UpTo wants to be the social glue of tomorrow, adds $1.5M, and opens its event stream platform

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/1696964330/

Last year UpTo launched as a way of sharing upcoming events with friends, family, and colleagues: the social network of tomorrow. Now, 500,000 shared events and 2,000 organizational event streams later, UpTo is pivoting to become the social glue of what’s next on an even bigger scale.

And adding a handy second-round funding of $1.5 million from initial backers Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures.

“We always knew we wanted to do this,” CEO Greg Schwartz told me yesterday. “But we didn’t realize how important it would be. … It’s a pivot in terms of energy.”

The company’s mobile app integrates with the calendar app on your smartphone, focusing not just on your own events but on the future events that friends, family, and colleagues consider important. You can also share events out to your UpTo connections – Schwartz described it as the Instagram of calendars last time I talked to him: a layer on top of your calendar, just as Instagram is a layer on top of your camera.

People used it, Apple featured the app in the App Store, and downloads grew, but access to public streams grew even faster. Last year UpTo tentatively opened up the platform to public streams, and pro sports teams, organizational calendars, speaking tours, and organizations jumped on the new capability, to the point where there are now more than 2000 streams of events on the UpTo system .

uptoThe problem with that growth? Most of them have been placed there by the company itself.

So now Schwartz is opening up the platform, allowing any business, school, club, or organization to create their own event streams. Interested users can subscribe to those streams, and organizations can also embed live UpTo calendar streams on their websites, for an experience Schwartz says is much more dynamic and social than the standard static event pages.

It’s good timing, as user growth is coming faster than ever: UpTo has had more downloads in the last 45 days than in the previous year. And it’s also a smart one-step-removed user acquisition strategy.

“It’s a B-to-B-to-C user acquisition strategy,” Schwartz explains.

Once organizations join, their members and fans join, meaning that one “sale” (the app and the event stream are currently free) generates hundreds or even thousands of installs.

This is a much bigger vision, and a much bigger product than UpTo had envisioned before. It’s essentially the social network of tomorrow: What’s happening, who’s attending, which friends will be there, and which ones do I want to attend? And it will bring some new competition, too, as UpTo enters space occupied by companies like Eventful and Meetup.

For Schwartz, Upto doesn’t always need to be in the forefront.

“It’s not all about downloading the app or using the app,” he says. “You might experience UpTo and maybe not even realize it. It’s a more distributed approach.”

Schwartz wants to work with companies like Eventful and Meetup, and it is actively pursuing Facebook as well to bring in Facebook events natively and share events from UpTo not as status updates but as Facebook events. The goal is a future in which when users like the Detroit Lions or New York Yankees, for instance, UpTo and Facebook can then recommend other event streams they might be interested in.

The pivot, such as it is, was mostly due to good fortune, Schwartz suggests:

“We sort of got lucky that we were able to experiment, bring a few streams into the app,” he says. “Then we gave people the ability to suggest streams … and huge traffic resulted.”

That sort of luck is how startups stop being startups and start being contenders, and the new round of funding from existing investors Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures, both based in Detroit, will help.

photo credit: Mike Rohde via photopin cc


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