The Power of Working Together to Achieve a Common Goal
Having started his career in the microloans industry, James used what he learned from his work experience, as well as the amazing potential and power of the internet, to bring people together to work for a common goal. The result was a revolutionary new method of online funding, which gives everybody the chance to participate and feel that they are there helping to achieve the goal instead of simply watching and supporting from afar.
As James explains in a statement:
“We exist to make group experiences and group purchases as easy as possible. Whether it's a group outing for a friend's birthday, a bachelorette trip to celebrate a friend getting married, or friends and neighbours collaborating on a community project, we want to help groups do more together.”
The Beginnings of an Online Genius
Not much is known about James Beshara’s early life, except that he was born in the United States. During his high school years, he was among the top students of his school, demonstrating incredible intelligence and brightness that often won the praise and admiration of his teachers. He was also active in extra-curricular activities, and showed a remarkable aptitude for entrepreneurship. Upon his graduation in 2004, James entered Wake Forest University, where he studied International Development and Policy. While at the university, James became a member of the Economic Honor Society and the Executive Board of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
In 2007, a year prior to his graduation, James spent his summer vacation in the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he studied Economic Development. The following year, James completed his studies, earned his bachelor’s degree and graduated as the university magna cum laude, truly showcasing his exceptional intellect and skills.
James’ First Work Experience and Developing Dvelo.org
Not long after his graduation, James went to South Africa to work as a microloans collection officer. It was during his time there that he learned much about the concept of “social collateral,” which led him to develop Dvelo.org, a website service designed to provide group-funded loans to developing countries. In an interview, James recalled the beginnings of his online entrepreneur career:
“I worked in South Africa for two years in microfinance and micro-insurance. While I was down there I built a crowd-funding platform called Dvelo.com which was focused on developing communities. That was my first kind of tech startup.”
James spent the next two years working part-time on Dvelo.org, as he was still employed as a microloans collection officer. As time passed, however, James began to notice the vast potential that his online service offered; many of Dvelo.org’s users began to use it for purposes other than charity-related ventures, such as parties and formal occasions. Because of this, James realized that his online project deserved much closer attention and, in late 2010, decided to return to the United States to focus full-time on developing the site.
As he recalled in an interview:
“The service was originally focused as a kickstarter for charities and after launching, within a few weeks, friends started requesting to use it for much more trivial use cases like fantasy football and a party bus. Those two campaigns started spreading amongst our group of friends and they started requesting to use it more and more. Within a few weeks it was getting traction with some non-profits but with groups of friends it was spreading like wildfire. After about five weeks, it was just so clear that we needed to build the site out for how it was already being used, for groups of friends to pool money online.”
Expanding and Redesigning: From Dvelo.org to Crowdtilt.com
Not long after his return, James sought to expand the range of services that Dvelo.org offered. He met Khaled Hussein after spending further time improving and developing the site’s services, and the two decided to start on a new venture: “Crowdtilt.com,” the successor to Dvelo.org. When James was asked about the name’s origin, he answered simply:
“I came up with the name while looking for available domain names. It was between Grouptilt and Crowdtilt. And as we saw campaigns grow in size over time, it just seemed logical to keep the name 'Crowd' over 'Group'.”
The idea was simple: Crowdtilt.com enabled any kind of group - big or small - to pool their funds online to reach a particular goal, such as parties, trips, or even buying gifts or other items. In one interview, James described how Crowdtilt.com works:
“We exist to make group experiences and group purchases as easy as possible. Crowdtilt provides individuals and organizations with a platform where they can collect, fundraise or pool money for anything from a party bus all the way to a fundraiser for the Red Cross. If the group reaches the goal set by the organizer, then all the credit cards of the group are charged, and Crowdtilt earns a 2.5% fee. No one is charged anything if the goal isn't reached.”
While there were already established names in the online events industry, such as PayPal and Eventbrite, Crowdtilt was innovative in that it was designed to be more ‘personal’ and ‘engaging’ than other already-established services. This meant that, instead of allowing one person to host a fundraiser and collect checks/payments from friends and family, Crowdtilt.com enabled everyone in connection to the event to pool their money so they could feel they were actively participating.
In another interview, James elaborated on the difference between Crowdtilt and other online fundraising services:
“Selling tickets to your friends for a tailgate or party-bus is impersonal and transactional. We built Crowdtilt by taking our favorite elements of crowdfunding models on the web and provided them for you and your group of friends instead. For groups, it is the only platform that not only helps you collect the money, but also lets your friends pool money to make the experience happen in the first place. Psychologically and socially, it feels much more natural to pool money together for a common objective than an organizer charging friends tickets.”
Achieving Success and Future Ventures
It did not take long after Crowdtilt.com’s official launch for the site to receive a positive reception from numerous supporters and users the service. Crowdtilt completed its first round of funding in 2012, which amounted to more than two million dollars, invested by companies such as CrunchFund and SV Angel and Alexis Ohanian, an officer for Reddit.com. It soon became one of the most-visited sites in the United States, as well as one of the fastest-growing online services, so much that it had acquired more than fourteen million dollars in funding by April 2013.
Today, Crowdtilt.com continues to grow under James’ leadership. As more and more people begin using his service, James believes it will not only make their group funding ventures more convenient, but also strengthen the bonds that exist between them through Crowdtilt.com’s ‘personal’ approach. And, while he knows many developments and improvements are still needed as the site keeps growing, James nevertheless remains passionate and optimistic about the future, when his service will likely become the most widely-preferred online fundraising service in the world.
“The biggest thing is focusing on the product and growth even more. That's kind of the biggest internal thing. Our biggest objective right now, the most important priority is just making the product as easy and effective as possible. You use it once and you'll never go back to PayPal or checks or cash again.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- London School of Economics and Political Science
Awards and Achievements
- 2013: Included in the “30 Under 30: World Changers” by TIME Magazine and the “30 Under 30” list by Forbes Magazine
- Named an Honorary Member of the Rwandan Reconciliation Committee
Crowd Sourcing (A Site for "Any Group to Fund Anything" Raises Millions of its Own)
Business Insider (This Startup Is Going To Change The Way You Plan Events With Your Friends Forever)
The Deacon Blog [James Beshara (’08) and Crowdtilt are worth watching]