PayPal takes on crowdfunding with Money Pools, where groups chip in to raise money and buy things

Ingrid Lunden
When Airbnb acquired and subsequently shut down Tilt -- a platform that let people pool together to pay for items or events -- many (including former Tilt employees) were left wondering what could and would replace it.

When Airbnb acquired and subsequently shut down Tilt -- a platform that let people pool together to pay for items or events -- many (including former Tilt employees) were left wondering what could and would replace it.

PayPal has stepped into the fray in an attempt to provide its own answer. The payments giant has now launched Money Pools, a service that takes on the likes of GoFundMe and other group-based payment and funding platofrms, where people can create pages to let their contacts fundraise for a specific item or event, such as buying a group gift, a group trip, or housemates paying the rent.

PayPal is launching the service today in 16 countries -- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Anyone who has a PayPal account in these regions can create a Money Pool, or contribute to one. (Without a PayPal account, you can't use it.)

The service, PayPal says, is free when you use money from your PayPal wallet, or a debit card or a bank account linked to your PayPal account. Standard PayPal fees apply when you have to make a currency conversion or use a credit card (also linked to your PayPal account).

Once you create a page, Money Pools works not unlike other social funding sites like GoFundMe: you can personalise the page with pictures and how you want contributions to appear (public or anonymously); you can update the site's activity feed; and you can -- important for social-payments -- share a link to the campaign with a short URL.

Since being founded nearly twenty years ago, in 1998, PayPal has made a name for itself as an e-commerce payments behemoth, both by way of powering transactions made on eBay, its former owner; as well as for other electronic payment services beyond that such as point of sale services (via PayPal Here) and more, with the company today holding a market cap of over $88 billion.

PayPal actually already had a mobile app -- nine years ago, in fact -- for family and friends to make payments to each other. But by and large, the company's move into social payments -- which tap into social graphs to spur transactions -- has been gradual.

PayPal's 2013 acquisition of Braintree (the e-commerce payments provider that competes with Stripe) gave it ownership the well-regarded peer-to-peer money transfer service Venmo, and lately PayPal seems to be taking more steps to give social payments a push. Recent developments have included letting people pay each other money through Facebook Messenger (launched last month), and the ability for retailers to accept Venmo-powered payments (also launched just weeks ago).

(PayPal's social network efforts have not always been smooth. Witness the issues that PayPal has had crowdfunding platforms in the past. Even today, GoFundMe -- the massively popular platform that lets people crowdfund for causes -- now only accepts PayPal via certified charities not individuals.)

There are a number of other services in the market today that let groups of users pool together to pay for things, but many of them seemed geared towards specific use cases.

For example, Splitwise focuses on letting groups share the payment of bills; and WeTravel is aimed at groups taking trips together. And Airbnb may be working on something in this space too: when it shut down Tilt, the startup said that its "focus will be to incorporate our social payments experience into their product ecosystem."

It's a crowded area of the market indeed -- a sign of the opportunity that PayPal now wants to tap for its next phase of growth.

A PayPal spokesperson added: “Money Pools were created to provide the millions of people who already use PayPal P2P with a more personalized and organized way to share expenses with more than one family member or friend for things like travel, gifts, celebrations and even recurring expenses like rent and utilities. Unlike crowdfunding solutions, Money Pools are not intended to facilitate fundraising for activities such as product development and organizers agree not to offer perks, rewards, or other incentives in return for contributions made to a Money Pool.”