Danae Ringelmann, MBA 08, Co-Founder of IndieGoGo (Photo Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg)
Danae Ringelmann, MBA 08, Co-Founder of IndieGoGo (Photo Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

By Leah Staub-DeLong, MBA 17

The rise of purpose-driven entrepreneurship

Last month, Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of Indiegogo, shared her vision for the future of entrepreneurship with members of the Haas community at the Dean’s Speakers Series. Danae founded Indiegogo in 2008 to unleash the inner entrepreneur in everyone, and to enable all people to translate their ideas into products and programs that improve people’s lives. Over the past 9 years, nearly $1 billion has been raised – or “crowdfunded” – through the platform to turn all sorts of bold, wacky, and brilliant ideas into reality. Danae and Indiegogo’s story is relevant to all leaders who strive to have an impact, and I left her talk with three key personal and professional takeaways.

1. Indiegogo is redefining entrepreneurship, and so should you.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In the space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Viktor Frankl

After sharing this quote, Danae explained that she sees entrepreneurship as the choice that fosters growth and freedom. She and her team envision a world where every individual is empowered to unleash their inner entrepreneur by creating intentional solutions to the problems that move them, and Indiegogo is indeed rebranding entrepreneurship to go beyond the traditional Silicon Valley type. Entrepreneurship is the Girl Scouts of Western Washington running a #foreverygirl fundraiser that allowed them to turn down $100,000 from a funder who pressured the troop to exclude transgender girls; it is a father-son team that imagined a more humane beehive in Australia; and it is two UC Berkeley undergrads who invented cat-shaped earphones that double as speakers. By providing a mechanism for all people to translate their passion into action, Indiegogo aims to build a more inclusive vision of entrepreneurship that encompasses all people who recognize a problem and have the gumption to solve it.

This vision holds lessons for venture capitalists, small-scale funders, and leaders of established businesses. Following the talk, I found myself wondering: how many intrapraneurs go unrecognized and unsupported in large companies? A shift in the definition of entrepreneurship could be powerful not only in a startup context, but also in established companies where insights and ideas may currently sit dormant (it’s worth noting that many companies have been thinking about this for years, and new tools like Adobe Kickbox could help).

2. Harness the power of purpose.

“Purpose is just as important and motivating, if not more, than just profit” – Danae Ringelmann

When Danae founded Indiegogo, some of her advisers were skeptical that people would fund projects through the site without the opportunity to share profits. Indiegogo has discovered, however, that purpose is a primary motivator for many of Indiegogo’s funders. This lesson was punctuated when a Canadian man ran a campaign to send a bus monitor who was bullied by her students – and who he did not know – on vacation. With a fundraising goal of $5,000, the campaign went viral and ultimately raised over $700,000. Though this is a dramatic example, the core insight is that people are motivated by more than simple self-interest: emotional connection and desire to make impact influence how and where people move their money. Indiegogo aims to unlock an untapped segment of funders who prioritize purpose as much as or more than profit, but they’re not the only ones who can leverage this insight. Businesses can and should harness the power of purpose to engage their customers in their broader impact agendas.

3.  Get Out There and Do Something!

Danae’s talk left me inspired and optimistic about the future of entrepreneurship, and introspective about my own path.  I challenge you to spend a few minutes today considering: what is your stimulus? And what will be your response? Whether you start a crowdfunding campaign to make your dreams a reality, or whether you start something within the walls of your school, work, or community, the time is now to channel your dissatisfaction into positive change for the world.

Previous The Power Of Business To Nourish Lives Next The Patagonia Case Competition: Finding an Eco-Friendly Water Repellent