Kickstarter and The Bento Society founder Yancey Strickler joins us today to talk about what it was like creating an impact-centered crowdfunding platform in 2009, what being a public-benefit corporation means (and what it doesn’t), and bentoism and why it’s something we all should practice.
Initially beginning his career as a music critic, Yancey crossed paths with Perry Chen who would then go on to be one of his co-founders. With Perry’s idea of wanting to throw a concert without having to shell out cash at the start and further driven by creative projects, the two of them along with another friend, Charles Adler, put their heads together and founded Kickstarter.
Truly breaking away from the norm, instead of merely supporting projects that would make companies rich, Kickstarter was born with the goal of funding projects without a profit motive, meaning as long as a person found it to be of value to them, then that was enough.
Kickstarter eventually became listed as a public-benefit corporation and this decision has allowed and is continuing to allow Kickstarter to succeed in the long term. He then goes on to talk about B Corps and C Corps and the differences between the three.
Moving onto The Bento Society, Yancey talks about the bentoism movement and what the bento model or framework is all about. It’s not just about self-interest but taking into consideration those around you as well both in the present and in the future. Centered in this framework, Yancey has built a society of thousands of people that have adapted and now use this bento model. They hold weekly activities to allow members of the community to practice bentoism and support projects aligned with their mission through quarterly grants.
Yancey’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:
In this episode, we also talked about:
Maiko Schaffrath 00:06
You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko. I've made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness. My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself by joining a team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problem. All right, really excited to have you on Impact Hustlers today. I think what you've done with Kickstarter a few years ago, when you founded Kickstarter in 2009, but throughout that journey as well, as well as what you're doing now with The Bento Society and spreading the word around bentoism is really so related to what initially drove me to start Impact Hustlers and tell the stories of entrepreneurs that don't just focus on the short term, but also on the long term, so I'm really excited to have you on the show today, and thanks for joining me.
Yancey Strickler 01:27
Yeah, thanks for reaching out. Appreciate it.
Maiko Schaffrath 01:29
Thanks very much. I want to start with your entrepreneur journey, and I want to start giving people the context around your journey. You started your career actually as a music critic, as a journalist, and eventually, in 2009, you launched Kickstarter. If you take us back to that time. Actually, at the time, I don't think the term crowdfunding was a thing, really. What was the driving force for you to leave your old career behind and start Kickstarter at the time?
Yancey Strickler 02:04
Yeah, like you said, my job for the first, say, 10 years of my career was as a music critic writing for Pitchfork, Spin, and The Village Voice, and I had no aspiration to be entrepreneurial. I started magazines. I started a record label. I didn't think of those things as being entrepreneurial. I was just doing stuff that was fun. But then in 2005, I made a new friend, a guy named Perry Chen, and Perry had had the idea for crowdfunding, basically, three or so years before. And he'd been thinking about the idea of trying to figure out what to do with it. It came, for him, from wanting to throw a concert and not being able to front the money to make it happen, and he had this sort of lightbulb moment of, "What if I could ask people to pay for the show upfront but no one's credit cards would be charged if the show didn't sell out?" And so, that way, he wouldn't have to make this decision, but it could collectively be made. So, that was the original idea. But that was like pets.com era internet. That's right after the crash. To start a website then, you needed to have a closet of servers and a guy with a ponytail. And it was just a different internet. And so, in 2005, he shared the idea with me after we met, and we started working on it together and found another friend, Charles Adler, about a year later. And for us, the motivation was we were very much thinking about creative projects and what artists have to go through to make things, and we all kind of had that background. For me to look at, say, someone like David Lynch, a very loved filmmaker, but like a cult filmmaker, for him to make a movie, he has to take out weird oil tycoons to dinner and try to get them to give them $100,000. This is the process for a less commercial artist to make something. You're either already rich, or you're sacrificing going into debt, or you're just doing weird things to get people to give you money. But of course, as fans, we love David Lynch. We'd love to support someone that we care about. But in the world of this time, there was no way for those two things to be connected, and the reason why someone like David Lynch had such a hard time getting projects funded was because the system he was operating in was one that was focused on profit maximization. They were looking for projects that could be hits, that could be blockbusters. That's what a Hollywood studio wants. That is not David Lynch's motivation. That is not the motivation of his fans. And from the perspective of studios and these larger systems, our numbers are too small to matter. There aren't enough of us. They understand, sure, people like that, but there's not enough for you for it to be worth us turning our big machine to try to serve you. And