Y Combinator’s Crowdtilt and the Art of Simplicity

April 7, 2012

2:00 pm

What’s the #1 feature your users want?

If you said anything other than “simplicity,” the Crowdtilt team thinks you’re probably wrong. After 3 months at Y Combinator, that was the most valuable lesson they learned:

“The most helpful and most common feedback was the encouragement to launch as early as possible, instead of feeling like the service needed a million features before launching. Surprisingly, the simplicity and lack of a million features is probably our best asset,” explains cofounder and CEO James Beshara, who previously built dvelo.org.

But how do you make sure a product is simple?

“Simplicity in a product might be abstract, but like art and porn, you know it when you see it.”

For Crowdtilt, that means a straightforward platform for raising money, to fund everything from summer houses to birthday parties to school fundraisers to one user’s entire wedding. Just start a campaign (up to 1 week long) and receive pledges, Kickstarter style: if the goal is reached, funds can be received via check, direct deposit, or PayPal – whatever is simplest for the organizer.

Startups can use it, too:

“Startups have used it for swag and exposure. So instead of just handing out t-shirts or promotional items, they can reach out to their networks and get their family, friends, and potential clients to pre-order the items in a really cool, social, collective way (without any risk of ordering too much or not enough),” says Beshara.

The only restrictions? Contributors must be from the US, and Crowdtilt takes a 2.5% fee.

Six weeks since launch, this model has attracted 6,000 users. Let’s see if Crowdtilt can keep it simple while incorporating their feedback.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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