UpTo Adds $1.5M to Build Out Upcoming Events Platform for Local Businesses

Detroit-based UpTo, an events platform that lets users see what events their contacts and organizations have coming up, announced today that it has added $1.5 million in funding from Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures. The funding allowed the company to build its most recent event stream publishing tools, which will now allow any business and organization to create and publish their own event streams.

Founded in 2011, the startup initially started off by allowing users to see what events their friends and family had coming up, but after realizing the challenges of building a social network (as evidenced by the challenges other event social networks like Plancast have faced), it experimented by setting up a public stream for a conference, which is when it settled on its new direction. Since then UpTo has gone on to add 2,000 public event streams covering everything from concert venues, movie releases, TV premieres, to public streams for sports teams and Ticketmaster. Now users can follow their friends and family to see what events they’re attending, but also follow a favorite venue or sports team to see all their planned events.

According to co-founder and CEO Greg Schwartz, the move to open up the event stream publishing platform to businesses came after requests from users of its iOS and Android apps who wanted updates from local businesses and organizations, and it’s also designed to help the company scale.

“We realized that most of the content getting shared on popular social [networks], by the time we see it, it’s after the fact…and we’re fascinated by not only the social value but the utility value, what the people and eventually the organizations…have coming up,” said Schwartz in an interview. “We’ve been getting inundated with requests from people all over the world wanting to add streams for my school, or streams from my bakery shop that’s in my neighbourhood. We’ve built this platform so anyone can come and publish streams in the platform, and that’s the only way we’ll be effectively able to scale it.”

The startup is looking to replace calendars that according the Schwartz only end up collecting dust on an organization’s website and will soon offer them an embeddable widget to allow them to display their UpTo streams. Users can also sync their personal calendars and are able to add events with a tap, and choose with whom they prefer to share their updates.

In terms of how they’ll make money, Schwartz said the company is building an intent graph, similar to Facebook’s social graph, which it will look to leverage for highly targeted and native ads. For example, if someone indicates that they’ll be attending an upcoming sporting event, a nearby bar will be able to offer discounts and promotions to entice them to drop by. Other avenues include affiliate revenues from tickets sold and a premium app geared towards larger enterprises, though Schwartz said the company is still figuring out the details.

Other developments in the event discovery space we’ve covered recently at BetaKit include YPlan, which recently added funding for its last-minute event booking app, and Now, a mobile app that aggregates Instagram photos to be a visual Twitter for local events. According to Schwartz, UpTo’s “what’s happening in the future” approach that has attracted partners like Ticketmaster and sports teams will be a key factor in helping set the company apart, in addition to calendar syncing, and the fact that they now allow any local organization to create their own streams.

The company will be looking to launch version 2.0 at the end of March, which Swartz added will include several new features for both users and businesses, with a web app to follow later this year. The shift from being a pure consumer play to opening up the platform to enterprises might just have saved the company from being another event app, however whether its latest move will allow it scale will depend on how alluring the draw is for local organizations to jump on board.

Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan is a Senior Writer and Analyst at BetaKit. A marketing graduate with honors, Humayun's work experience spans the fields of consumer behaviour with noted contributions in an academic paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and market research consulting having coordinated projects for a major financial services client at Decode Inc. More recently he was involved in business strategy as a Business Analyst for an equipment rental outlet and prior in the National Marketing Department at Ernst & Young LLP. He is passionate about emerging and disrupting technology and its ability to transform and create entirely new industries.

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