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  • Meeting with Vice, on the top of their Brooklyn headquarters. With New York skyline in the background

Brooklyn - F*ck the monoculture

Author: 
Mads Thimmer
Category: 
Lab Confidential
Maybe the Silicon Valley mindset has found a less tech intense counterpart with just as much impact.

Even as you are walking down the street, it is clear that the self celebratory ”unicorn” craze is turned absolutely down. No signs or giant facade logo tells you that you are standing in front of one of the true world changers – the premiere crowdsourcing platform of Kickstarter. A platform that has enabled more than 100,000 projects in art, technology and what not by connecting them to more than 11 mio ”backers” pledging more than 2,4 billion. To some, a complete circumventing of the venture business, to others a support structure for the long tail of workplace liberation, enabling people in the 100,000s to pursue passions they otherwise couldn’t.

A view of the interior in Kickstarters workspace, with large windows and green outside
Kickstarter Workspace

Kickstarter's value revolves around art and culture

International Director Sean Leow tells us that it was the Benefit Corporation charter – where the company upholds obligations to society as much as shareholders – that lured him from a warm place with Facebook in California and the chance to work in a different culture. One that is based on content and ”something other” than technology and where the tech part is a vessel, not a totem. It is the chance to be part of an immediately impactful world changer that - as a true platform-centric company - measures its own success in the success that it creates for others. And in the process makes way for microcultures, microclimates, microcompanies and microsuccesses to the worklife liberation of the passionate souls that crowdfunding enables to pursue their life projects. As founder/CEO Yancey Strickler puts it: ”We believe in art and culture – fuck the monoculture”. And hence coins a complete alternative to the brand religion of yesterday and the tech centric movements of Silicon Valley whilst still operating a profitable unicorn, aka a billion dollar business.

A view from Will Lisak's leather workshop in Brooklyn, NYC.
Will Lisak's leather workshop in Brooklyn, NYC.

Real craftmanship thriving on crowdfunding

You see the liberating force of the crowdfunding way when talking to maker Will Lisak, who jumped ship from his place a graphic designer in a large company to work only using ancient tools and his craftsmanship to perfect leather products as Etwas Bags, using not a single watt in the process but selling to the entire world online. His new project is bringing back ash into rucksacks as reinforcement and he will try the sellability on the Kickstarter platform. To Will, digital is the tool for something else, for a liberated perspective, a deepdive into reemerged craftsmanship and a chance to pursue one’s deepest passion.

Meeting with Vice, on the top of their Brooklyn headquarters. With New York skyline in the background

Rooftop meeting with New York skyline in the background

Vice Media headquarters in Brooklyn, NYC. 

In a completely different company culture, Brooklyn-based Vice Media has positioned itself as THE company to understand and supply a next generation of media consumers. Here, content is not just king – it is a form changer and story precedes everthing. It makes it possible to have the same great story repositioned as content for media as diverse as Snapchat and Television. Technology is not driving but it is enabling different aspects of a story to unfold. And every imaginable mega brand is politley queueing to get onto the alliance that Vice has skillfully crafted with the next generation that it inherently and – perhaps – almost exclusively understands intimately as massive data on usage pours back from the content supply streams.

 

Visiting Vice is like diving under a vulcano. Extreme growth after an initial "street" period of anticipation and momentum building. It is a testament to the fact that not only digital technology scales. Here, it is content and its way to drive new media formats that attracts and, mostly, scales. But is is also a new way to see digital in agency format, dishing out BtB services that sells the generational insight Vice has gained and keeps cultivating through the emergence of a whole cloud of new brands and content outlets.

Entrance in Vice Media's Brooklyn headquarters
The entrance in Vice Media's Brooklyn headquarters.

Looks like scaling down is the way to go

The general Brooklyn impression of 2016 is not one of 2.0 or tech based growth explosion. It is – for Vice as well as Kickstarter – an intuitive understanding of our need to adhere to smaller tribes that we can mirror our values in and relate to. It is platforms that allows you to participate and offers a street perspective with an eye for micro value and its potential as accumulated volume. Just like scaling up for the Industrial Age was a way to secure prosperity, scaling down might to meet individuals, persons, seems to be the way to secure growth in a different, Brooklyn based, less-tech- centric take on success in a Digital Age.