How Does Upside Make Money? Analyzing The Upside Business Model

GetUpside (rebranded as Upside) is a cashback app where users can earn cash back by scanning their receipts from purchases on Android and iOS devices.

Upside makes money from affiliate commissions. Currently, more than 20,000 big businesses like Burger King, Speedway and BP partnered with GetUpside are paying commissions.

Started in 2016, GetUpside has become one of the biggest platforms to offer cash back. App users can receive rewards at over 50,000 locations worldwide. Till now, shoppers have earned approximately $200 million in cashback.

What is Upside?

Upside is an app that allows customers to earn cash back on their purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants across the US. It’s very easy to use the app.

  • First, download the Upside app on your mobile from the Play Store (for Android 6.0 and above) or App Store (for iOS v14.0 and above).
  • Next, open the app when you require groceries, gas, convenient store items or food from restaurants.
  • Claim the best offer and pay for the purchase using a debit or credit card.
  • Now, follow the app’s instructions or take a snap of the receipt and upload it on GetUpside.
  • Once your purchase gets verified, you’ll earn cashback credited to the bank account. You can cash out the rewards via e-gift card, PayPal or check.

There are other considerations you need to keep in mind:

  • Uploading other people’s bill receipts doesn’t guarantee you any cashback.
  • You must claim the offer before purchasing and finish the purchase within 20 minutes of claiming the offer.
  • Upload a full image of the receipt. Any torn or altered receipt isn’t accepted.
  • In case you apply another coupon along with Upside, the cashback amount will be adjusted or altered.

GetUpside presently partners with more than 20,000 companies, including BP, Burger King, Piggly Wiggly, Valero, Shell etc.

Till date, shoppers have received about $200 million in cash back using the GetUpside service.

A Brief History of Upside

Upside began its journey in 2016 in Washington, DC. It was founded by Alex Kinnier (CEO), Joanna Kochaniak, Jan Rubio, Rick McPhee, Thomas Vaughan and Wayne Lin.

Before Upside, these six founders worked at a SaaS company named Opower. When Oracle acquired it in 2016 for $532 billion, they all decided to star their own company together.

After launching, gas stations joined GetUpside in May 2016. Initially, the app was only focused on offering cash back to the gas stations. Eventually, Kinnier’s sources in the VC world helped the company to raise a $6 million seed fund in the beginning of 2016.

In August 2017, the first restaurants joined this cashback platform and the first grocery stores in June 2018.  In this two years, GetUpside made partnerships with popular ventures like Burger King, BP, Kmart etc. This helped in raising a series B round within October 2018. 

In March 2019, the team opened their office in Austin and in October, they opened another branch in Chicago. 

In March 2020, Upside signed deals with two largest competitors, GasBuddy and Checkout 51. Consequently, these partners agreed to promote GetUpside’s offers on their platforms.

The year 2020 proved to be profitable for GetUpside. Due to severe pandemic and financial losses, people tried to look for ways to save money. By September 2020, the company was able to raise a series C round fund of $35 million. Approximately $25 million from this funding was used in a national marketing campaign to help its over 20,000 participating sites. 

Furthermore, the company signed deals with DoorDash, Instacart in December 2020 and Uber in August 2021. So, Uber drivers can save money on the gas station with the Upside cashback offers.

In April 2022, Upside closed its series D round of funding worth $65 million. The latest round makes Upside’s valuation to $1.5 billion.

From its launch in 2016, this cashback platform claims that over 30 million shoppers earn more than $2 billion on purchases every year with their service. The company currently has more than 306 employees working at the Austin, Chicago and Washington office.

How does Upside Make Money?

Upside makes money by earning commissions from the profit its 20,000+ partners make.
The partners pay GetUpside whenever a user purchases a product eligible for cashback rewards.

The partners pay Upside whenever a user purchases a product eligible for cashback.

Similar to other competitors like Fetch Rewards or Ibotta, Upside also utilizes a machine learning algorithm to offer personalized rewards to the shoppers. 

Various types of information, including users’ location and expenditure history (via debit/credit card), are put into the algorithm. The technology then shows different products that customers didn’t consider buying before.

Eventually, that drives the sales volume and brings revenue to its partners. They pay a portion of this revenue to Upside as a commission.

Recently, Upside has extended their product region to bring out more revenue more its users. For example, the company introduced a white-label software program with which partners like Uber can get benefits from cashback rewards.

There are other reasons brands want to promote Upside on their platforms. Firstly, they have exclusiveness. For example, if three gas stations are at the same place, Upside will only display one in the app. It encourages consumers to visit that particular gas station.

Secondly, TV ads or billboards sometimes don’t have much information. But on Upside, shoppers can get all the product and service details about each store.

Brand partners assess reviews based on shoppers’ purchases. So, they can know which of their product or location is performing well.

Third, partners can advertise particular products by rising the points they earned. This leads to increasing customers’ loyalty to those products and also, spread brand awareness.

An Overview of Upside Funding and Revenue

According to the analysis by Pitchbook, Upside has raised a total of $215 million in funding over 9 rounds. The recent funding was raised from a Debt Financial round on April  26, 2022. Series D raised a total of $65 million in equity funding and $100 million from Debt funding till now.

Some popular investors in Upside are General Catalyst, Builders VC, Capital One Growth Venture and many others. The Upside Partnership has made total 90 investments. The most recent investment they made was on Sep 14, 2022, when Stable raised $14M funding amount.

Upside is a private company. They don’t need to disclose the revenue and total valuation to the public. But the prediction is that the company has annual revenue of a total of $128 million.

Furthermore, they have said that the recent funding will be used to drive user growth, make partnerships with new retail stores, develop their service and hire more employees.

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