so, really, the core idea behind Kickstarter was, there should be a space where projects could be funded without any profit motive. And instead, if people want them to happen, they can happen, and people can be motivated by any million reasons why people are motivated to do something. They like the creator, or they have a relationship, they're cute, they think that tech is cool, their neighborhood needs this. None of those are profit-oriented motivations. Those are all motivations that speak to human needs. In the economy, the creative economy that existed before Kickstarter and before where the Internet has taken it, everything had to fit through this little needle's eye of, "Will this make me a lot of money or not?" And so, that produced a very limiting world. And so, thinking about that was inspiring. Thinking about that isn't about being an entrepreneur. It's just about, "Well, man, this really makes sense, and we need this." And so, even in the way we set up Kickstarter, only being focused on creative projects, really sort of becoming a PBC, saying we're not going to try to get as big as possible, or any that sort of stuff. It was all coming from that same original notion of, "This is an idea that needs to exist. It won't just exist with us. This makes too much sense. It's too useful. And so, how do we create, how do we put this idea into the world where it can work, it has a chance of flourishing, and also, so that the company, as long as the public decides it has utility, that it can continue to be its best version of itself?" It all sort of came from just being motivated, really, by the problem, and the problem being not the problem other people saw it was. I worked in the music industry. And back then, the issue of the music industry was, "How are we going to monetize music?," but no one was thinking about, "Well, how do people make music in the first place?" That was a given. It was a businessman’s way of looking at the world. It wasn't an artist's way of looking at the world. And so, just seeing it from that different lens opened up billions of dollars of funding for projects that the powers that be don't see as being all that valuable.
Maiko Schaffrath 07:17
Interesting. It's really this paradigm shift of if we want to create something in the world, where we were before it was, you've got to have a profitable business model, or you're on a charity, where you're kind of begging people for money. And then, I think both of your products, you prove people wrong, that that's not the only two options, like Kickstarter, it's not a charity collection. People are pledging towards products, and they get actually some perks in return, but they also just believe in the mission. It's not kind of a charitable donation. It's something bigger than that. And on the other hand, the way you ran Kickstarter, and you actually changed the legal structure as a public-benefit corporation, I would love to dig into that a bit more. For Kickstarter to be both a for-profit company, but also be legally bound to a bunch of its values that you embraced, why did you decide to do that at this point? And why didn't you go down a different road? You could have made Kickstarter a nonprofit, for example, or state for-profit only.
Yancey Strickler 08:27
We never thought that a nonprofit would create a fast and hungry organization. I don't know many. It's a hard thing to do, I think, as a nonprofit, but it was important to do because we were in it for a mission, but that mission didn't involve thinking of the company as a tool for enrichment of the people who made it. It was thinking of this is a company as a tool for things that we believe in and not everything that we believe in, but ultimately about, for the three of us, we did not identify as entrepreneurs, and we're never a part of the scene, kept our distance from those things. And I always felt like, "Are we allowed to be entrepreneurs?" I would meet other CEOs, many of them became great friends, but just a very different way of looking at the world. And I think we always just wanted to really hold onto that and stay true to that. And what it made us realize is that we are operating this business according to our values now. But if we are fortunate enough that this business is useful for a long enough time that it still exists, say, after we die or after we're no longer involved, as it's currently set up, we are just going to be relying on "good people" being hired. And we also know from our own experience that being a good person actually doesn't mean you make a righteous decision. Actually, it's quite difficult to make a good decision, a righteous decision in a hard moment. Even the best person will have a hard time doing that. And so, how well is this really set up for long-term success if we are reliant on that? And so, that ultimately leads to a few different thoughts. One is, what are structures you can create that would try to support certain ethos or ideas? And what are ways that you can really bind yourself to that for the long-term? And not do the kind of thing where I look at a lot of corporate giving programs. It's them apologizing for how much money they make. It's them apologizing for how much they screw their employees by not paying them fair wages, and it's whitewashing. It's whitewashing, and it's this after the fact stuff. Everyone else has gotten their take, and then it's like, "Oh, here's a little bit for the park as long as we can put our name on it." That's not real. That is purely self-serving. And so, really, the idea should be you put the public good and your own personal good side by side, like you don't get to choose one and then the other. Actually, you want to think about this like you want to make decisions that are that are two keys going in a nuclear submarine to send off the launch codes. You need that kind of dual confirmation that this fits the mission of the company and that this fits what the company has laid out of what its impact on