A year ago, UpTo was going to be the social network that lives in your calendar. Today, with 250,000 downloads, a million events, and a $2M series A round under his belt, the company realizes that a modernized calendar is a big enough vision on its own, thank you very much.
It’s called a pivot, and nearly every successful startup goes through one.
“Instagram started as a location app with support for photos and pivoted to a photo app with support for location,” CEO Greg Schwartz says.”We’re pivoting from social first to calendar first.”
Today, UpTo is launching version 2.0 of its popular — and Apple-featured app. The new release includes what Schwartz calls “the most significant change” the young company has ever made.
The core of UpTo 1.0 showed your friends, family, and coworkers’ schedules as well as your own, which has obvious social implications. But by putting social first, Schwartz says, the app was harder to use as an actual calendar. So, based on what UpTo is seeing users do in the app, calendaring is coming to the forefront.
It’s still social in the sense that UpTo gathers all the events for you and the people you care about, but UpTo 2.0 highlights your personal calendar, plus adds typical calendar features such as built-in meeting invites. It also extends the traditional calendar with innovative little features such as enabling a single tap on teleconference events to initiate the call and built-in driving directions to remote meetings.
And it’s much more personal.
“With 2.0 it’s not about having a hundred friends on UpTo,” Schwartz told me. “Instead, maybe five.”
That’s a welcome pivot — I used UpTo myself for about a month when it first came out, attempting to sync my life with my wife’s and our family’s, but I found that using UpTo as my go-to calendar was difficult. This should make it easier.
But with a pivot like this, UpTo is now competing head-to-head with all the big boys of calendaring: Google Calendar, Outlook, Apple’s iCal and Calendar app on iPhone, and more.
And that’s a challenging proposition.
To make its app attractive to users, UpTo 2.0 starts with syncing — all your Google Calendar items, Outlook, or Apple calendar items just show up in the app — just as they did in version 1.0. And then the idea is that UpTo will layer in all the pieces of your life that never seem to show up in your calendar, such as events from important people in your life, not just your work, and the most valued activities in your leisure life.
How is that different from any other calendar?
“Everything we’re seeing out there is a utility around appointments,” Schwartz explains. “When I look at UpTo I see those meetings, but I also see that my wife is taking my daughter to ballet class, when my favorite TV show is, when my favorite sports teams are playing … our vision is that when you look at your calendar, you think I can’t believe how much I was missing.”
The sports teams and TV shows come in through event feeds, which UpTo has about 5,000 of, from major-league teams, entertainment calendars, civic or state calendars, and more. Subscribe to them, and you’re seeing your favorite leisure events show up in your calendar as options to consider. And, of course, the family and friends events are from other UpTo users who have chosen to share those events with you.
Which all sounds good, but there’s still the challenging matter of user-acquisition.
Which is why a second part of UpTo’s pivot is a new software-as-service solution for sports teams, governments, and brands around, of course, calendaring. It’s no secret that most websites’ static calendars suck, and UpTo plans to make them interactive, living calendars, as well as adding the ability for fans and customers to check into events, Facebook style.
Which means those fans and customers get exposed to UpTo’s calendaring solutions right on the web.
Early adopters of the solution include the Cleveland Cavaliers, TicketMaster, and the state of Michigan, where UpTo is based. An NFL team is also slated to join shortly, but I can’t mention the name publicly yet.
The lure for brands and teams? Fans who check into the calendar app can be entered into customer relationship management apps — and communicated with the way most teams only talk to season ticket holders and most companies only talk to their best clients, currently.
“It’s a bit of a different product,” Schwartz admits. “But if someone checks into their event, they’re authenticating with UpTo. And then we can market to those users, providing lead-gen opportunities while also monetizing as a SaaS app.”
All this development, of course, takes money.
UpTo recently completed a $2 million series A led by Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures, with a late $500,000 coming in from Wisconsin-based Venture Investors.
There’s a lesson in that $500,000: sometimes money takes a long time to arrive. Venture Investors first saw UpTo on its demo day over a year ago, and after multiple communications, decided to join the A round.
The company will use the money to hire “a couple key execs in sales and marketing,” Schwartz told me. “Plus, we’re adding some developers for our consumer product, investing in our marketing platform, and scaling out our platform.”