Resistance, Rejection, And Ridicule. Start-up Expectations From Indiegogo’s Danae Ringelmann

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Forbes by Ewan Spence | December 2, 2014

Danae Ringelmann

Indiegogo Co-founder Danae Ringelmann (Image: Sportsfile, Flickr/cc)

“I wish we’d had an Indiegogo to launch Indiegogo,” Danae Ringelemann reminisces. “It would have gone a lot faster.”

I’ve met up with the founder of the crowd funding website Indiegogo. Founded in 2008 it spent years trying to secure its own funding to allow the service to firstly survive, and then thrive, as one of the leading crowd funding sites. Fresh from speaking at last month’s Web Summit in Dublin, Ringelmann knows all about the difficulties of funding a vision.

Incredibly empathetic, and almost evangelical in her enthusiasm, she is educating everyone who will listen about the power of Indiegogo’s crowd funding model. It’s not just about projects raising funds, it’s a way to mitigate marketing risk (and execution risk), a way to work alongside traditional finance routes, and it’s a way to turn everyday dreams into reality.

Much like the dream of the founders of Indiegogo had.

Related: Indiegogo Founder Speaks on Why Crowdfunding is an Equal Opportunity Platform

“We were rejected by ninety-two VCs and Angel Investors [famously including Y Combinator, as Forbes Jeff Bercovici found out recently], which proved the point of Indiegogo. We needed to exist. We needed to remove this gate-keeping process so every idea could thrive.

Getting Indiegogo started, like all start-up stories, was a mix of horror and naivety. The prototypes of Indiegogo saw service for many years before funding arrived. Ringelmann takes me back, “We launched in 2008 with a few case studies. Then we went to raise funding to grow faster. That was the plan, but the financial markets crashed, and began our dark period of just plugging away, throwing out that launch schedule, and going from campaign to campaign. We didn’t raise much funding until March 2011.

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“We were always growing, but it felt… lonely. We weren’t a faster, cheaper, or better version of something, we were a whole new way of doing things with no comparison. That made it harder to explain what this thing was.”

It’s clearly a time that had to be endured rather than enjoyed. Like any good leader, Ringelmann enjoys looking upwards and onwards, but I suspect this dark period has tempered the Indiegogo team into a far stronger final product.

“We were passionate about what we were doing, passionate despite reason. When we launched Twitter had just got going, Facebook was still college-only, MySpace was all the rage, and my co-founder likes to say that Obama wasn’t even a word.

“Any other logical person would have said give up, it’s not working. But we knew this was the future, we knew this would help people who would not be served by the traditional system. You don’t need everything worked out before you launch. You can only see what users want after you show them something and see if they use it or now. Get an early prototype out, it’s simple.”

Related: Indiegogo Is Testing Optional Insurance Fees For Crowdfunded Products

Indiegogo project: Pastor Marrion Fund (image: indiegogo.com)

Indiegogo project: Pastor Marrion Fund                            (Image: indiegogo.com)

That process has inured Indiegogo to the process that Indiegogo users have to fight through to get started with their dreams. What lesson would Ringelmann pass on? “Expect resistance, expect rejection, expect ridicule, and expect things not to got to plan.” Tagged on at the end of that list was the heart of the struggle of many creatives. ”Expect self-doubt when you are building something new and important for the world. My father loved to say that ‘…the world has incredible inertia, it loves to say no.’ Its your job  to keep saying yes.”

So what changed? Every project has a moment that it goes over ‘the hump’ and while success is not assured, success can be seen. For Ringelmann and Indiegogo it was a single campaign. “It was a campaign we had no contact with, but it was immensely successful. It was about two people solving problem and they needed money to do it. So they took it into their own hands… and did it.”

Related: Code4Armour™ Launched Crowdfunding Campaign on Indiegogo; 25% of Goal Reached in First Day

“He spent years hiding people from execution. Two CNN reporters had been following his story, and after saving thousands of peoples’ lives, his own life came under threat as his kidneys started to fail. He did not have the money to do anything about it. So the reporters did an Indiegogo campaign, and raised enough to fly him to South Africa for surgery.

“That really moved me. People had been following this man’s story around the world and now they had the opportunity to actually save him. And they did. That was the moment I knew this [Indiegogo] was something really important.” Indiegogo has thrived since then, with close to 300,00 campaigns having been run through the website.

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