the world should be. And decisions that satisfy both of those criteria are going to be good choices for the organization long-term. But doing this in a legal way, really important, doing this in a public way where that public accountability is so important, because you don't want to look bad. And so, all of that was just about creating a structure that we thought put Kickstarter in a position to succeed long-term, but also maybe started to carve out a path for other organizations, people, say, like us who didn't identify with the entrepreneurial side guys, but still were motivated people with a great idea. And so, how can those people see themselves in this world? Because actually, we absolutely need people like those to run businesses, to create ideas. And creating a business is a very powerful way to change things, to do things. It's exciting. It's fun. There's not a moral conflict in starting in starting a business. But for people that don't subscribe to all the dominant ideologies and who often are made to feel broken by the fact that they don't want the same rewards and desserts that everyone else seems to want, could we be a kind of a role model to just say, "Hey, you know what? Actually, you can raise as little money as possible to get to profitability. You use your profitability. You embrace not going for hyper growth. You create structures that put you in a different category, and then you try to be a good actor, an extraordinary actor." You're trying to set examples, and for me, being the CEO, as we became a PBC, how I thought about the job changed. Whereas our values maybe at times would be like guardrails you'd bump up against, instead, it felt like actively a part of my day, every job. What am I doing about for this? Not just if someone emails me with a petition, "Let's sign it," it's more like, "No, what are we doing about reading about artists' education, artists' resources?" Where's that in our roadmap right now? And it doesn't simplify everything. There are still all the complications. Values, conflicts continue to come. But on the big questions, on the fundamental questions about who you are, what you care about, and what's important, it is a greatly clarifying process, and it lets you say anytime you, as an entrepreneur, can make one of those uber decisions where you're like, in all situations, "We need to do this." Those are great, because getting into the case by case and, "Should we do this? Should we not do this?," take a lot of energy. You have to do that a bit early on just to find what's right. Becoming a PBC was a real clarifying event for the company inside, outside, just, "Here's who we are. It's a legal document. Hold us accountable to this," and yeah, I believe in it very much.
Maiko Schaffrath 14:31
How does it work in practical ways, the model of the public-benefit corporation? We had a bunch of founders on the podcast that were certified B Corps. I understand that separate from the public-benefit corporation. How did you make the decision for either or and how does the public-benefit corporation model actually work and practice as a CEO of a company like that?
Yancey Strickler 14:54
It's quite confusing. I believe that they have changed the law, but originally, the law was that all B Corps must legally become PBCs. And then I think very few did it because it's much more difficult, so then, I think they abandoned the rule, but Kickstarter was both of those. A B Corp is a verification of your processes, do employees share in ownership, things like that. It's a recognition for certain level of corporate practices that is good, kind of like the ESG movement, where it's trying to show things that matter. Is it ultimately showing what we think it shows? Unclear. For us, the B Corp status sort of verifies that your processes are as they should be. Cool, let's do that, but it actually doesn't say anything about how you should behave moving forward. You can get an ESG qualification by saying you have anti-corruption practices, but what does that mean? Hard to say. So, for us, the second step of becoming a public-benefit corporation dictated future actions. It wasn't just about, "What are our processes now?," but it's about, "How should we behave? What is the promise we are making to the public, to our customers, everybody, about who we are and what we're about?" And so, for us, that felt like the most important thing. When you can bind future actions, that is a sacrifice. And over and over, over and over, I found that sacrifice is a tremendous way to grow and to show the truth of who you are, because everyone is willing to make a statement about, "Hey, we love this. We're all about this. We stand with this," but you never see anyone say, "We're going to shut down this part of our business, because it's complicated," or, "We're not going to do this anymore," or, "We're going to prohibit ourselves from ever following this path that seems like it might be profitable." As soon as binding arbitration started appearing in terms of service, we immediately had a meeting and said, "We want to write in that we will never do that. Forced arbitration for users is taking away their legal rights. This is wrong." It is absolutely in the benefit of companies, but we wanted to be the first ones out saying that this is wrong and push against this. It's a mandate to act on a set of values. And so, I think both have value. There's more brand recognition to the B Corp, because there's a logo that people put on packages. But I think PBC is ultimately what matters in the long run. My hope is that the PBC model does a reverse takeover of the C corporate model and that the notion of non-financial mission and financial mission being legally required to be of equal weight, I believe that that should be the norm. The goal is that's the norm. The goal is C Corps have to be like PBCs, even financial institutions. Long term, I'm certain that's where it will go. It's just a matter how long it takes.
