Tilt’s already expanded to the United Kingdom, its second international country, this year and plans to expand to five more countries in the next five months or so.
That’s a challenge for any startup for a number of reasons. It has to build out a playbook for how to expand incrementally to each country, and, at the very least, it has to ensure that it preserves the company’s culture across satellite offices. To find out more about that, we spoke with Tilt co-founders James Beshara and Khaled Hussein about how the company’s international expansion is going and how its culture and history were structured in order to set itself up.
Initially, Beshara said Tilt was spread all over the country — meaning that it’s already dealt with remote offices from day one. “I think the distributed nature of the team, it’s been baked into the DNA from the beginning.”
Still, it has to find ways to hire the right people who not only fit into that culture but have some expertise in new regions. For example, when we last spoke to Tilt about its international expansion plans, Beshara said users in Canada are more conservative than American users. But overall, the company is looking internationally to continue to grow its business.
To do all that, Tilt earlier this year raised $30 million at a $400 million valuation. It’s not the only crowdfunding company that raised at a huge valuation, with GoFundMe’s founders exiting the company in a round that valued the crowdfunding site at $600 million. But it is, at the very least, a proof point for the market for crowdfunding and the potential the technology has.
“If the economics make sense for an independent or first time entrepreneur on something like Tilt open or Kickstarter, the economics are gonna make sense for Nike, Sony, Lululemon, and other innovative brands that want to tap into the power of their community,” Beshara said.
Part of that challenge is that Tilt has to not only be a crowdfunding company, but also treat itself platform company, Hussein said. Here’s what that means: the service has to not only be centered around crowdfunding, but also the social connectivity surrounding that, and also have the ability to be openly modified for other use cases either internally or as part of the company’s Tilt Open platform.
“If the economics make sense for an independent or first time entrepreneur on something like Tilt open or Kickstarter, the economics are gonna make sense for Nike, Sony, Lululemon, and other innovative brands that want to tap into the power of their community.” James Beshara
Tilt, for example, built out several APIs internally that it can then build experiences on top of that — with its mobile version being one of those services.
“One of the most important decisions early on was think about it as a platform and think about building the API,” Hussein said. “Now I can build all these different clients and different use cases with our APIs. It would have been a much difficult problem to solve if we didn’t think of it as a platform, and now it becomes a matter of user experience.”
Initially, Tilt — formerly Crowdtilt — started off as a feature attached to Beshara’s previous project when he was working in South Africa, a startup for people to collaborate and donate with family and friends to international development organizations. An investor connected him with Hussein, who at the time worked at Rackspace and was looking for his next steps — something that had some kind of social impact.
“Around that time I was thinking about the [startups that could have] social impact, the first Egyptian revolution was happening on Facebook, [and I was] seeing how tech could have a huge impact on people’s lives,” Hussein said. “James was pitching Tilt to me, and I was like, that’s it. That’s where I’m gonna go.”
Now Tilt’s challenge will be to ensure that, as the company continues to grow abroad, those values and the core concept of funding projects in a more bite-size manner (“while on the bus,” Beshara says) proves to be valuable in new countries and new cultures.
“Once Tilt becomes this mainstream, seamless tool, you use it when you start thinking about pooling resources, the use cases become unlimited,” Hussein said. “That’s what’s exciting about providing the platform, a tool similar to Tilt. It unlocks behavior and ideas.”