Back in December, Robin wrote about a Detroit app development startup called Rock City Apps, which had just raised a seed round of funding for its stealth iPhone app, UpTo. At the time, Rock City Co-founder and CEO Greg Schwartz (also the former CEO/co-founder of Mobatech and a director of business development at Warner Music) said that the “platform focused on the future tense that makes sharing calendar events simple and social,” but wasn’t able to say more.
We’ve since caught up with Schwartz to learn more about UpTo, which recently went live on the App Store, and it turns out there weren’t any smoke and mirrors in that description.
So what’s all this about future tense? Well, Schwartz explains that, while many of us love to share on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and beyond, most of the content being shared is either in near-realtime or has already happened. If you’re checking your Foursquare feed when I check in at a restaurant, or your Twitter feed when a friend posts a great article, you’ll see that in realtime. But there’s some serendipity involved, as the majority of people don’t religiously refresh their Twitter or Facebook feeds, they check in periodically. In most cases, the photos, links, and other content you discover is old news.
So, UpTo wants to focus on building a social network around your calendar so that you can easily track (and act on) the events coming up in the lives of the people you care about. There are a lot of teams out there hacking away on event-sharing apps (Facebook, for one, recently launched “Suggested Events” to help you discover new events), but when we asked Plancast founder Mark Hendrickson what his impressions were, he said that, comparatively, he thinks UpTo has some serious potential.
That’s because UpTo is using the iPhone calendar API to collect your personal calendars — the ones that you use the most, whether that be Google Calendars, Outlook, Yahoo — UpTo is agnostic and accepts them all. As you may know, Google Calendars is already social, but really only with other GCal users. The app’s agnostic integration is thus intended to significantly lower the amount of friction that stands in the way of sharing by taking the calendar you might already have synced with your iPhone, tearing down those calendar walls, making it social so that users can quickly share or add events while they’re on the go.
Most eCalendars make it easy to share with small groups, like colleagues or family, but there’s really no way to share specific information with different subsets of people in your life. Thus, UpTo wants to add that group sharing functionality, a la the Circles of Google+, to your calendars, allowing you to add friends from Facebook, existing contacts, etc., and parse them into groups that you can share with, adding, removing or editing those as you go.
UpTo offers a “quick share” button that allows users to share events from their calendar with a couple of clicks, choosing which groups to share with in doing so, or blast events from the calendar out to Facebook or Twitter. Users can also tag and share to UpTo, Facebook or Twitter directly from their calendar, again choosing the particular groups they want to share with using hashtags, like “#family,” or “#fb” and “#t” for Facebook and Twitter.
This also works both ways, which is smart, since you can add events to GCal, for example, from within UpTo. The apps also lets you get a sense of the activity level of your calendar by providing a heatmap view so that you can which days or busiest for any particular group. Also a good quick way to measure virality of particular events. (See image below.)
The other important element of UpTo is its chat functionality, which allows users to have conversations in realtime around individual events, so that if you have a “meeting with investors” event scheduled for Friday, friends or other members of your team could chime in and say “don’t forget to mention that we’re oversubscribed,” add suggestions, etc. The chat feature, in a sense, aims to make UpTo feel like GroupMe for your calendar.
In general, people are 90 percent more likely to attend an event if it’s in their calendar, Schwartz tell us. And with one-click event adding, UpTo is making it a lot easier to get events on your calendars, and share those with the people you care about. In terms of monetization, you might be able to see where UpTo plans to go. Schwartz says that they want to tap into the “intent graph,” to facilitate better, or at least more targeted, marketing.
Most social networks are looking at your past data to guesstimate what you intend to do in the future, serving banner ads or deals accordingly. Eventually, UpTo wants to build an aggregated event feed, sharing events based on categories based on popularity or subgroups like “tech.” If they were to throw in a popular restaurant’s sponsored happy hour event, it’s already easy to add that to your calendar, and brands/merchants know you’re a lot more likely to go if you have it in your calendar, especially if it’s cross-platform.
Again, for UpTo to take off, it’s all about how appealing it can make the experience of browsing and sharing the events it pulls in from calendars. So far, the UI looks great, and it’s easy to use. Schwartz said that in developing UpTo, they wanted to create an experience that doesn’t require people to change their existing behavior in relation to the way they interact with their calendars. In that way, they’re not trying to change the eCal, just make it more powerful, and more social.
They haven’t yet launched a web platform, but it’s on the way in the next few months, as is an Android app.
For more, check out UpTo at home here.
We’re a Detroit-based Venture Capital firm on a crazed mission. We back seed and early-stage technology companies who have a purpose. Our purpose is to help rebuild the Detroit area through entrepreneurial fire. We view business building as a palate for creative expression and an opportunity to make a difference and change the world. If not, why bother? We are creative business builders, not money managers. We are entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs build and grow meaningful companies....
We believe in VC without ego. We prefer to talk straight and get the job done, ignoring the puffery and posturing often found in traditional VC firms. We invest in hard-working people from across the globe who get results and create value with what they do and the things they make. We fund the dreams of serial entrepreneurs and startups, turning ideas into companies and established ventures into industry leaders.