The NewsUp team outside Apple during Life 3.0 in San Francisco in September. Photo courtesy of Andrew Schuster.
Schuster, 26, grew up in Pikesville and co-founded an online magazine with his brother called ChangeUp in 2009. It was something of a Thrillist for Baltimore and a handful of other cities, reporting on bars, music venues and under-the-radar spots. But after managing an in-house staff of six people, as well as 40 freelance writers, Schuster was “mentally, physically” exhausted, he says.
“We faced a lot of challenges as … a small, independent publisher,” says Schuster. “We started thinking about gamification and how we could apply that to content and content distribution.”
So that’s what he is working on now.
Watch NewsUp present at the September TechBreakfast:
After shutting ChangeUp down, Schuster, his brother, Jason, and director of marketing Coleman Anderson stayed on to continue building NewsUp.
The mobile application delivers articles to users on subjects they’re interested in, sorted separately from the day’s headlines. Over time, the app learns which topics matter to readers, and then pushes those stories. Users earn points for reading articles, sharing articles and answering trivia questions related to the news of the day. Those points can then be redeemed for real prizes, like an iPad or a discounted meal at a local restaurant.
It’s a model that appears to interest people.
In September, the team demoed its current version of NewsUp at Life 3.0, hosted by Funders and Founders in San Francisco, and took third place among 45 startups that presented. A beta version of the app will be available late this year or early 2013.
Schuster, who lives in Mount Vernon and works at the Baltimore Sun as a digital sales specialist, says NewsUp is a Baltimore company through and through. Chris Brandenburg, the CTO of Millennial Media, is one of three advisers. (Another is Dave Pessah, the social media manager at Thrillist). And NewsUp was one of the four companies housed within the Emerging Technology Center in Canton for the first class of AccelerateBaltimore.
“AccelerateBaltimore gave us the capital for what we’re doing now,” says Schuster. “We were able to secure a technology team.”
Up until then, he says, NewsUp was “three non-tech guys trying to build a tech product without a technologist.”
Aside from the $25,000 in funding from the Baltimore accelerator, the app is paid for out of pocket by Schuster and the other four members of his team.
“We’re doing whatever we have to do,” he says.