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Interested in what Detroit is UpTo?

Startup in M@dison Building develops calendar-sharing-network ap

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Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:12 pm, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

In our quickly moving world, calendars filled with upcoming events, meetings, dinner dates and things to remember have become an essential part of daily life. There’s a calendar on your phone, one attached to your email account, events posted on Facebook -- the list goes on. Wouldn’t it make sense if event information relevant to you was stored in one, concise location?

Meet UpTo, an innovative calendar-meets- social-networking app. The smartphone app, developed in 2011, allows users to store all of their calendar information in one spot, makes it easier to connect with loved ones for future gatherings and shares information on a wide range of upcoming happenings. The start-up company is located in the M@dison building and run by four cofounders and six staff members.

“UpTo is a forward-looking social platform. People share what they’re going to be up to and connect with friends, family, coworkers,” said Greg Schwartz, UpTo cofounder and CEO. “We built (UpTo) sort of out of this frustration of why can’t I go online and see what people have coming up versus finding out through photos and check-ins and tweets after the fact.”

There are thousands of calendar apps available, according to Schwartz. However, he said that UpTo works on the premise of planning ahead and hopes the app can act as a “window into the future.” The app allows users to find upcoming events that are relevant to their interests as well as incorporate information from existing calendars. Information from event streams, Facebook invites, iCal content and Google or Outlook calendars can be seamlessly synced to UpTo.

“We make it really easy for both your upcoming feed in the UpTo world and your existing calendar content to be viewed side by side,” Schwartz said.

Additionally, users can create events directly in UpTo. By setting up groups, events can be sent to a specific list of people. Events can also be blasted to Facebook or Twitter, allowing friends and followers to view them.

Schwartz said people are generally excited about the app once they’ve downloaded it, but there has been a challenge with ensuring those users are being connected with enough interesting content from their friends. Users looking for gatherings organized by their friends may be left disappointed when they’re the only individual in their social circle utilizing the app.

“I think anytime you’re building an app that has a network component to it, you have that sort of chicken and egg scenario,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz added that UpTo has eliminated this issue by partnering with companies and organizations to create streams of upcoming happenings. Even if users are not connected with anyone on the app, they can tune into events being hosted by businesses in the area, sports events like Red Wings games and other topics of interest, such as stargazing.

With more than 2,000 available streams, users can select topics of interest to add to their feeds. Schwartz said that they are constantly working to expand their partnerships and relationships with event coordinators and organizations in the area to offer new and exciting things.

Because the app is a free download on iPhone and Android, UpTo is working on a variety of business techniques to ensure it can be sustainable. Developers are expanding the app’s capabilities. Schwartz said a big part of this is understanding what users will be doing in the future and offering deals and information relevant to their activity.

“Being able to provide and offer messaging based on intent is a really valuable resource, and the ability to scale that data graph is something that is a key part in raising money in the big picture. This could be very successful not only from a user perspective, but from a monetization perspective as well,” Schwartz said.

Additionally, businesses can now upload content to the UpTo website and become a unique stream. This feature will eventually offer a premium, paid version. In the future, the app will offer direct sales to these events.

“We’re also looking to turn on affiliate models. If someone buys tickets for an event — you see three friends are going to be a show this weekend — you will be able to buy a ticket and UpTo will get a commission on the ticket sale,” Schwartz said.

Funding for the app came from Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures, both based in Detroit, in 2011. As a result of UpTo’s business model and goals expanding, additional funding to the tune of $1.5 million was granted last month.

Schwartz said being located in Detroit has many advantages. The cost to own and operate a business is more feasible. Additionally, the technology industry is thriving in this area, which aids in connecting with the right people and talent.

“When you’re on the coast, it’s easier to get lost in the noise. When you’re in Detroit, you can really stand out,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz adds that UpTo started as a simple idea and because of dedicated individuals, hard work, creativity and the company’s location, the concept is constantly evolving.

“It’s been exciting to see the turnaround happening (in Detroit). And to have an opportunity to be not only part of building and scaling a company but something greater than ourselves... that sort of the turnaround of this city... It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity... We feel like we really have a chance to have an impact on Detroit’s rebirth,” Schwartz said.

UpTo is available for free on both iPhone and Android.

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