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Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan steps down after three years

Chief Operating Officer Sean Leow has been named interim CEO.

Image credit: Kickstarter

Kickstarter’s CEO Aziz Hasan is stepping down after three years at the head of the crowdfunding giant. The decision was officially announced in a blog post titled ‘Moving Forward, With Gratitude’ and named current chief operating officer Sean Leow as interim CEO.

While not mentioned in the article, FastCompany reports that Hasan is leaving his position to focus on family and make good on recent “personal reflections”. His last day at the company will be April 4th, but Hasan said he will remain in an advisory position until Kickstarter’s board of directors have selected his replacement.

“To our team, the backers, the creators, this entire community — you are what makes Kickstarter the creative and amazing place it is — often beautiful, sometimes unusual, and always inspiring,” Hasan writes in the blog post. “I close my tenure here with so much gratitude and a much deeper personal connection to how powerful and impactful creative projects are in the world.”

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Hasan’s three years as CEO saw Kickstarter through some of its more recent highs and lows. The technology company’s workforce was one of the first of its scale to successfully unionise in 2020, but management faced backlash for not voluntarily recognising it the year before and a few months after Hasan accepted his role. It was also accused of union-busting activities when it fired three high-level employees who had all been involved in the union's formation.

Crowdfunding projects continued to set - and break - several of Kickstarter’s funding records, both within the tabletop industry and in other categories. That dominance has been called into question following the dubious and roundly criticised announcement that Kickstarter would be investing in blockchain technology. Many creators cut ties with Kickstarter, and competitors such as Indiegogo and Gamefound have been increasing their share of high-profile and successful projects, even if the gap between them remains wide.

Hasan did not mention anything about Kickstarter’s blockchain investment plans in his letter, nor the creator-powered advisory council that will pay users and project runners to act as liaisons to the community. There’s no evidence that backlash to the blockchain announcement or any other decision made during his tenure led to his leaving the position.

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If the creation of the advisory council is to keep Kickstarter from making hasty mistakes or decisions that will hurt its users, appointing Loew as interim CEO remains a bit of an open question. In an interview with The Beat in February, Leow expressed excitement and a positive outlook towards the company’s future with the technology powering bitcoin and NFTs. His explanation as to why Kickstarter chose blockchain and not another better tested, less speculative technology was less concrete - he told The Beat he was “not the technical expert on this.”

Hasan was named interim CEO when Kickstarter co-founder Perry Chen stepped down in 2019, later accepting the role fulltime.

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