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The opening shot of Danae Ringelmann’s future came at a “Hollywood meets Wall Street” networking event in 2002. Then a 22-year-old newbie investment banking analyst covering media and entertainment, Ringelmann found herself the center of fawning attention — simply because of her JPMorgan nametag.
“Everyone else there was a filmmaker looking to fund their project, so I was very popular,” laughs Ringelmann, MBA 08. “When a 70-year-old FedExed his script, pleading for my help, it just clicked that there should be a better way to do this.”
Ringelmann’s initial idea to set up an independent film investment fund drove her to Haas, where it morphed into IndieGoGo. Along with Eric Schell, MBA 08, and his former colleague, Slava Rubin, Ringelmann hatched a plan for a social marketplace where independent filmmakers could interact with fans, raise money, and build a following.
“Just weeks after I pitched it to VCs in my social entrepreneurship class, we went to Sundance 2007 with a one-line description,” says Ringelmann. “One year later, we were back at Sundance to launch.”
Since then, IndieGoGo has become the most trafficked site for independent film funding, helping raise over $130,000 and showcasing more than 1,900 projects from 90 countries. When IndieGoGo celebrated its first anniversary at Sundance 2009, Robert Redford himself offered kudos.
The site allows filmmakers to post free project profiles and then “sell” production perks — a film credit, access to the set, an extra role, or even a character name. The site’s most successful film to date is Tapestries of Hope, a documentary about the AIDs crisis in Zimbabwe, which raised $22,000. IndieGoGo takes a 9 percent cut of funds raised.
Ringelmann, who handles finance and customer development, stresses that crowd funding is just one element of the site. “We’re not here to replace other funding channels, but to complement them,” she says. “The minute someone gives even $1, they are emotionally connected, and they become your best promoters.”