Greg Schwartz's mother Wendy used to complain that she never knew what her children were "up to." The Bloomfield Hills resident often told her adult children that she had to figure out where they were and how they were doing based on the various voicemail messages they left on her cell phone.
That all changed a few months ago when Wendy took out her phone and was able to immediately see her children's plans. And when she saw which family members would be attending her son's upcoming birthday dinner, she remarked to Greg, "This is amazing. I can't believe this hasn't existed before. I'm really glad you built it."
She was referring to the mobile application called UpTo that Greg, 31, and his team of co-founders recently launched. With UpTo, Greg's mother and millions of other curious and concerned mothers around the world will be able to gain better insight into their children's lives. Of course the mobile app is not just for mothers. The new app allows users to share upcoming plans with Facebook friends and other connections.
"Currently, social networking apps like Facebook and Foursquare allow people to share the recent past and present," Schwartz explains. "Foursquare lets you check in to a location, but by the time your friends see that you're there it's too late for them to meet you. Facebook broadcasts things that you've already done. Nothing shares what you're going to be doing or where you're going to go. UpTo focuses on the future."
Schwartz came up with the idea for sharing upcoming calendar items through a mobile when he was leaving a meeting in Downtown Birmingham last year. He looked at his cell phone's Foursquare app and noticed that a friend from out of town had recently checked into a nearby coffee shop following a wedding. When he walked into the coffee shop to connect with his friend, but just missed him. He recognized that it would have been serendipitous to have seen his friend, but it would have been better had he known his friend was in town for the wedding that weekend in the first place.
With UpTo, Schwartz's out-of-town friend would have added the wedding to his calendar and shared it with local friends. The UpTo app integrates with a user's existing calendar to allow sharing and commenting on meetings, appointments and events with a network of friends. The user decides which events are shared and with whom. Anyone with the mobile app is then able to see a dynamic feed of all upcoming events looking forward in time.
Google Calendar users have long been sharing future events with each other, but that function is limited to other Google Calendar account holders. UpTo allows the sharing of social interactions across networks. The calendar is one of the most popular and often used functions on today's smartphones, but existing calendar apps only allow users to see their own events and invite others to events. UpTo is novel in that it also allows users to see their friends' events and share those events with relevant groups. It also integrates with social networks, making it possible to share future events to Facebook and Twitter, comment on friends' future events, and see which days others might be available for meetings and get-togethers.
UpTo also has a feature for tagging events to share with a specific group within the app. For example, adding an event like a child's annual doctor checkup might be tagged for sharing with one's immediate family group. If one makes plans for dinner with a high school classmate who is in town for the weekend, that future event might be shared with a group of fellow classmates to create a larger reunion. The app also features a "heat map" showing how busy friends are on certain days (red for a calendar-packed day, green for a light day and white for an open schedule).
* * *
Before UpTo, the Birmingham Seaholm High School and University of Michigan graduate was no stranger to the mobile applications industry. Schwartz founded Mobatech in 2002, where he brought to market the popular Mobile Checkbook, Mobile Bartender and Datepedia mobile apps. Before moving back to Michigan, Schwartz worked as the Director of Digital Business and Product Development for Warner Music Group where he executed strategic partnerships with leading mobile service providers.
After coming up with the idea for the mobile app, Schwartz put together his team, which includes Chris Kaufman, David Webber and Matthew Piccinato. The four co-founders spent three months in a planning stage and had a soft launch of the app this past March. In October 2011, they closed a seed round of venture capital funding from Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures. The company operates out of the Madison Building in Downtown Detroit.
"UpTo has the potential to be the next disruption in social media, and could become as ubiquitous as Twitter or Facebook," explained Josh Linkner, Detroit Venture Partner's managing partner. "It is an incredible company led by driven entrepreneurs, and we're excited to have the opportunity to contribute to their success."
The UpTo app is currently available on iOS for Apple iPhones and iPads (available for download in the App Store), but Schwartz says plans for an Android compatible version and a Web-based version are underway and expected this summer.
There's no doubt that coordinating family dinners, rides to concerts and after-parties will be much easier to plan in the future with UpTo. As co-founder Webber put it, "UpTo creates a serendipitous moment that wouldn't have happened before. It's like purposeful serendipity."
A version of this article appeared in the "Detroit Jewish News"
Follow Rabbi Jason Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rabbijason