Kickstarter CEO Transforms Dreams with Heart and Hustle

    As the world’s leading crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter has helped thousands of artists and entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. Since the business was founded in 2009, people have pledged over $7 billion to around 250,000 creative projects, earning it a place on Time magazine’s 2023 list of 100 Most Influential Companies.

    For Kickstarter CEO Everette Taylor, who joined the company almost two years ago from the online fine arts marketplace Artsy, “creatives and entrepreneurs are some of the bravest people in the world.” Though they sometimes don’t have the same stability and foundation as others, “they’re fully committed to bringing these things into the world,” so he is glad to be able to “give them [a] platform, resources, engagement, exposure to be more successful.”

    Over the last 20 years, Taylor’s accomplishments have earned him numerous recognitions, including being named to Ad Age’s 40 under 40 and Time’s 100 Next lists as an emerging leader. He is acknowledged not just for championing innovation but also for his commitment to diversification and inclusion.

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    When he arrived at Artsy, something like 90% of its most in-demand artists were white guys. He recognized the need for a platform “for women, people of color, other marginalized people.” That led to a review of Artsy’s business model, from algorithms to social media activity. Among the company’s initiatives was a free subscription for Black-owned galleries for a period of time to introduce more Black artists and creatives of color. By the time he left Artsy, 75% of the most in-demand artists were people of color, and a large proportion of them were women.

    Taylor brought the same concern and focus to Kickstarter, where “white males tend to be more successful.” Now, Black staffers head up areas like branding, communications, marketing and social media. “So, you have these people who are often overlooked now being in control… What we’re showing to people, I think, is extremely important in bringing those diverse voices that are thinking about the bigger picture.”

     ‘Do the work’

    As a successful businessman, Taylor acknowledges and appreciates the importance of the people who help you get ahead (see sidebar), but he believes that their waymaking contribution isn’t enough by itself. They may provide a connection or an opportunity, but you then have to make the most of it and prove yourself.

     “You can have all the waymakers you want,” he says, but “if you can’t do the work, if you can’t kill it…” Taylor is glad for having been taken on as CMO at Artsy, but they “didn’t just give me the job,” he notes. “I had built multiple million-dollar companies. I had been CMO of two successful companies. Yes, they made a way for me, but at the same time, I also had the work. I had the resume.”

    That resume goes back a long way. Taylor started his first business at just 19 years of age, an event marketing software company. He then worked in other tech and startup spheres (including time with Microsoft and rental car delivery service Skurt) before joining Artsy in 2019.

    The move came as he got older “and realized that what really brought me joy was the arts, culture, creativity, which is a little bit strange for someone that’s come up in the world of tech,” he recognizes. Now, at Kickstarter and as a recent addition to the board of 1stDibs, the e-commerce site for high-end furniture, fine art and jewelry, he enjoys “supporting creative people that are bringing beautiful, creative things to the world. And so, I get to wake up every day and make a living off supporting the people I care about.”

    From his own experience and observing those he is helping through Kickstarter, Taylor has three pieces of advice for creatives who are pursuing their dreams.

    Stay true to yourself and true to your purpose, and you’ll be fine.

    1. Know your business.  

    While the creative part is essential, of course, you also need to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of business. “Understanding your finances is huge,” he says. That applies whether you are an artist or an accountant. “Understanding how taxes work, understanding how an LLC works, understanding how write-offs work… people should be taught that in high school.”

    2. Test your idea. 

    You may have come up with something new and think it’s cool, but do others agree—is there a market for it? “I see so many people fail at this,” Taylor observes. “It has to feel like a must-have or close to a must-have for people.” He names Uber and Airbnb as must-haves: “People need to travel; they need a roof over their head. People need to get around the city; they need to be able to transport themselves.”

    3. Tend to yourself.

    Creative entrepreneurs need to take care of themselves. That means taking time to rest and recharge, getting enough sleep, watching out for your mental health and investing in relationships. Adequately grounded and fueled in this way, “You could work eight hours and do the work of somebody who’s not taking care of themselves that would take them working an 18-, 19-hour day. You’re just so much [sharper] and on point when you’re well rested, and you’re taking care of yourself.”

    What is one piece of advice Taylor would offer his younger self? “Don’t get so caught up on what people think,” he responds. “People are going to be haters. People are going to doubt you. People are going to say negative things, but just stay true to yourself and true to your purpose, and you’ll be fine.”

    It’s been a learning process for him. “I still largely ignore a lot of stuff, but there were things that did genuinely get to me,” he says. “And I had a huge chip on my shoulder.” But he realized it was too heavy to keep carrying it around. “You know, it’s really about happiness and peace in your life and not being too concerned about what others think or feel. Because as long as you’re doing positive things out there in the world, that’s what genuinely matters.” 

    Everette Taylor


    First, my mom for the sacrifices that she made. She was a custodian; she worked a job that she hated, having to scrub floors, clean bathrooms, pick up things she didn’t want to, and make sure that she put a roof over me and my sister’s heads. In that, she showed me that to take care of yourself and take care of the people you love, sometimes you have to do things that you don’t really want to do. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her.

    Then there is Robert Koch, who worked at Eastern National. He gave me my first job, a marketing and sales role. I was a 14-year-old kid who was just selling drugs on the street, whose mom was forcing him to get a job; I was barely legal to work. That introduced me to marketing, sales and all of that for the first time in my life and allowed me to experience things outside of the hood. I can’t tell you how transformational that was. For him to take an unorthodox candidate, like a young Black kid, to give him this opportunity literally changed my life.

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