Maiko Schaffrath 18:12
I think that's happening, and obviously, at the forefront are the startups, and entrepreneurs, and the ones that we have here on Impact Hustlers pioneering this model, and people like yourself. But now, I think that the bigger ones are embracing it as well.
Yancey Strickler 18:30
They're embracing it. No, I think they're embracing it in the self-serving slogan-y ways. I'm inspired by things like amalgamated bank, which is like banks of credit unions, ways of people pooling their money together to create different advantages or resources that they share. And so, I think that the challenge of the capitalist system is that these things are always going to be the cute underdogs facing off against this giant machine that is extremely well-tuned. But we are in a real moment of rewiring a lot of things, and the climate is just going to force our hands, and the climate is going to make it unconscionable for us to only optimize for financial value. Instead, we're going to have to operate within this new set of constraints. We maximize for financial value, while also maximizing for removal of carbon and removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. And so, our dials are going to change, and our decisions are going to become a little more multilayered and multifaceted, and every business that's worth the shit is already doing that anyway. It's just the Wall Street people who say that's too hard or, "We can't do more than just optimize for shareholder price. Our companies will destroy themselves," or something. But that's just bullshit from rich people trying to protect what's theirs. And so, I think this is the winning argument, and it's going to be out of necessity. It's going to be out of necessity. It's not going to be because we finally made the closing courtroom case and made the final argument, and the judge says, "It has been determined. Stakeholder capitalism is the way forward." No, it's going to be the only way we can survive, and we're going to get to it too late, but I'm still optimistic about humanity's ability to evolve, to roll with the punches, to figure things out.
Maiko Schaffrath 20:33
Yes, and let's talk about a useful model that you actually publicized. So, you left Kickstarter in 2017, took some time, and you published a book in 2019, This Could Be Our Future. And some of the things we just talked about, you actually outlined there in terms of kind of the shift of capitalism or even just personal decision-making from the short-term focus on myself, and what's good for me right now, or in the next few periods of time, versus the long-term focus of my self-interest and also the interest of the people around me and the long-term interest of society. So, it's been this framework of bentoism that you laid out, and I'd love you to briefly give us a summary of what bentoism actually is. I think, on a high level, it's been really interesting to see how you give quite a useful model of shifting the focus from only the short-term interests of myself to the long-term interests of myself and society and the people around me. So, I'd love for you to summarize what bentoism is and how it can help each of us listening to this, whether we're founders, leaders, or just individuals in the system somehow embrace this long-termism that we just argued for.
Yancey Strickler 21:57
Well, bento is a mental model, a framework. It's an acronym for BEyond Near Term Orientation. And really, the core thought is that most of us look at life from a short-term individualistic perspective, "What do I want and need right now?," and that's what we think of our self-interest as being. But in bentoism, which is just a simple 2x2 matrix, four boxes. That Now Me of what I want and need right now, that part of our self-interest is just one piece of the picture. That's the bottom left. There's also in the bottom right, Future Me, so thinking about the person that we want to become. That person becomes real or not based on the choices we make each day. There's Now Us, our family, the friends, the people that we care on us that we care about and care about us. And then finally, there's Future Us in the top right, so thinking about ourselves in the future or the next generation. Every decision we make leaves a footprint in all these spaces, but really, most of us, we spend most of our time thinking about now me, and we have a hard time considering these other dimensions. So, the bento is a very rudimentary, simple framework of these four boxes that become a user interface for making decisions. When I make decisions, I run them through each of these boxes, because I know what my values and goals are in each one of those. I've gone through a simple process to identify, what does my future me want to be? What do I want to be when I grow up? And what's powerful about this is that it creates a simple muscle memory, where you'll just return to these frames of thinking, and it allows you to be opinionated. And when you know what you want your future me or your future us to be, it becomes a goal that you work towards. The path forward becomes much more clear. The origins of this for me were being a CEO of Kickstarter, and my goal was always to create what I thought of as a post-permission organization, where the mission is so clear, the strategy is so clear that everyone is empowered to act upon it. And I was always trying to iterate, how do I create that? I didn't really get to exactly where I wanted to, but the bento is that. The bento is a simple compass that just says, "Here's what's important," and it allows you to make decisions where you're trying to solve for, "What solves what I need right now? How am I getting paid or being made to feel secure out of this? How does this work for the stakeholders in this? My customers, or my employees, or my co-founder, what do they think? How does this fit with my longer term who I want to be? And how does this fit with the impact that I want to have on the world?" And I've been using this to make every life decision for three years now, and it works tremendously. It works tremendously. And so, now, there's a group called The Bento Society. That's a couple thousand people who use the bento. There's a smaller membership community, about 150 folks, who are doing courses and different things together with me. It's just a very simple tool for making you more actively aware of what's important and how to fulfill it.
