Kickstarter has doubled down on trying to be as “good” as possible, on its own terms. The company today announced that it will, in addition to being a “B Corp,” reincorporate as a Public Benefit Corporation. Benefit Corporations are a relatively new creation — 31 states have passed a law governing Benefit Corporations, with Maryland being the first, in 2010 — which requires companies to “consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on workers, community, and the environment,” according to the Benefit Corporation website. Companies incorporated under the rules are required to publish a bi-annual report comparing their performance against third-party benchmarks. (Kickstarter will publish its first in February, 2017).
In its new charter, the company details five points it will focus on, including a focus on the integrity of its company’s operations (which have drawn some controversy), its pledge not to utilize (legal) tax loopholes, time off for employees to pursue their own creative projects, and transparency around executive pay.
The company has also promised to donate 5 percent of its after-tax profits to “arts education and organizations fighting inequality.” In a statement, Kickstarter’s leading troika (co-founders Yancey Strickler, Perry Chen and Charles Adler) write: “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,” adding that “more and more voices are rejecting business as usual, and the pursuit of profit above all.”
Not that profit is immaterial. As Kickstarter investor Chris Sacca told The New York Times, Kickstarter is “a fast-growing, highly profitable enterprise. So, as an owner of the stock, I feel comfortable that I will be rewarded for that.” Co-founder Perry Chen told the Times that the company plans to pay out dividends to employees and shareholders “in the next few years.”
While the company was once best-known for funding relatively small-scale artistic projects like albums and short films, the company’s most-funded campaigns https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/most-funded have leaned heavily towards consumer goods like bags, smartwatches and coolers in recent years, with the majority of its top 20 campaigns being games of the video and analog varieties — a card game named Exploding Kittens raised $8.7 million earlier this year.