“Every opportunity deserves the right to fail.” Slava Rubin knows what he’s talking about. Co-founder of Indiegogo, Rubin was rejected by 93 venture firms before successfully creating the first major crowdfunding platform. (I’m proud to share I was an original angel investor in Slava’s vision.) Today, the platform generates funding, ideas and insights for everyone from entrepreneurs and artists to global corporations. Over $1 billion has been raised through Indiegogo since inception.
I sat down with Rubin for a conversation about entrepreneurial funding’s rapid evolution– from equity crowdfunding to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)– where he sees this trending and his thoughts on where our lives might be headed the rest of the century. (Find our full video interview here.)
Crowdfunding, ICOs and The Future Of Entrepreneurship
Through Indiegogo’s decade, funding has transformed. In 2008, few people understood or believed in crowdfunding. We’re now in a similar transition with equity crowdfunding, a field the company helped pioneer, working with legislators and regulators from passage of the JOBS Act through the evolution of regulations.
While equity crowdfunding has advanced more slowly than some had anticipated, Rubin proposes, “I think when equity crowdfunding turns 10 years old, it will have been a gamechanger.”
Recently, ICOs have upstaged other forms of early stage funding, though it’s been a mad gold rush. While ICOs clearly compete with traditional crowdfunding– and have thus far raised more in aggregate than all Indiegogo campaigns combined– Rubin remains mission-focused. “I’m super pro any innovation which improves access to capital, because I’m very pro-the-entrepreneur.”
In late 2017, Indiegogo announced a new platform for supporting ICOs. The company seeks to remain at the forefront of funding while navigating a credible, compliant path. “I’d be surprised if by the end of the decade it’s not already quite clear.” Indie is working with regulators to enable ICOs while mitigating risks for entrepreneurs and the public.
While Indie missed the ICO scramble, their cautious approach might yet prevail. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton recently commented, “Many ICOs are being conducted illegally…. Some people say that’s because the law isn’t clear. I do not buy that for a moment.”
While some lament the rise of ICO regulation, the field’s productive proliferation requires clarity. Regulators worldwide are experimenting with various approaches to simultaneously protect citizens and attract and encourage ICO activity. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire recently asserted his country’s ambition to provide a regulatory framework necessary for France to become a leading ICO hub. “A revolution is underway…. [France] should not miss out on the blockchain revolution.”
20 Years Hence
Beyond funding and entrepreneurship, I asked Rubin for his thoughts about our lives 20 years hence. “It will be a much easier life to live, but more complicated.” When one’s station in life was defined by others—corporate hierarchies, religion, class systems, society in general—while restrictive, sometimes oppressive, individuals also attained a sort of freedom from the responsibility to determine their own paths.
“The world will become more convenient in terms of your day-to-day, but more complicated holistically as to where you fit in the world.” It’s easier to plan when you know you’re going to be a lawyer, steelworker or homemaker, just like your parents. When anything is possible, success requires far more personal vision and responsibility.
It’s appropriate for Rubin to raise this concern. As an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, the ability to define who we are and to what we aspire has been intrinsic to everything he and his company have become, and the opportunities they offer each of us.
While defining objectives in a world of unlimited possibilities may seem daunting, innovators like Rubin help provide the means to explore and manifest. Whether we appreciate it or not, through success and failure, we’re each becoming the entrepreneurs of our own lives.