Maiko Schaffrath 25:19
Got it. A lot of people listening to this may be people thinking about launching companies that have a focus on social impact, or people at early stages of their entrepreneurial career, and I'd love to focus a bit more on how you could use this bento model of thinking as an entrepreneur. Especially if you're, let's say, a venture-backed entrepreneur, then obviously, there's this paradigm of this rapid, massive growth as quick as possible driven by a kind of VC economics, and maybe that model is not even the right model for entrepreneurs that want to optimize for impact as well. I'd love to discuss that with you, and what do you think about that? How should impact-driven entrepreneurs think about this and can use this model, especially if you're starting a company and you're kind of scared you may not be around anymore in a few months? How can you optimize both for the long term while making also sure that you don't forget about the short term as well?
Yancey Strickler 26:25
Yeah, well, one of the big things I learned as an entrepreneur is that without a destination, you can't get anywhere. And where a lot of people get trapped, and I get trapped too in my work, is you get trapped in the now me of grinding on what's in front of you, grinding on the inbox of the incoming, whatever feels right there. And that work is only valuable if it's oriented towards a larger goal, like something that you are working towards, something that it can be incrementally contributing to. Otherwise, you're just working. You're just digging a ditch. And so, you have to have that grounding in both, "Where am I trying to get?," and you can use the bento to set whatever time horizon you want. "Where do I want to be at the end of this quarter?," and you go through a process of being clear. "What's important at the end of this quarter?," and you use that to connect it to now me. You use that to connect it to what has to happen now. And especially where this is helpful and even critical for early stage founders is being able to communicate a vision, being able to communicate a coherent vision. Here's where we're trying to go. Here's how I can defend it. Here's the through line from now until there. Here are the people that are important to have to get there. And so, really, each of the four boxes on bentoism.org, I have a whole guide just for how to do this as an organization, but it really surfaces those core elements that you need to really operate on a mission, to fulfill a mission, to take a project from zero to something. You can't just do what's right in front of you. That will never work. That will never work. It has to be connected to a larger goal. And so, when we were starting Kickstarter, I mean, we went through a myriad, reading god knows how many strategy books, all these things to try to figure out how do you do this. I've never done anything like it before. This to me is just surfacing what is most core and creating a language, a language where it's not just in your head. It's written down. And so, it's something that you can talk about with someone else, and you can have a shared conversation. The beauty that I find in using this is that when you have this way of thinking, say you're having a disagreement with an investor, they're saying, "Well, I think you should be doing this. Here's what you should be doing right now," and in that position, you might be a little defenseless. They gave you money, you're trying to make money, what can you say? But if you have a clear picture of what's important, you would be able to answer and say, "Well, that's true right now, but in six months, our goal is to be at this point. And we believe that if we do this, this step, it won't look like much now, but six months," and you can shift the context to show, "Actually, what we're doing is quite coherent. Let me just allow you to see how I see things." And again, when we just default to what the world tells us which is what matters, is you right this second making money, accruing power and influence, you trap yourself. You just confine yourself to these very limited options, like a filmmaker trying to get $100 million for a movie studio. You're just like, "Oh, I have to fit through this tiny, tiny sieve to even fit in any way." You're kind of fucked. You're kind of fucked at that point. And so, what do you do instead? You just redefine the playing field. In any good negotiation, what do you negotiate? You just shift the playing field. You put new things on the table. You change the whole context. It gives you the power in the situation. And so, to me, you have to have that perspective of not just what you want as an entrepreneur, but what your customer wants, not just what you should be doing right now, but what's important to be doing six months from now. You have to know those things. You may be wrong, but you have to be opinionated, or else you're just fishing. But you want to be moving towards a destination, so I think, whether it's the bento or some other method, this stuff is critical, and it's what separates, I think, to a large degree, who can get through that grind. If you have a great idea, great ideas can happen. But grinding on an idea, making an idea, transforming a rock into a diamond, it takes this kind of work.
