UPshow Closes $14M Series A Raise To Grow Its “In-Venue Engagement” Business

The Chicago-based, gyms and bars-focused digital signage solutions start-up UPshow has closed a  $14 million Series A funding round the firm will use to build out its business and installed footprint.

The raise is a mix of institutional capital investment and angel funds from people like former Publicis Groupe Chief Strategist and Chief Growth Officer Rishad Tobaccowala and former comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni.

Five-year-old UPshow has some similarities to Digital OOH ad networks that have been putting screens in bars and fitness facilities, with mixed success, for the last 20 years. The difference here is that UPshow sells a subscription service that includes programmed content and an in-venue messaging platform, as opposed to screens that run mostly non-endemic ads that may or may not spit out a worthwhile revenue share for the venue operator.

I don’t THINK the company sells third-party advertising time on the screens – leaving them purely as vehicles to entertain customers and drive sales through promotions and the simple outcome of getting people to stick around a little longer, or come back a second time.

The company even has back-of-house training, KPI and notification software that puts messaging on behind-the-scenes screens, like reminders about cleaning and sterilizing food and beverage equipment.

UPshow describes itself as “an enterprise digital experience company, helping brick-and-mortar brands to engage customers and employees more effectively. UPshow’s technology platform re-programs existing in-venue TV screens to drive new, ROI-producing customer and employee behaviors.”

“The result is a seamless connection between TV screens and mobile devices, creating a revolutionary in-venue network effect that elevates brand experience. UPshow’s cloud-based software offers complete control to create and operate a network, with relevant content, prompts and offers tailored to time of day and location, pre-set or dynamically controlled all the way down to the individual screen level. The platform offers rich analytics for ROI reporting.”

Says the PR on the funding:

UPshow intends to use the funds for continued product development and servicing of top brick-and-mortar brands throughout the United States and beyond. The startup has signed multiple seven-figure deals this year with leading household brands that collectively have tens of thousands of locations.

“Brick-and-mortar businesses face unprecedented challenges in 2020, and they need compelling, contactless, interactive digital experiences now more than ever. We couldn’t ask for a better group of investors to help UPshow extend its market-leading position in this economically important and massive segment,” said UPshow CEO Adam Hirsen.

“Brick-and-mortar brands have been woefully unprepared to compete with the attention-grabbing digital platforms that customers and employees use inside their venues, and their businesses suffer because of it,” says Tobaccowala. “As digital experiences continue to be more compelling with enhanced mobile devices, wearables, 5G, AR/VR and other new technologies, brick-and-mortar brands need an offering like UPshow to create in-venue experiences that capture the attention of their customers and employees in ways that create measurable, hard ROI. UPshow’s rapid growth is proof that they are solving that unmet need.”

The company says it has more than 25,000 screens in venues around the world. UPshow’s customers include hospitality, fitness, entertainment and healthcare venues such as Crunch Fitness, UFC Gyms, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dave and Busters, Sky Zone, ATI Physical Therapy, among others.  

I did a podcast with one of the company’s co-founders a couple of years ago …