The mission of Danae Ringelmann’s first company was simple: to “democratize fundraising”. At the time it sounded crazy, but today it’s become a reality: as co-founder of Indiegogo, Ringelmann is one of the most powerful voices on the crowdfunding scene.
Danae Ringelmann co-founded Indiegogo in 2007, and has since helped to propel the company into the world’s largest crowdfunding platform. Today, Danae leads Indiegogo’s industry development efforts, while steering the company’s employee culture and values initiatives. Danae was listed as one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40, as well as SF Business Times’ 40 under 40 in 2014. ELLE Magazine appointed Danae to its Woman in Tech Power List in 2014; Fast Company included her in its Top 50 Women Innovators in Technology in 2011. Here’s how she got started.
Prior to starting her work at Indiegogo, she worked in the finance industry on Wall Street, and she noticed how difficult it was for independent artists and entrepreneurs to secure funding for their projects. In particular, their struggles reminded her of her small-business-owner parents struggle to find capital while she was growing up. “They never could actually get a loan,” she said. Seeing that story repeat over and over again deeply affected her.
She came up with the basic concept for Indiegogo — a crowdfunding platform where anyone can raise money for an idea or a project — and fine-tuned it while attending business school at UC Berkeley. That’s also where she met her co-founders, Eric Schell and Slava Rubin. They convinced her that the Internet was a better platform for the company, and they introduced Indiegogo in January 2008.
The path to Indiegogo’s current success was not smooth. As she told Huffington Post during March of last year, “After we launched Indiegogo in January of 2008, we were rejected by 92 Venture investors before we raised our first round of traditional investment capital in March 2011. However, with each rejection brought more motivation to make Indiegogo work, as the whole purpose of Indiegogo was to remove gatekeepers from the financing equation and distribute the decision-making power of what ideas should thrive and which shouldn’t to the people.” She also joked, “If Indiegogo had been around when Indiegogo needed to raise money to launch, we might’ve gotten a bit of a faster start.” Eventually, Indiegogo connected with a few investors who shared their vision. The rest was history.
Today Indiegogo has transformed into a smashing success. Indiegogo has hosted more than 250,000 campaigns in 224 countries and territories. And its name — along with that of rival Kickstarter, which began in 2009 — has become synonymous with the crowdfunding movement.
Ringelmann’s story is unique for a lot of reasons, but one of them is simply how rare it is: women create only eight percent of venture-backed startups.
In an interview with VentureBeat, she was asked directly what it’s like being one of the few female founders in Silicon Valley. Ringelmann replied, “Indiegogo is helping to level the funding playing field. We know that it’s harder for women to succeed. In venture capital, only three percent of businesses have a woman on their executive team. Meanwhile, on Indiegogo, 47 percent of campaigns that reach their funding target are run by women. We’re literally changing the industry by showing it without having to talk about it. It’s just happening.”
She also noted that Indiegogo is an equal opportunity workplace without even trying to be one. As she adds, “ I left finance because it was biased and created these buddy systems. We’re building a system where everyone has access to equal opportunity. At Indiegogo, half of our employees are women, and half of our leadership is women. None of that was done in a quota fashion. It was organic. I feel a responsibility to share this story, as I’m hoping it will inspire others. We’ll get there.”