Collete davis presenting

A 19-year-old Draper University graduate is using what she learned from venture capitalist Tim Draper to help her drive in the Indianapolis 500.

In 2014, Collete Davis was invited to join one of the most prestigious names in Indy racing, but the team doesn’t pay for her training. She has to come up with $750,000 not only to pay for her ride but to build her brand (www.chasingindy.com).

Branding is key to success in racing. Much of the cash Davis is trying to raise is coming through Angels and Venture Capitalists. The rest she’s leaving to her fans to come up with.

While most race car drivers rely upon sponsor to fuel their rides, Davis is asking fans to fund her training through crowdfunding. Start-ups, musicians, and filmmakers do it all the time, so why not a race car driver? It’s part of a trend toward treating athletes as investment vehicles (Here’s more on crowdfunding being used for athletes on my KRON4 segment).

For example, Fantex.com, which is building a trading exchange to allow fans to buy and sell shares of their favorite athletes, recently ramped up operations. But what happens if an athlete is injured? After all, they are the brand. One blow on the field, or crash on the track, and POOF! the investment is gone. Of course, there’s a risk of loss with any investment, but when two of Fantex.com’s most high profile athletes, 49ers Vernon Davis and Houston Texans Arian Foster, were hurt, it affected the market much more than if one had been a company that didn’t meet analysts’ expectations.

For now, Davis is trying to mitigating the risk for her investors, a.k.a. her fans, by offering perks. There are one-on-one coaching sessions with her, exclusive, on-the-track racing experiences, and Hot Passes for big races. That’s the benefit of a site such as Kickstarter, Indigogo, or Crowdtilt’s new branded platform called CrowdHoster, which Davis has been beta testing. CrowdHoster seeks to become the WordPress of crowdfunding, a white label of the CrowTilt platform, allowing users to integrate it on their sites.

Can Davis’s approach work? Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors weigh in, as do racing enthusiast techies competing against Davis for bragging rights at Burlingame’s GoKartRacer.

They’re not only fascinated by her on-track performance, they also appreciate her entrepreneurial prowess.

Take a look: