Building an app centered on nightlife and in-person entertainment during a pandemic requires intense focus and intentionality every step of the way, Joshua Lewis said.
“It’s been a slow and steady walk to the app launch,” said the founder of UpDown Nightlife — an app that connects consumers to local bars, clubs and entertainment. “With so many restrictions, we wanted to wait until the moment when we felt like people could actually have a good time. It’s given us time to build the functionalities of the app and fix any bugs.”
UpDown Nightlife is set to officially launch Aug. 29 in the App Store, Lewis said — noting a same-day release party 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Truman, hosted by influencer and entrepreneur Joie Chavis. The event is expected to feature a booth where people can download the UpDown Nightlife app, as well as have drinks for purchase, music and dancing.
Click here to buy a ticket to UpDown Nightlife’s launch party.
During beta testing over the past eight months, Lewis and his team of 10 have worked to gather feedback, design features and build hype for the app within Kansas City, he said.
Along with the app launch, UpDown Nightlife announced a significant deal with the party bus company Elite Fleet.
“It is a partnership, but Elite Fleet has also invested in our company,” Lewis said, noting the investment closed UpDown Nightlife’s $500,000 seed round.
“I wanted to find people [and businesses] that could not only provide money, but resources as well, to help grow UpDown,” he continued. “A party bus company and nightlife app just made sense because people can hit up multiple hotspots in one night and have fun doing it.”
In the next few months, UpDown Nightlife plans to release a feature that allows for users to book an Elite Fleet party bus — straight from the app, Lewis added.
“We are ecstatic to partner with UpDown,” Kowen Moffor, the owner of Elite Fleet, said in a press release. “We’ve watched their brand for years; we appreciate their work, and we look forward to growing together.”
In the works
Features immediately available on UpDown Nightlife’s initial launch include: The Hotspot, Industry Locator, and Tip Jar.
“In Kansas City, we have various districts like Crossroads, Westport, 18th and Vine — The Hotspot feature will show which places to be that night in those districts, so you don’t have to make a decision,” Lewis said. “That will update every single night.”
Users can also search for specific wants such as “good for dancing” or “deals on vodka.”
“The Industry Locator [feature] is going to give industry people a chance to promote where they are every night,” he said. “It allows people to build their following and have their customers come back, so that they can make their money.
“And that leads into the Tip Jar feature, in which users will be able to tip servers, DJs and industry workers directly from our platform.”
New app features are expected to roll out weekly, Lewis continued.
UpDown Nightlife’s main feed resembles Instagram’s layout — except posts will only be available for 24 hours.
“The feed is in real time, so it’s reflective of whenever you’re looking at it,” he explained. “It is where people will be posting their videos and updates on what bar they’re at, where they’re eating and where they’re having a good time.”
With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading throughout Kansas City, Lewis is prepared to slow business down once again and work on the back-end technology, he shared.
“It would give us time to really calculate and plan for the next big push,” he explained. “If people have to go back in the house for a while, they’re going to get cabin fever. Then, there’s going to be another big splurge when places open back up — which works in our favor. Of course, we don’t want that to happen, but we know it’s always possible.”
Click here to read about how Lewis kept UpDown Nightlife moving forward during the pandemic.
For the next six to eight months, UpDown Nightlife will be exclusive to Kansas City; and the team will be focused on collecting data, Lewis said.
“We want to take the time to really build and improve the platform in Kansas City, and then we plan to expand into Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Chicago and then obviously adding St. Louis into the mix,” he said.
During the expansion, UpDown Nightlife plans to open a Series A funding round, aiming to raise $5 million. Lewis projects more than 15,000 weekly users on the app by that time, he said.
“I really want to push investors to start to notice what we are building and how big this can really be,” Lewis shared. “We’re gearing up for that Series A, and we’re going to be ready for it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.