Startups

‘Wider, simpler, less targeted’: Inside the pivot of social platform Upspace

Months after their initial announcement of , the founding team launched an app on the iOS App Store. Here's why they shifted the business model from a fitness tracking focus, and the technical work behind it.

UpSpace on the iOS App Store.

(Courtesy image)

Back in April, we heard about fitness tracking and scheduling app Upswing, a tech solution founded amid the pandemic to replicate group workouts and personal trainer sessions. But like many startups do in their early stages, its cofounders have found their footing in a new business plan.

Last week, the team released Upspace — a platform for getting groups of people together for a host of wellness reasons — on the iOS App Store. The pivot differs from the original idea, which brought personal trainers and trainees together in one space, and had scheduling and payment features.

Instead, Upspace focuses on the social. Maybe you’re planning a fantasy football league watch schedule or organizing a club softball team, or you’re a yoga instructor who wants a platform to connect your class. All these folks could use Upspace in its current iteration, said CTO Nico Westerdale, who’s been working on the project for more than a year.

“From when I came in, [the platform] was a Swiss army knife with payment tools, scheduling tools, etc.,” Westerdale told Technical.ly, about the changes to the business and technical side of the platform. “What we have now is much wider, simpler, less targeted. A tool set that’s much more social.”

Upspace’s tech stack

Westerdale built the tech stack early on with NoSQL, which allows the user to be less tied to a defined data set, and to skip some steps and make quicker changes — a benefit to all in the early stages of building a tech product, he said. He also used Firebase within the Google Cloud platform, which has allowed the team to move quickly, and not rely on needing to create a separate backend, frontend and APIs.

“That’s enabled us to pivot really quickly,” Westerdale said. “I’m a strong opponent of it at early stages. It scales really well.”

They also went with React Native Web, which allowed them to build code on one platform that populates into web, Android and iOS versions (though the Android release is tbd). It’s one code base serving three platforms, Westerdale said, a method he’s tried with previous clients.

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Biz model changes

The previous version of the startup never made it to the app store, as they changed the business model a few times, and the overhead of hosting on the app store is “significant compared to web.”

Right now, the team’s made of six — cofounders Chris Putsch and Shaun Ziegler, Head of Growth Dominic Fusco, Lead Software Engineer Zac Davis, designer Robby Prall and Westerdale rounding out the tech team. They work from a coworking space, Align, in West Chester.

Right now, the app is free for anyone to use, but they anticipate they’ll be adding paid advanced features sometime in the future. They’ll be a few ways they’ll be monetizing it, Westerdale said, but they’re waiting to understand the nuances of how it’s being used.

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Westerdale has had a variety of clients in his work as a fractional CTO, but he said his experience with this team — one led by fitness coaches — has been unique.

“The amount of positivity they exude, they just make you feel amazing,” the technologist said. “They’re constantly saying ‘we’re going to crush it’ and really make us believe it.”

People: Nico Westerdale
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