Maiko Schaffrath 30:41
That's a very useful insight. I'd love to go back, actually, to some of my motivation, why I launched Impact Hustlers, actually the first time in 2017. And at the time, I had spent a few years, actually, even as a student, I was working part-time as a charity fundraiser, working with charities. I worked and kind of met a lot of social entrepreneurs as well in a more traditional sense that were, let's say, more kind of local projects with a very kind of good cause, but not necessarily scalable. And I think at the time, I was like, "Oh, if the world can create like these massively split-scaling companies of Facebook, and Airbnb, and all these companies, why can't we create companies like that, grow as fast, but that have like a very, very clear social impact purpose at the core of it, and that can build a business model around the more impact I make, the more profit I make, and the more profit I make, the more impact I make? And that was my dream. I think it still is, but I am trying to challenge it as well, and it seems like at Kickstarter, you try to challenge that as well. You didn't go out there and were like, "We've got to grow as big as possible." You said, actually, slow growth. There are all these values we want to look at. So, I'd love your opinion on that. What should be the paradigm for people? Should we try to achieve a state where profit and impact is really kind of part of the same coin and not a tradeoff anymore? Or do you think it's going to be a model where we have to balance, like the bento type model where you have to balance between these different factors? It's not going to be possible to achieve like radical profit while having a great impact.
Yancey Strickler 32:33
Well, I think there's two-cut. I mean, one is Kickstarter was optimizing for creative values. Maybe we weren't optimizing for financial value, but we were optimizing for other sorts of values. So, I think one point is just which value you choose to optimize for is like more on the table, and what I think we're going to see more of is companies satisfying a financial need and maximizing another need. And so, you'll see this, yeah, the satisfying and optimizing this mix. As a PBC, that's kind of where you get, but there will be the things you're saying, where there will be maximum impact and maximum revenue will be tied, is going to be climate. Climate is going to create massive companies massive levels of impact and will do so in a way that will be purely a good or trying to be purely a good, probably not in every case, but in most cases. And absolutely, these are companies that have to achieve mass scale. I'm an investor in four climate-related startups, and some of those people wanted to work with me, because I'm like the indie entrepreneur guy, but one of my first things to them was, "You can't be an indie company. Let's blitzscale because the impact of this is just something that that is the appropriate strategy," and so I do think in climate and things related to that, it is going to be wealth and impact generating together. And I'm sure there will be some strange moral complications that come with that, but I think overall, I think that's a good thing, and I think that the level of impact and opportunity that exists in climate is ridiculous. The ideas that I see are amazing. I alternate between extreme optimism and extreme pessimism, so I do think it's possible. But I think ultimately, the real point that every company is going to arrive at is that it's not enough to be in it for your own financial gain. Ultimately, people won't give a shit about you. When all the record stores went under in the US, the first ones to close were the big chains, because no one cared about the chains. The small record stores that served the community, those survived, not all of them, but some of them did, because people gave a shit. And so, for any new business that's starting now, it can't just be about money because you make yourself vulnerable. You make yourself vulnerable long-term. I hear from massive, massive famous companies who say, "Hey, we have realized our brand has no meaning. What can we do? What should we do to build our rep?" And so, really, every category is going to get crowded with a million players, and so staking out your ground as the one who provides the service plus, and whatever that plus is, why you exist, that community that's not served, a way you go about it, other values to support, that is your business. That is your brand. That is how to succeed now, and you see it in every direct-to-consumer company. Those are table stakes now. When we were doing this with Kickstarter 10 years ago, we were communists. And now, it is table stakes. So, I think that's the real lesson, is that you have to pair those things for people to give a shit about you, for you to matter in the market long enough to make an impact. And if you don't do those things at the start, you're going to be trying to do them later if you happen to be successful, and it's a lot harder to do them later. So, to me, if this is going to be the most obvious stuff in the world, it's starting to happen now. Five years from now, it's going to be everybody does it. And there's going to be the question of how sincere these things are, but it is the way the wind is blowing.
