Indiegogo Co-Founder: When What It Means to Be a Fearless Entrepreneur Changes

Indiegogo Co-Founder: When What It Means to Be a Fearless Entrepreneur Changes
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Five years ago, after being a year or so in business, the three co-founders of Indiegogo, the second largest crowdfunding platform in the U.S, were brainstorming about why they were passionate about their business and how they would build the company. They came up with a list of four core values that would become the axis around which Indiegogo’s brand and community would be built on: fearlessness, authenticity, collaboration and empowerment.

Fast-forward to the present and those four values are still as important as ever, says co-founder Danae Ringlemann. What those four values mean, however, has changed as Indiegogo -- and crowdfunding as an industry -- has been on an explosive growth trajectory. Indiegogo has expanded into the triple digits of employee headcount, now has a New York City office and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for more than 275,000 people in more than 200 countries.

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In particular, the idea of what it means to be fearless as a company and as leaders has evolved in recent years.

“In the early days, fearlessness meant opportunistic and going for it, experimenting,” says Ringelmann. Now, that same value means something quite different . “Fearless to us, while it may have meant opportunistic in the early days, means being ruthlessly prioritizing. We need to really listen to our customers and know what the opportunities are, but see the patterns, see the trends and then focus in.”

For example, in the last year, Indiegogo implemented an "Objectives and Key Results" system -- OKR for short -- to keep employees on track with their short-term goals -- even as endless opportunities come their way.  

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The OKR system aligns individual employee’s daily goals with company-wide quarterly goals. “This system helps people to understand their individual near-term impact on the company's performance, gives them bumper lanes to experiment which in turn helps them say no to opportunities that don't align to near-term goals, all while keeping them connected to our mission,” said Ringelmann.

The transition from being opportunistic to ruthlessly prioritizing happened in the past couple of years, estimates Ringelmann. And in a sense, it’s an enviable place to be in as a company: It’s a feather in the cap of the Indiegogo team to have the luxury of having to pick what they most want to do as a company. After all, as an entrepreneur, you want to be calling the shots. But that kind of success and growth has also required more strategy and organization. Having core values when you are a team of three eyes-wide-open, dreaming-big entrepreneurs in business school is one thing. Running a company with more than a 100 bi-coastal employees who all stick to those core values and move their oars in sink is a more nuanced game.

“Values never change. They are your cornerstone, foundation of your company. But the behaviors that embody those values do change a little bit, as your organization grows,” said Ringelmann.

Edition: October 2016

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