How Algorithms Increase Website Effectiveness - Slava Rubin

In Chapter 10 of 13 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, crowdfunding entrepreneur and IndieGoGo CEO Slava Rubin answers "As You Are Experiencing So Much Content Growth on Your Website, How are You Using Data and Algorithms to Manage It?"  Rubin shares the story behind his company aim to democratize fundraising and how they have implemented a Google Page Rank like algorithm to create a fair and balanced experience across all submitted campaign content.  Slava Rubin returns to CYF for his Year 3 interview.  As CEO and Co-Founder, Rubin has helped transform cause and project fundraising by establishing his company IndieGoGo as a global leader in crowdfunding.  He is also active in philanthropy, starting the Music Against Myeloma annual charity event to fight cancer.  He graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Erik Michielsen: As you’re experiencing so much content growth on your website, how are you using data and algorithms to manage it?

Slava Rubin: Yeah, for us algorithms and making sure that we have a fair opportunity for anybody to get exposure on our site is absolutely key. Many other sites will use words like query and sometimes you have to have the right person to find yourself on the homepage. To us, the reason we’ve created Indiegogo is to democratize fundraising. See, the old days you went to a bank or even today and somebody sat in office and decided that you do not deserve that bank loan according to their risk model, and maybe that person had a bad day in the morning and maybe they just weren’t gonna approve anything that day, which isn’t really fair for you.

So, for us we believe in really the Google approach, which is allow everybody an opportunity and then create algorithms on how you determine where you get exposed. For us, that’s called the go-go factor and we’ve optimized that over the last two years, where it’s a very Google page rank like algorithm to determine how to promote your campaign across all of our different channels. So, if you wanna be on the homepage or in the press, in newsletters, in the popular section or in the blog you don’t have to write to us and say, I know the CEO, it actually wouldn’t even help. All you need to do is on meritocracy have your campaign get a high go-go factor. These include things like updates and funding velocity and different comments. So, anything where there’s activity around your campaign will help you get to a better go-go factor and get more exposure. Philosophically it’s like America, equal opportunity for all, not equal results guaranteed.

Erik Michielsen: What have you done about bringing on new people on the team to build that infrastructure in the company?

Slava Rubin: Enabling a scalable algorithmic approach to how you share campaigns is definitely something you have to think about from the beginning. So, the way we architected the site from a database perspective as well as how it displays things, right away we were thinking about what data we would be able to analyze and filter. We also have great talent on the team right away from the original founders straight through our new analysts that are physics and math double majors where we’re actually trying to ensure that the algorithms that we’re creating are not silly or easy to be gamed. As we get thousands of active campaigns every month, everybody wants to make sure that their campaign is being treated correctly, so we’re constantly updating, revising our algorithms to ensure that everybody is happy.