Interview with Ruika Lin


i-studentglobal caught up with former alumni blogger Ruika Lin, a Chinese graduate of University of Virginia. Last time we heard from her, Ruika had just moved from the East Coast of America to West Coast’s San Francisco, where she had just started her first week working for global crowdfunding start-up Indiegogo. We asked Ruika about her time working at Indiegogo, her decision to stay in the US and her own crowdfunded project, a book of collected essays titled ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, which she completed in 2014.

When you finished university, what made you want to stay in the US?

To be honest I didn’t really give the idea of going back to China much thought. I was in my final year of college at UVa and finding a job nearby just seemed like the next step. I was 22 at the time. I knew that several of my peers went back to their home countries. This seemed to be due to a number of reasons including issues with obtaining a visa to stay in the country after graduation, or for some reason they did not think that the country was suitable for them. I wouldn’t like to speculate as to why this might be, but neither of these reasons were applicable to me so I stayed. I was fortunate enough to have my visa sponsored by a large multi-national company that I was working for after college so I was able to stay in the USA. A lot of my friends, both international and American students carried on studying for an MBA, which was something that I thought I might end up doing, but I seem to have somewhat derailed from that path now. Things never quite work out how you might expect them to.

Of all of the crowdfunding platforms, what drew you to Indiegogo to publish 'Frequently Asked Questions' on?

I’d actually been working at Indiegogo for a few months when I set up my campaign there. I found the difference in cultures between the East Coast and West Coast to be quite a noticeable one. The mindset and environment seemed completely different to what I had previously experienced in Virginia. Since moving to the US by myself when I started my studies here, the experience left me with a lot of questions which I’d collected as bullet points of ideas and pages of writing material. Unfortunately, during my first job on the East Coast I didn’t have enough time to write these all down in essay format. I wanted to put these questions into a book, culminating my database of thoughts and ideas into an essay collection of things. Surrounded by entrepreneurs and innovators on the West Coast, I was inspired by their attitude and was less apprehensive about taking the initiative and putting the idea into action.

Crowdfunding is all about helping people to make their ideas become a reality and making them realise that it is not so scary to take that first step. I now work with clients around the world, coaching them through their campaigns and helping them to understand the whole process. As an employee of Indiegogo, I was given one free campaign per year and was supported by many of my colleagues, many of whom had run their own successful campaigns and had a lot of valuable and experience and insight to share with me.

See Ruika's original campaign here

Were you surprised that you surpassed your target by so much? How did you reward your supporters?

From my work at the company coaching clients on their projects, I have learned some tricks of the trade to help ensure that campaigns are successful. One of these is called ‘the green bar effect’ which uses consumer psychology to help influence potential backers of the projects.

To give an example, imagine that you have two projects, one with a target of $1m and one with a target of $10,000. If you have raised $6,000 then this is just 0.6% of the $1m target but 60% of the $10,000 target, giving this campaign a much longer green bar (the green bar is the progress bar showing the amount of money raised so far). Which of these projects would you want to invest in? By setting the target amount very low, just $500 for Frequently Asked Questions, I was able to reach this target quickly and in the end, I raised over $3,500 for the project.

The rewards given to backers at Indiegogo are called perks. These can be anything that you want and are a great way to engage people with the project that you’re developing. The challenge is coming up with creative perks which will entice people to invest. Some of the perks for Frequently Asked Questions ranged from a CD of me playing some classical piano tracks to inviting a number of backers over for dinner. They were good ways to connect with people interested in the project and to say thanks for supporting it. 

Listen to Ruika's music on Soundcloud

Read chapters from 'Frequently Asked Questions'