There's only Upside

Driving value, sustainability, and economic growth for local communities

April 26, 2022
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There's only Upside
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There's only Upside

I grew up in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It’s a town made special by its people and local businesses. I’ve always loved the feeling of community as I walked down State Street—and for the last six years we’ve made the economic well being of local communities like Doylestown the basis of our work at Upside. I wrote about it a few years ago as our company began to scale, and it all holds true today.

Our mission has always focused on building economically stronger communities; often centered around places where people gather at businesses owned or operated by our neighbors. It’s a mission born from necessity and from passion. Necessity, because after the pandemic our communities have never been in more economic need. Passion, because the rise of online commerce showed us how real-time personalization, measurement, and optimization unlocks proven profit for businesses and more value for consumers. 

In order for Doylestown—and all our communities—to thrive, consumers and brick and mortar businesses need to succeed.

Through our business model we’ve ensured that there is only upside for consumers, merchants, and our planet. And today with great pride, we announced that our company has a new name to match. A lot of thoughtful design went into the update of our visual identity, and you can read more about it from the team that led the charge.

Alongside our new name, we shared that General Catalyst and Deep Nishar have joined the Upside team as the lead in our Series D fundraising round. In this round that totaled $165 million and brought our valuation to $1.5 billion, Deep and the rest of the General Catalyst team demonstrated a clear understanding of where we are now and where we are going. 

And with this post, I hope to share more about that with all of you. 

The need for our services has never been greater 

Today, 

  • Consumers are being squeezed as price increases outstrip wage increases by 2x.
  • Similar underlying forces—inflation, supply chain issues, labor shortages, pandemic, and war to name a few—are also hammering brick and mortar merchants, who represent 34% of the U.S. GDP. 
  • The planet continues to warm and 30-40% of our food supply currently goes to waste, which risks more climate disasters and continued hunger in our local communities.

Unfortunately for most consumers and brick and mortar merchants, some of the value that they could both desperately use today is being destroyed by economically inefficient merchant pricing and curation. Twenty-five years ago Google and Amazon solved this problem online by using user-level historical data to optimally personalize each interaction and measure to prove incremental impact. 

Our company is using this power to transform physical commerce. And it’s working. 

No other product to date has successfully situated itself in the middle of a two-sided marketplace that’s equally focused on consumer and merchant benefit. Market conditions often favor one over another—in fact there’s an endless list of companies that have tried to increase purchasing power for consumers, but at the expense of local businesses’ profitability. 

In today’s market when both consumers and merchants are hurting, Upside is driving the maximum possible value to users and merchants so they’re both better off.

The impact is measurable

To date we’ve driven $200 million in cash back to app users, $350 million in incremental profit to merchant partners, offset over 2 million tons of CO2 emissions, and rescued over 130,000 pounds of food from ending up in landfills. That value creation is also reflected in the growth of our business, as we drive $5 billion in value annually and double each year. 

Our merchant network now represents 25% of all convenience and fuel retailers nationwide, our restaurant and grocery footprints are scaling quickly, and we are starting to expand into new categories like drugstores, home improvement, and retail. 

Through our app and partner apps, more than 30 million people have access to our network today, and users are on track to double the number of transactions they complete through our platform year-over-year. This growth would increase purchasing power for users and profitability for merchants by 5x combined, and significantly grow our sustainability impact through our 1% commitment. We’re already in league with some of the world’s largest companies doing good, and accelerating our efforts allows us to continue making meaningful contributions to global sustainability efforts. 

All of our results are made possible because we strictly measure the impact that we have on the value we drive to users, and the incremental profit we drive to merchants. While this type of measurement is the norm for online marketplaces, it is completely new to brick and mortar commerce. It has enabled the most established brick and mortar retailers to rethink the way they find and retain customers. Our level of personalization not only allows competitive retailers to win the most customers by doing the most for them, but also helps them ensure that they earn more profit with every dollar spent on their business. Simply put: we’re able to help businesses grow profitably and more sustainably. And prove it.

Our future is bright 

Through this growth, we identified opportunities to drive more value even faster. In General Catalyst, we found a partner for our Series D financing that could have a proven impact on our speed to deliver. 

With $65 million in equity financing and $100 million in debt financing—along with expertise from partners like Deep Nishar—we will:

  • Bring new users into the fold. As we accelerate user acquisition, we’ll provide more value for more people, and drive more incremental profit to participating merchants. 
  • Improve our product. Our plans for the platform are vast (and exciting!). Improvements will impact the way users interact with our mobile app and the support that our dashboards and reporting can offer our merchant partners.
  • Launch in new categories. Upside is designed to become the digital layer that makes all brick and mortar commerce more economically efficient. We’ll move beyond today’s grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and convenience stores and into drugstores, home improvement, retail, and more.  
  • Continue our investment in important sustainability initiatives. Through our 1% commitment, we will continue to enable Upside users to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and food waste, just like we have done to date. As we expand our work in different categories and industries, so will our commitments.  
  • Continue to build an exceptional team. We’re hiring for the Upside of today and the Upside of the future. We continue to build our organization thoughtfully and deliberately, bringing on team members that are mission-driven with unique perspectives and backgrounds that contribute to a better whole. You can find all of our open positions here—there are many! 

As I always say: fundamentally improving brick-and-mortar commerce is a big idea. This is a meaningful journey for us, and we couldn’t be more proud of the results we have driven to date. We’ve built a business model that allows us to win together—our users, our merchant partners, our communities, and our team members—and we couldn’t be more excited about the path ahead.

There's only Upside

Alex Kinnier

Linkedin - Upside

As co-founder and CEO of Upside, Alex Kinnier is working to transform brick-and-mortar commerce. His success in growing Upside into a company driving $5B+ in commerce annually was informed by his years of experience leading product development teams at Opower, Google, and Procter & Gamble. Outside the office, Alex is an ardent technologist and investor, always on the cutting edge of products with the potential to change the world.

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