UPlanMe's secret to monetizing with local businesses? Focus on events

By Erin Griffith , written on April 16, 2013

From The News Desk

Ah, local businesses. Where the opportunity is huge, but seemingly impossible to win. For proof of the difficulties of prying advertising dollars from small and local businesses, look no further than the struggles of daily deals sites Groupon and LivingSocial, local content plays like Patch, and mobile players like Foursquare.

Yet that has stopped no one. Startups continue to rush in with their solutions each week. Some, like Manta, Yext, and SinglePlatform, have gained traction. They are are well-capitalized and and well-connected. But none of that really matters to a restaurant owner with limited time to make decisions, let alone mess with social media advertising tools. Others are young and ambitious -- see Centzy, Circl, MomentFeed, FiveStars, Belly, and many more.

UPlanMe, a startup in New York's WeWork Labs, falls into the latter category. The company believes it has cracked the code on local by focusing on events.

UPlanMe's differentiator is that it solves an actual problem for the local businesses: It helps them coordinate their event calendars. Most bars host promotional events on weeknights, from trivia nights and open mics to book readings, sporting events, or even simple happy hours. The act of creating Facebook events, inviting fans, and promoting the events each week is not really done well by most local businesses.

UPlanMe makes that simple with a calendar that venues can easily plug into their websites. It pushes out the events to social media, and automatically updates each week for repeated events. It event pushes events directly to customers' calendars if they choose. More than 10,000 local venues now use UPlanMe's free tools to manage their events.

Now, with the launch of premium tools, UPlanMe has expanded its functionality. For $15 per month, per venue, the companies can mass upload events and track analytics of customers. Since launching just a few weeks ago, 40 percent of the company's active businesses upgraded to premium accounts, said co-founder Sean Barkulis.

Most importantly, they can promote their events in local listings. UPlanMe has been procuring partnerships with blog networks, local newspapers, and mobile apps to white label its data and import local event listings from its database site. By aggregating events from UPlanMe's platform, publications have an easy way to provide a listings service to their readers. Further, the event planners can pay to have them promoted and distributed further. The publishers and UPlanMe then split revenue. UPlanMe is currently negotiating a partnership that will push its content to more than 100 million monthly uniques, Barkulis says.

The company recently took that publisher partnership a step further by integrating with NYC SummerStage, a series of 100 free concerts held in 16 New York parks. The integration is part of a challenge, in which developers were asked to create apps related to the series. UPlanMe's event-tech powered the challenge.

[Image courtesy blue_j]