Welcome to Madison and MountainView’s second editorial franchise, Founder Spotlight. Each week, we’ll ask our Evol8tion 8 questions to feature a different entrepreneur, for our readers to get to know the face behind the emerging startup. Every company has a story, filled with passion, challenges, and an umatched drive to succeed. Our first interview is with our friends at UPlanMe, a live interactive event marketplace - turning everyone into a natural social butterfly. Hope you enjoy, and if you’d like the spotlight on your team - please reach out to jessica [at] startupsforbrands [dot] com for consideration.
Brian and Sean are best friends who found inspiration for their startup after a family Thanksgiving meal, when they were on a hunt for some post holiday fun. Desperately seeking to find an open (and hoppin’) East Village bar to no avail, Brian and Sean stumbled upon an idea to create customized calendars, and thus UPlanMe was born.
Brian Kantor (@BrianScottK) heads up UPlanMe’s brand and partner acquisition and previously spent the first 6 years of his career working in online, mobile, print and TV advertising for OMD, BlackBook Media and Rolling Stone. Sean Barkulis (@SeanBarkulis) currently oversees UPlanMe’s broader product strategy, business development and technology, but began his career in Finance where he invested in distressed technology and media companies. He then left to launch his own online trading platform for illiquid securities.
UPlanMe is a live digital marketplace for events, updates and promotions – from creator, to influencer, to consumer. For consumers, UPlanMe is a customized online calendar that updates itself automatically with the events, specials and activities going on nearby. For brands & businesses, UPlanMe enables them to place updates, events, specials and schedules directly onto customers’ calendars as well as to push out that content across the web. UPlanMe also provides online calendar software to 3rd-party publishers, so they can pull content from our database into their websites.
Tell us… what was the vision behind UPlanMe?
UPlanMe strives to be the end-to-end solution for brands and businesses to manage and promote their updates, events, specials and schedules across the social web; while allowing consumers to easily interact with those brands and businesses, so they never miss out on events and activities.
Name one failure you benefited from – what lesson was learned, and how was it applied?
Very early on we realized the “chicken or the egg” problem that impacts many startups—it’s tough to attract users to your platform without any content, and it’s even more difficult to get brands and businesses to create content for your platform without any users. We forced ourselves to find ways to find clean, useful, reliable brand-content from alternative data sources across the web- giving users valuable content to interact with, before we’d be able to sway brands to embrace our offering. As a result, we developed a suite of powerful tools and analytics for brands to leverage our platform before having a huge user base.
Who is your Mentor?
Help us out here, whats the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring startups?
If someone isn’t already using Facebook, then they are a late adopter, and probably not going to use your product. Assume all of your users are already on Facebook, and use that info to your advantage. Let Facebook do what Facebook does best, don’t reinvent the wheel, and remove barriers to entry for your platform.
Who are your dream Brand Soulmates, you’d like to work with?
Brands like Starbucks and Gap are perfect soulmates for us, because of their constantly evolving suite of products, offerings and promotions that would benefit from a direct conduit into the calendars of current and prospective customers. (Side bar: Our Evol8tion team also thinks credit card companies, such as American Express, or Chase Sapphire that consumers are consistently using at these events would also be fantastic matches)
What is your favorite startup resource?
We’re big into our communal office within the WeWork Labs - the whole “incubator” workplace has been great for us! Being surrounded by so many like-minded startups who share the same challenges, really serves as an unparalleled resource to overcome what ails us.
Getting a bit deep here – tell us your fears, whats keeping you up at night?
We hope our users come to find UPlanMe as an indispensible part of their daily lives. Despite our tremendous progress to date, we fear that all of our energy and resources will be exhausted before we have the opportunity to realize that dream.
I really wish I thought of…. (Come on guys - don’t say Facebook… its a cop out answer!)
SinglePlatform. Whoever becomes the hub for local businesses to manage their online presence is going to go gangbusters in the coming years.
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for more stories, and to see if your interview was chosen - be sure to follow @uplanme for their latest updates.
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