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June 13, 2019

The Wrong Right Way

Last October, we announced that we'd partnered with Kickstarter to start a new project to succeed Drip, their subscription platform for independent artists.

Unfortunately, we’ve decided to cancel the project, and wanted to talk a little about why.

In the seven months since the announcement, we’d hired a talented group of people to work on it with us and have been working hard to get something ready to launch on stage at this year's XOXO in September.

The idea seemed solid: we were making a community for discovering, following, and financially supporting the work of artists, creators, and creative organizations, focused on three core goals:

  1. Discovery. Explore the world of creative people and projects, helping creators build an audience for their projects, and surfacing their work to those most likely to become fans.
  2. Community. Build a community around your work, with simple tools to allow fans to reliably follow the work of creators they love and share it with others.
  3. Payments. Provide multiple ways for creators to earn money from their work through recurring subscription, one-time payments, and larger patronage.

We were building a platform with an incredibly low barrier to entry for creators and supporters, and we wanted to make a space for creators at any stage of their career, without necessarily having a large established audience.

Our platform would prioritize the large population of smaller creators in our community, with a focus on raising up work from new and marginalized artists. We were designing strong community moderation tools, and writing progressive policies and guidelines. Discovery and curation would be based on personal recommendations, rather than an over-reliance on algorithms.

Ultimately, we couldn’t find a way to make the business viable. We explored a number of different options—voluntary subscriptions from users, premium features, increased fees—but the resources required to support a high number of lower-volume creators always outpaced our revenue.

We were intent on running a sustainable and independent business. Even if we went the traditional route and raised venture capital, it didn’t appear likely to survive once that funding ran out. We were building this for the community we care about, and many of the artists and creators in our community are already financially insecure and vulnerable. The idea of launching something with so much uncertainty and risk felt irresponsible and unfair.

So with increasingly insurmountable odds, we stopped development earlier this month. We’re working with our friends at Kickstarter to help migrate the remaining Drip beta creators elsewhere. And then we're returning the remaining seed funding back to Kickstarter.

It's a huge disappointment for everyone involved, but it felt like the most responsible thing to do. It's not the first time we've tried something that didn't pan out. It always feels terrible when something fails, and it always hurts. But like most painful failures, we've learned a lot and hopefully, can make something better if we ever get that chance again.

Special thanks to everyone on our team who worked so hard on it: Nic Villaseñor, Marri Gamard, Paulo Pereira, Lennon Day-Reynolds, and the incredible team at Friends of the Web. Thanks to the entire Drip team for their remarkable effort, but especially Garrow Bedrossian for going above and beyond. Thanks to Kickstarter’s Outreach team for helping creators understand these changes, but especially Travis Brace for leading the charge. Thanks to the entire Kickstarter team for the support—special thanks to Mark Wunsch, Cassie Marketos, Natacha Springer, Brian Knight, and Aziz Hasan for guidance and understanding, and Perry Chen for believing in us.

Finally, our deepest gratitude to the XOXO community and every artist and creator who provided their advice, insights, and support along the way.