Everette Taylor’s Appetite for Risk
By Alixandra Rutnik on Oct 12, 2023
One-on-one with Everette Taylor before his Keynote speech at WAATBP?
In about two weeks we will be listening to powerful industry leaders speak their minds on the topics of today at the annual Where Are All The Black People? Diversity Conference and Career Fair on Thursday and Friday, October 26 and 27. Thursday will be virtual filled with recruiting opportunities in the morning and portfolio reviews in the afternoon. And Friday will be in person at the stately Convene in Fidi NYC. You can look forward to the keynote speech, in-person panels, portfolio reviews, recruiting, professional headshots, and wellness activities throughout the day, and a baller after-party in the evening.
Giving the keynote address on Friday morning will be the Kickstarter CEO Everette Taylor. Most recently Everette has graced the Times 100 Next and AdAge’s 40 under 40 lists due to his super-star success and creative vision.
We talked to Everette ahead of WAATBP to get to know him a little better before his highly anticipated speech.
CNBC recently did two pieces on you, contributing your success to lucky timing, empathy, and risk-taking. Explain how these three things got you to where you are today in your career.
It’s pretty simple. There are a ton of people out there who are talented, smart, and hard-working. Oftentimes the difference between someone’s success versus another’s is simply great timing, but it also requires people to perform when those opportunities come their way. That’s where risk-taking comes in too, certain opportunities and chances may come your way, but do you have the appetite for risk?
Failure is a scary thing for most and I find that most people are a bit too risk-averse. Is everything going to work out? No. But to be different, you have to take chances. I’ve taken risks during times when people thought I was absolutely crazy.
As far as empathy, that’s just who I am as a person and my ability to empathize with others has helped me more as an entrepreneur and marketer than anything else in my career. The ability to put myself in the shoes of users, customers, as well as colleagues, has allowed me to build great products and marketing campaigns but also manage and inspire the people who work with me. Empathy in leadership is crucial, but you can’t do this alone and you have to take care of your people.
Out of curiosity, is your childhood dream job at all reflected in what you are doing today?
Hell no. I wanted to play ball. I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing today. I did however always want to impact lives in a positive way and I do get to do that.
You recently tweeted, “another person’s good fortune or success shouldn’t be a trigger for you,” are you speaking from a personal experience here?
Yeah for sure, the world is full of haters and people that don’t wish people well. I love seeing people win and succeed. I wish more people turned that energy and time into something positive, but that’s just not the case. No one has ever made me feel bad for my success from negativity or not being supportive of me. What makes me feel bad for my success is walking out on the street and seeing the homeless, knowing people I grew up around back home who are still struggling, or feeling guilt about people I care about who are not able to experience some of the things that I do. But haters? Nah.
What lessons have you learned from each of the companies you have founded or worked for?
I’ve learned one simple lesson from every company: never get comfortable. You can be on top of the world, but things can change. You have to maintain that hunger and continue to evolve and push for innovation.
"I’ve learned one simple lesson from every company: never get comfortable."
As the CEO of Kickstarter, you decided to implement a four-day workweek and thus far you have noted that it has been as productive or even more productive than the traditional five-day workweek. Why did you decide to take this risk?
I decided to move us from a pilot to a more permanent move to the 4DWW, but I can’t take credit for bringing it to Kickstarter, because that credit goes to Jon Leland our Chief Strategy Officer. Ultimately it came down to the well-being of our employees. People were living more well-balanced and healthier lives and we had maintained productivity. As a CEO, I have a responsibility to take care of my people, not just make revenue. Do I think more CEOs will hop on board? Who knows, it’s not an easy move and comes with a lot of challenges. I think there will be more pressure internally from employees at different companies to move to a shorter work week.
There’s been a lot of talk that “DEI is dead,” based on recent stats. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
The need for DEI is still alive, so how can it be dead? I think people’s performative care for DEI has subsided. It was “cute” for a couple of years and now it’s back to business as usual. Saying it’s “dead” is way too dismissive, and there are too many incredible individuals who are still putting in great work. No one said it would be easy, and sometimes change takes time. But the lack of emphasis some companies are putting on it is disappointing.
In what ways do you prioritize DEI at Kickstarter?
For us at Kickstarter, it’s really about intentionality in hiring. We have a new incredible VP of People, Tarveen Forrester, who is so purposeful in her work. Making sure that we always have a diverse candidate in the final mix. And personally, I will go out there and source diverse candidates myself for the roles we are trying to fill. It’s a team effort. I’m grateful for the management team we have here at Kickstarter that prioritizes diversity and creative inclusive environments for our colleagues.
You’ve experienced homelessness, you sold drugs as a teenager, and you dropped out of college, yet you have been named Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018 for Marketing and Advertising and in 2019 for exponential company growth. And most recently, you made the Times 100 Next and AdAge’s 40 under 40 list. How do you hope your story and success inspires others who are navigating a challenging season in their life?
Don’t give up hope. Hope is powerful. Hope drove me during some of the hardest times in my life. It’s not about today, but about the future, what’s possible, and understanding that life is a marathon. I also hope I inspire people to be themselves and to love themselves. You don’t have to fit into some type of box to be successful.
"Don’t give up hope. Hope is powerful. Hope drove me during some of the hardest times in my life."
You were recently featured on the A Dose of Black Joy and Caffeine podcast where you talked about a little bit of everything. You said, “your job should not be your entire life; give a dose of kindness to yourself; and I encourage side hustles.” From that episode, what message are you hoping resonates with the audience the most?
There are so many aspects to life, your job/career being just one of them. I don’t want people to lose sight of the things that truly matter. I’ve sacrificed a lot, and there are some regrets there. Don’t let those regrets build up because at the end of the day, you’ll realize that your career is great and all but there’s much more to life.
"Don’t let those regrets build up because at the end of the day, you’ll realize that your career is great and all but there’s much more to life."
Any hints to what you will be speaking about during your Keynote speech?
I actually have no idea yet, a lot of times I speak from the heart. It could be something that happens that morning that inspires my speech. But I’m looking forward to engaging with so many incredible people and hopefully inspiring a few.
Join us for the Where Are All The Black People? Conference & Career Fair on Thursday and Friday October 26-27.