Tilt CEO James Beshara on UK launch and European expansion
TiltTilt CEO and co-founder James Beshara.Tilt, a hot US money raising app with over $65 million in the bank, is growing like crazy across UK universities and plotting European expansion from its east London offices.
Tilt only launched in Britain in July but has already had over 1,000 applications from students wanting to be campus ambassadors for the app, according to UK manager Olivier Buffon.
Tilt lets people set up online campaigns to raise money for everything from 5-a-side football league payments to refugee charity donations. “It’s the digital version of putting money in a hat,” CEO and co-founder James Beshara told BI.
Tilt has been deliberately targetting universities, after college kids supercharged its growth in the US. But Beshara told BI that its surpassing expectations, with Tilt already growing 300% faster in the UK than it did in the US.
Over 1,500 students at St Andrews University in Scotland have raised £35,000 for its annual charity “Welly Ball” on the app, just one example of how people are using it.
Tilt has its roots in crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo but its secret sauce is its focus on mobile, social, and user experience, which makes it so popular with young students.
TiltAn example of the Tilt feed.It takes just 15 seconds to set up a Tilt. You can tag friends in campaigns even if they’re not a member, which drives downloads. You can put gifs at the top of campaign pages – students love this. And you can browse friends’ campaigns, encouraging other people to join in.
Beshara says: “I get asked, ‘what makes this different from my banking app?’ For me, it’s the difference between email and Facebook. I use my banking app for 1-on-1 payments but Tilts adds a more social, discoverable element.”
Backing a campaign is a one-click thing, as the app is linked to a card you input when you sign-up. Once a campaign hits the minimum amount needed, it “Tilts” and the money is taken out of everyone’s accounts.
Beshara originally conceived of Tilt as a mobile-friendly version of Kickstarter – focused on funding big projects and charitable drives.
But he realised the apps potential while he was trying to convince the Make a Wish Foundation to run a campaign on Tilt.
While he was having rounds of meetings, his friends asked to use Tilt to raise cash for a party bus, fantasy football, and a birthday party. They did – and raised the money they needed while he was still stuck in meetings.
It’s small drives like this that have made Tilt the fastest growing app at US college campuses. The average total raised in a user’s first Tilt is $430, but this rises to $2,100 by the third use. “For a university late night party that’s a lot of kegs,” jokes Beshara.
Beshara, who studied development economics, hopes the platform will one day outgrow fantasy football and keg parties and fund more noble causes, but says he’s “stubborn about where the company goes, but flexible about how we get there.”
“Coming from a developmental economic side and seeing your app used for frat t-shirts is somewhat bittersweet.”
“[But] if we are building the most successful crowdfunding company, that gets to be very powerful. You might come in for the 5-a-side football but a few months later you’re funding medicine.”
Beshara didn’t share figures on total users or the total raised but said: “We’ve surpassed every crowdfund app on mobile in every way – dollars, usage, downloads.”
The number of Tilts created is growing 40% month over month and Beshara says revenue is closely mirroring this.
“The first time we met [Silicon Valley investor] Marc Andreessen he said he hadn’t seen viral revenue like this since PayPal,” Beshara says.
Andreessen’s well-regarded venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz has backed the company since the start and Tilt was the first startup to have Andreessen Horowitz lead both its Series A and Series B funding rounds. In total, the 3-year-old company has raised $67 million.
The company doesn’t take a cut of cash raised in group and charity drives, but over the last year has begun to introduce commerce to its platform. People can order and often pre-order items from brands. Everyone from Snoop Dogg to basketball team the Atlanta Hawks to airline Jet Blue has used this feature.
Beshara says: “Jeff Jordon from Andreessen Horowitz, he’s a board member of ours. He said the economy is reversing itself with crowdfunding. Typically you have supply and you find out what demand is afterwards. With Tilt, you find out demand before.”
“Brands more than ever have a communication with communities. What’s great about Tilt is it makes payment a form of communication. If we are building PayPal, Facebook, and Amazon on top of this virality, that’s a compelling thing.”
Tilt has only just arrived in the UK but already it’s plotting its next moves in Europe. The service launched in the Netherlands last month, begins beta testing in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in 3 weeks, and also has plans for France.
“We’re pretty execution obsessed,” says Beshara. “Our goal for this year was to launch a new country every 30 days. Where we are now, in November, we can launch a new country every 22 days. Next year the goal is to get it down to 15 days.”
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