In 1972, as a newbie at the young game-maker Atari, Alcorn was asked by company cofounder Nolan Bushnell to make a simple ping pong game under a contract with General Electric. Although the contract didn’t really exist, Alcorn worked hard nonetheless to make something good. Three months later, the first coin-operated Pong machine was installed at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, CA — and became an instant hit. As Bushnell would later say, it was “so simple that any drunk in any bar could play.” Alcorn designed both the arcade and home versions, and Pong’s popularity sparked the globally ubiquitous, multi-billion-dollar game industry we know today. “It wasn’t my intention. I’m just as surprised as the next guy,” he told the Computer History Museum in 2011. After Atari, his crucial involvement with many Silicon Valley startups earned him an Apple Fellowship; his own company, Zowie Intertainment, was acquired by LEGO in 2000. Alcorn continues to remain involved in tech’s fun side through Hack the Future, which offers daylong “hackfests” to school-age kids that teach them programming and connect them to mentors. Follow Alcorn on Twitter at @alalcorn.
In 2002, as a young analyst at J.P. Morgan in New York, the arts-loving Ringelmann excitedly attended an event expecting to rub elbows with movie stars. Instead, she found herself surrounded by starving artists, “all hoping they’d meet their angel that night, someone who’d give them the money to finally go make their big project,” she explained in a 2011 Tedx Talk in Dubai. Fueled by the desire to democratize finance, she entered Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where she met her future partners. “I wanted to be in an environment that would allow me to really think big,” she said in a video. In 2008, they launched Indiegogo, an online platform that makes it easy for ideas to go viral and gain multiple donors, who receive fun perks over profit shares. The first and now largest crowdfunding site, Indiegogo distributes millions of dollars every week to people worldwide for everything from solar roadways to graphic novels, high-fashion wetsuits to the world’s first crowdfunded baby. “Friends, family and even complete strangers wanted to help make our dream come true,” said Jessica Haley in a Sydney, Australia, newspaper on her successfully funded infertility treatments. Follow Ringelmann on Twitter @gogoDanae.