In July 2023, Kickstarter appointed Sindy Wilson as its new chief financial officer. This move made her the first Black woman in the company’s C-suite history. With 20 years of experience as a finance professional where only 5% of her peers are Black, Wilson has carved out an inspiring career path rivaled by few.
When Kickstarter launched in 2009, it immediately became a way to even the playing field for entrepreneurs and anyone with a vision who needed money to help make their dreams materialize but could not procure funds.
For Black and Brown founders, the platform was a one-stop shop for connecting to target audiences directly as well as subverting the often discriminatory avenues of investment in which their white peers often found success. However, at the executive level, the company still resembled other public corporations’ all too familiar look: overwhelmingly male and disappointingly non-Black.
But now it seems the company is moving toward change.
Before Wilson’s historic appointment, Kickstarter announced Everette Taylor as its new chief executive officer in 2022. With a Black man and a Black woman in two of the company’s most coveted positions, a new dawn has come for Kickstarter.
BLACK ENTERPRISE met Wilson to talk about journeying in uncharted waters, what she believes leads to success, and why she chose to join the Kickstarter team.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What was your journey to the role of CFO for a major company?
Sindy Wilson: “I had a pretty traditional path, honestly. I knew pretty early on that numbers would be part of what I did in my career. I always had aptitude there. My career went up that trek. I went to B [business] school, I worked in finance consulting, and then worked my way up as a financial analyst through the ranks of various companies.”
BE: What drew you to Kickstarter?
SW: “I’ve worked with a lot of large companies whose missions and values centered around primarily capitalistic growth. It’s just, ‘We’re going to serve this gap in the market, and we’re going to put all of our resources at the expense of people.’ And sometimes, it’s even at the expense of the customer. I knew that at this stage of my career, I wanted what I loved to do to be married to a company that has a mission that I love. And Kickstarter’s ability to help people bring their creative passions and ideas to serve their communities to life let me know that this was the place I wanted to be.”
BE: Kickstarter has been a great resource for Black creatives, brands, and entrepreneurs to raise capital outside of traditional sources. What do you attribute that accessibility to?
SW: “The traditional routes of funding are banks and VCs. They determine who they’re going to give their money to by looking at total addressable markets as well as what the return on that will be. A lot of times with Black and Brown communities, they [investors] look at that as “niche.” Kickstarter stands out as a resource because it’s the passion, needs, and expressions of your communities that come to back you and help you get access to the capital you need. One, they understand the need, and two, they understand that you represent the expression they want to see in the world. Kickstarter’s secret sauce is that it helps you connect with your community. With Black and Brown people, the original businesses relied on their communities to support them. That same ecosystem is the ecosystem that Kickstarter is bringing.”
BE: In talking about community, as a Black woman with your title, what does your community look like? How are you able to be supported at the C-suite level?
SW: “In the role I’m in as CFO, I need to have community. That starts with a couple of things. The first thing is making sure you’re connected with all the resources, not just from other CFOs but anything related to what I do at the company. Are there new systems? New tools? You need always to be sharpening your skills, and having mentors, both internal to your company and external, helps with that. I am a part of several CFO groups and forums that can help me with any issues I need to work through. We have to work together as a network to ensure we’re showing up with a full scope of considerations for the companies we are CFOs for. We help one another do that.”
BE: When mentoring the next generation of those wanting to break into the C-suite, what have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned on your journey?
SW: “First, no matter where you are, you always need to make sure that you’re in the right culture—a culture where people give feedback and a culture where people give sponsorship. As a Black woman, I talk about this concept of intersectionality. I am a woman. I am Black. I am African. And I am going to communicate from a place different from the environment I am entering. I’m Nigerian, so we can be real direct. And that may not work in some places. You need someone in the room with you who can say, ‘Hey, that seemed really direct’ and give you valuable feedback.
As opposed to times when people will remain silent, and that ultimately impairs your success. The second thing is you need an advocate. There will be rooms that you’re just not in. That goes all the way up to the CEO, sometimes. There may be conversations at the board level that you may not be part of. You have to make sure every step of the way that you have advocates that can contribute to your growth and keep you informed. If you’re in a culture or at a company where you don’t have those two, it’s going to be really difficult to be successful.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be authentically you. If you’re twisting yourself into something you’re not in order to fit in somewhere, you’re not going to be confident because you’ll always be second-guessing yourself. In addition to that, you won’t be seen as genuine. When you lead people, you have to lead from a place of confidence. People want to be connected to someone who is genuine, and they can’t trust you if they cannot connect to you. And if they can’t trust you, you cannot lead them.”