Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter Inc. has re-incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation. In their announcement they say they’re spelt out exactly what it means.
Founded in 2009 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler, within just five years Kickstarter had reportedly received more than $1.5 billion in pledges from 7.8 million backers to fund 200,000 creative projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology and food-related projects.
Until recently, the idea of a for-profit company pursuing social good at the expense of shareholder value had no clear protection under U.S. corporate law, and certainly no mandate. Companies that believe there are more important goals than maximizing shareholder value have been at odds with the expectation that for-profit companies must exist ultimately for profit above all.
Benefit Corporations are different. Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders. Radically, positive impact on society becomes part of a Benefit Corporation’s legally defined goals.
Kickstarter announced today that it is joining a growing list of forward-thinking organizations — like Patagonia and This American Life — that have taken the big step to become a Benefit Corporation. While only about .01% of all American businesses have done this, Kickstarter believe that this will change in the coming years. More voices are rejecting business as usual, and the pursuit of profit above all.
You can find a link to Kickstarter’s Benefit Corporation charter here. They have spelled out a specific list of values and commitments that they’ll live by: They renew their long-standing commitment to arts and culture. They plan to conduct themselves in situations that are often swayed by profit motives. And they newly commit to donate 5% of annual post-tax profits to arts education and organizations fighting inequality. Every year, they’ll release how they’re performing on their commitments.
There was not a single dissenting vote by a Kickstarter Inc. shareholder to re-incorporate as Kickstarter PBC.