It took the groveling of a septuagenarian for Danae Ringelmann to realize creative industries such as film needed a fiscal makeover. "I was literally 22 years old," recalls Ringelmann, when she attended a Wall Street-Meets-Hollywood event on a lark. Then a researcher at JP Morgan, she donned her nametag and "was suddenly the most popular girl at the party. I'll never forget—it was heartbreaking—this 70-year-old filmmaker was begging me to read his script," says Ringelmann. "That was actually the pivotal moment I wondered, 'Why is this system so broken?'"
Now 32, Ringelmann is trying to fix it. After spending years as an equity researcher, studying the business models of entertainment companies like Dreamworks and Pixar, Ringelmann cofounded IndieGoGo, a crowdfunding Web site for creative, cause, and entrepreneurial projects. For example, musicians or iPhone developers on IndieGoGo can raise supplemental funds while retaining 100% ownership; while supporters—whose contributions typically range from $1 to $5,000—can get perks like a name credit in a film, behind-the-scenes access to a photo shoot, or the opportunity to name a book's character. IndieGoGo's biggest film success to date: $23,000 for the documentary Tapestries of Hope.
"We realized there's the donation market where people give money, then the financing market where people want a return on their money," says Ringelmann, who studied premed and chemistry before earning her MBA at Berkeley. "Well, there's this whole middle area where the motivation is to back something and really become a part of it."