If I Knew Then: Indiegogo Co-Founder Makes His Mark Helping Others Follow Their Passion

While Indiegogo CEO and co-founder Slava Rubin has made a successful business out of giving his fellow entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their work, he has had his fair share of missteps in achieving that mission.

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By Nina Zipkin • Jan 9, 2014

As the co-founder and CEO of crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, Slava Rubin, along with his co-founders Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, wants to help you turn your ideas into a reality. Indeed, they have. Since its launch in 2008, the company has featured everything from innovative technology to causes and creativity-fueled campaigns. And with more than 100,000 campaigns under its belt, nine million unique monthly visitors and more than $16 million in funding, the company has certainly lived up to its motto, "we empower people to fund what matters."

But for Rubin, his passion for helping others doesn't stop with Indiegogo. He has represented the crowdfunding community at the White House in 2012 when the JOBS Act was signed into law and has also founded the cancer research charity Music Against Myeloma.

We caught up with Rubin to see what he wished he would have known before starting up, as well advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Related: You Can Now Embed Your Indiegogo Campaign on Your Website

Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were younger/first starting up?

A: I would spend more time on product during the early days of Indiegogo the two words I would give to myself back then would be "focus" and "product." That's because I think many entrepreneurs in the early days try to solve all of the world's problems and don't focus enough on what their product's market fit is.

Q: What do you think would have happened if you had known to focus on the product?

A: We would have been able to improve the product faster and would have had a clearer approach toward monetizing our product's market fit. The feedback loops on the cycles would have been faster.

Q: How did you learn this lesson?

A: We bootstrapped the company from January 2008 when we launched, and we planned on raising money in the fall of 2008. When the market crashed, our only option was to figure out how to stay sustainable on our own. It was survival mode. [We had] to improve the product, become focused and monetize better.

Related: Indiegogo Co-Founder Says Become Obsessed With the Problem, Not the Solution

Q: How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this insight?

A: I think any young entrepreneur needs to avoid trying to solve all of the world's problems day one, week one or even right after launch. They should focus on solving critical issues in a targeted way -- knowing that there is a massive potential in their vision to do more later on. At first, they should try to hook the customers with a clear command of what they're looking for.

Q: Besides invent a time machine, how might they realize these sorts of helpful pearls of wisdom sooner?

A: You can definitely read books and read blogs -- whether it's "Founders at Work" or what Ben Horowitz writes in his blog. But I think the best thing to do is surround yourself with mentors and other operators who have gone through these experiences, because then they can talk to you, understand your situation and advise you. They can tell you the stories that will really then help you understand better how to make your own decisions.

Q: What are you glad you didn't know then that you know now? Why?

A: I'm glad I didn't know the market was going to crash, how hard and volatile it is to create a startup and how extremely difficult it is to create a marketplace.

Q: Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: Think big, start small, iterate quickly

-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

Related: Successful Crowdfunding Is About More Than Money

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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