Yancey Strickler, the co-founder and chief executive of crowdfunding giant Kickstarter, grew the New York City business to reach more than 10 million backers in just over 8 years. In the beginning, however, Strickler admits that he had a hard time leaving his day job.

"My only goal in life was to be a writer," the entrepreneur said, on stage at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, New York on Friday. The event drew more than 100,000 musicians, entrepreneurs and technologists to discuss varied topics such as the future of work, and the challenges of starting a small business in 2017.

Back in 2009, when Kickstarter officially launched, Strickler was still working as the editor-in-chief at a music service. (Previously, he'd written for publications including Spin magazine and The Village Voice.) "I liked my job, and I liked the team I worked with," Strickler told the audience on Friday. "The idea of quitting and having no income was scary." To his point, he was the last of Kickstarter's co-founders to leave his full-time position--and even then, only five months after the business was already up and running.

What helped him to finally make the leap was learning to focus. In particular, Stickler says he took the advice of an acclaimed New York venture capitalist, Fred Wilson. In the early days, the Kickstarter co-founders spent countless hours poring over Wilson's blog, AVC, where Wilson opines on subjects including how much funding to raise, or how to identify a long-term strategy. "That's how we learned what entrepreneurship was," Strickler said. In particular, he points to a 2010 post in which Wilson revealed what he sees the job of a CEO as entailing:

A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.

Strickler says that honing his focus on just these three areas--as opposed to everything that fell under the umbrella of the business--was immensely helpful. "I try to keep that mantra in mind, and it's easier at times than others," he said.

Of course, he stills gives credence to the fear that first time entrepreneurs often experience when deciding whether to go all in. "That's a real struggle, and the fear of making the leap is legit," Stickler added. "At a certain point, though, you just have to go for it."

Published on: Jun 9, 2017