Maiko Schaffrath 36:31
I think you've got definitely an audience with the people that listen to this podcast that are kind of all up for that or are already doing that. What I love as well, you wrote a book, but now you have The Bento Society where you actually group together these people and get them to be in a forum and learn with each other and kind of help each other out and be part of this movement. Tell us briefly about that and how people can be part of The Bento Society and actually make sure that they can be part of this movement and implement it for their own lives and companies.
Yancey Strickler 37:07
Yeah, The Bento Society is a collective project to explore the frontiers of what's valuable and in our self-interest. It has a 30-year mission to redefine our lens from short-term individualism to this more bentoist perspective for that to be the new norm. And so, we have weekly events. There's a weekly bento every Sunday, where people set their weekly to-do lists using the bento framework, which is super powerful. There's 50 of us there every Sunday doing that together, and then we have other kinds of events during the week. We give a $1,500 grant every quarter to projects that are aligned with our mission, the first of those are going to be announced soon. And then, I'm using it as like a research institution, a new kind of internet research institution trying to explore and promote these ideas. And the one thing I would say for your group is that later this year, I am going to create a group for entrepreneurs, so specifically folks who are early stage or leading a company founders, and just teaching, like a kind of a training for bentoist thinking. How do you approach certain decisions? How do you use this as a tool, because it's very much a tool. And so, that's something that will be coming probably early summer. That will be a chance for people to really get to know each other, because for me, when I was a CEO, to find other people who had the same job as me who are thinking about the same things as me, I mean, I would almost cry in gratitude of just finding those kinds of people. And so, to create a community like that, where we can learn from each other and up our game, yeah, that's what it's about. So, The Bento Society, it's a startup. It's my full-time project. It's a communal project. It's a PBC. It's not yet incorporated, but will be a PBC and yeah, and just hoping to fight the good fight and creatively explore these areas and really empower people to make good decisions.
Maiko Schaffrath 39:11
Great. I've joined and I've signed up for the first Bento session this Sunday, so I'm looking forward to that, and I'll link the link to Bentoism.org as well in the show notes for everybody to check out. One last question I have. You mentioned a 30-year time frame where if your vision with The Bento Society. So, my question to you to close down this conversation is, how does the world look like in 30 years if you succeed with what you're trying to do with The Bento Society?
Yancey Strickler 39:41
I think it's going to look like I mean, we'll come to call it post-capitalism. Really, there will be a much less focus on creating financial wealth, and there's going to be a focus on using the financial wealth we have to create the sort of society that we want. Really, what I see the big changes being is that other forms of value, like loyalty, or sustainability, or knowledge generation, or purpose are going to be things that we start to measure and identify and use as metrics and start to shift our systems to optimize for different kinds of values. And so, someone the other day mentioned this example to me of 100 years ago, 80% of people worked on food production, worked on farms. Today, it's 3%, because food is no longer a bottleneck the way it used to be. Similarly, maybe 60-70 years from now, maybe it's 10% of people, their jobs actually involve making wealth as the core reason, and everyone else's jobs involve producing some other kind of good that is transferable for wealth, but we just no longer have all of our tools optimized for this one good that has brought us a lot of value is useful. I don't think we can look at the past 150 years of how capitalism has played out and say it has been- it's mixed feelings, a lot of good things. It's gotten us this far. But yeah, the next step is going to be somewhere different. So, it's just a diminishing of financial value and an increase in other kinds of values, and that will just reorder our social relationships. It's going to reorder what it means to work. It's going to reorder how we provide value to each other. It's something that we're exploring in The Bento Society, and we'll certainly be writing more about, and yeah, I would love for people to come be a part of it.
Maiko Schaffrath 41:37
Great. That's a very amazing, optimistic vision of the future that I love. So, thanks very much, Yancey, for joining us now, and thanks for sharing your story.
Photo: Web Summit, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons