand, through our site and through what we do. Part of what has kept crowfunding around for so long is that connection. You’re not just shopping from anywhere, you are connecting with someone who has a great idea, a passion and who is being open and transparent with what they’re trying to accomplish.

There are a lot of big challenges. There’s only so much you’re able to see from the outside, but now that you’re in there, are there any things right off the bat that Indiegogo can and needs to do better, going forward?

I think it all ties in. What we’re looking at is prioritizing around value add for our users — which are two-sided — we have entrepreneurs and backers. And then, of course, value add for the company. Coming in, my goal for the company — as most CEOs — is growth and figuring out how to grow a great company and where we can go. My priorities, in terms of expansion, are across categories. We’ve become very successful in tech and innovation. That’s almost what we’re know for, at this point. But we have other categories that do very well and our audience is interested in. That expansion comes back to allowing the audience to have space to find what they’re looking for and the entrepreneurs to bring in what they’re passionate about.

The second is support across the business journey. People think of the 30-60 crowdfunding campaign. And that’s, of course, the main thing, but there’s actually quite a bit leading up to that that we as Indiegogo have differentiated ourselves from other platforms. We really help the entrepreneur think through the best way to launch that campaign and think through their strategy in terms of audience building and market. We provide marketing services, and we can do advertising on your behalf.

Lots of people have stories about a campaign that didn’t deliver. That seems like one of the biggest disconnects. What can you, as a platform, do to make sure campaigns deliver on their promises?

It’s a bad experience when you’re looking for a perk and it doesn’t deliver. That’s a bad backer experience. It’s absolutely in everyone’s best interests to have good backer experiences as much as possible. There are a couple of ways we can prevent that. First of all, unfortunately, there are sometimes bad actors and people who come to the site with bad intentions. I think our site has done a really good job filtering out fraud and continues to improve on that. The crowdfunding trust alliance, as well, has been an area where we’ve been able to be thought leaders, as well and work with companies like GoFundMe and identify areas of fraud and ways of detecting new fraud tactics. To the extent that we can prevent those from getting on the site, the more the better. Sometimes they’re identified later.

Beyond intentional fraud, these are entrepreneurs who are taking a risk. We all know it’s hard. They’re all trying to build and create something. And sometimes it doesn’t work out for a number of reasons — materials cost more than expected, or the logistics are difficult.

That’s certainly a big problem now.

Yeah. We’re seeing delays with the global supply now, for sure. But that inherent risk of crowdfunding is that whatever someone is trying to accomplish, they haven’t done it yet. That is a risk of the industry. I think where we can do better is that feeling that it never materialized, and I don’t know what happened.

Ghosting.

Right. What we’ve found is that the entrepreneur really wanted it to work and it failed. They’re feeling bad or they’re in over their heads, or whatever it might be. There’s a natural response to flight and not communicating. That’s a space where we’re really trying to encourage communication and to let the backers know that, ‘hey, this is what tried to do. This is what didn’t work out. And this is where we’re realistically at.’

You’ve got to be upfront that it’s crowdfunding and not a presale.

Yeah, and that’s really difficult. You’re in the industry, I’m in the industry. That’s not necessarily everyone’s vernacular. I do think we can do better there. We try. We’ve got disclaimers. But yeah, making sure the expectations are set upfront and that the communication is following up, as well.

I’ve seen the hype around crowdfunding rise and fall. Where do you think crowdfunding and Indiegogo are, in terms of the hype bubble?

I think it’s a really pivotal moment. It’s the moment where we say some of the things we just talked about. Can we communicate this in a way that people understand? Maybe when there’s a lot of hype, you can get past some of those things, because you’re excited to be a part of something new, but we’re trying to make this sustainable for the long run. So things that maybe people were able to get past in the early days, that stuff has to evolve. We have to mature, we have to grow up, and we have to be a sustainable business and a sustainable way of funding ideas, funding businesses, funding creative endeavors.

How does equity crowdfunding fit into the venture capital puzzle?

It’s super interesting. I think some people look and say, my idea’s not right for VC, it’s not fitting that profile.

Scale is probably a big factor.

Scale, how profitable it’s going to be at the end of the day. What’s your rationale for doing it? What does your audience look like in terms of [total addressable market]. There’s lifestyle businesses that are not going to be good VC investments, but they’re perfectly reasonable businesses for someone to get into.

Where does Indiegogo stand on equity crowdfunding? There are a few sites doing it, as well as independent ventures like Carl Pei’s Nothing. Does it make sense for Indiegogo?

It’s super interesting. It’s not on our platform right now. It kind of comes back to how we can add the most value to our audience of backers and our audience of entrepreneurs and if that’s what they’re looking for. We’re constantly evaluating that, but it’s not on our platform right now.

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