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Daily bread: James Beshara (left) and Khaled Hussein make crowdfunding routine.

Daily bread: James Beshara (left) and Khaled Hussein make crowdfunding routine.
Photo (C) Justin Keena

Raise Money Anywhere

Crowdtilt brings crowdfunding to everyone's phone

To James Beshara and Khaled Hussein, founders of San Francisco-based Crowdtilt, the future looks something like this: A Mumbai taxi driver sitting in a queue at the airport dreams of owning his own cab. From the driver's seat, he opens the Crowdtilt app on his smartphone and sets up a crowdfunding campaign. He uses his phone to market and manage the campaign and, at the end, process any money received.

As Beshara and Hussein see it, crowdfunding's next step is to go mobile and global. According to Beshara, more than a third of Americans use their phones as their primary internet device, and that number is growing. Crowdtilt's app, which rolled out in September, is currently the only one that allows users to launch and manage a crowdfunding campaign directly from a smartphone or tablet.

But adoption by the rest of the planet is only part of the game for Beshara and Hussein. What they really want is the integration of crowdfunding into daily life. "With our app, it's not just about allowing you to crowdfund your artistic project on your commute home," Beshara says. "It's about taking something that you might do two or three times a year and making it something you might do two or three times a week."

That's not far off. Soon after Crowdtilt's launch as a way to fund charitable causes, it caught the attention of startups looking for a cheaper alternative to the more popular--and expensive--Kickstarter and Indiegogo options. (Crowdtilt takes 2.5 percent of funds raised, vs. Kickstarter's 5 percent.) Not content to compete only on price and easy access, last August the duo launched Crowdhoster, a free online tool that leverages Crowdtilt's open API software to allow anyone from a mom-and-pop operation to a large corporation to add crowdfunding to their own website within minutes.

As for Crowdtilt's competition, Beshara has an idea of what might happen to rivals who keep their technology closed and walled off. "The novelty is wearing off for Kickstarter; it's definitely not an open and accessible approach to crowdfunding," he says. "When you have not democratized or opened up your platform to let people use it the way they want, you usually do not last as long as you originally set out to." --Daniel Dumas

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This article was originally published in the February 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Digital Disruption.

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