A few years after its founding in 2016, GetUpside has grown to become one of the leading platforms in the cashback segment in the United States. Users have earned $100 million in cashback until writing this piece, and merchant partners have made more than $200 million in incremental profit using GetUpside.
The cashback segment was an already crowded space, so GetUpside is a business worth studying. In this blog, we go through GetUpside’s founding and growth story, understand how GetUpside makes money, and discuss its future expansions plans. But before we do that, let me briefly walk you through how GetUpsdie works.
How GetUpside Works
To understand how GetUpside works, we need to look at it from the lens of the two parties it intends to serve — shoppers & merchants.
From a shopper’s perspective, the way GetUpside works is quite simple. Shoppers download the GetUpside app, available on both Android and iOS. Once they’ve downloaded the app, shoppers can pick an offer to claim at the 30,000+ businesses partners, including gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants.
While shoppers have to pay as usual at these stores, they can upload the bill receipts on the GetUpside app. Shoppers get cashback awards after the app’s image recognition technology verifies the bill receipt. And it is not that shoppers can only use this cashback during another purchase. Shoppers get to cash out whenever they want via PayPal, e-gift card, or directly into their bank account.
So, essentially using GetUpside is a no-brainer if you are a shopper because it saves you extra money on a purchase you would have anyway made otherwise.
The merchant side is where the GetUpside model gets particularly interesting, but we’ll look into that aspect of the business deeply in the ‘How GetUpside Makes Money’ section below.
GetUpside Founding & Growth Story
Unlike most startups, where founders have to lure investors not only with a grand vision but also sizeable initial traction, GetUpside was able to raise its Series A round two months before the startup began in January 2016. One major reason the founders were able to pull off this remarkable feat was that all of them were tech industry veterans.
Before starting GetUpside, the six founders — Alex Kinnier (CEO), Jan Rubio, Joanna Kochaniak, Rick McPhee, Thomas Vaughan, and Wayne Lin — worked together at a SaaS company named Opower. After Oracle acquired Opower for $532 million in 2016, all six decided to start working together on GetUpside.
When GetUpside first launched in 2016, the platform only facilitated cashback at Gas stations. GetUpside onboarded restaurants on the cashback platform in August 2017, and the first grocery stores joined in June 2018. In these two years, GetUpside also welcomed brands like BP, Kmart, and others on its platform. GetUpside’s growth in the first two years of operations helped raise a series B round in October 2018.
In March 2020, GetUpside signed strategically important deals with competitors like Gasbuddy & Checkout51, allowing GetUpside to promote its personalized offers on their properties as well. 2020 proved beneficial for GetUpside on other fronts as well because financial constraints induced due to the coronavirus pandemic led to more users seeking cashback offers. By September 2020, GetUpside raised its Series C round of funding worth $35 million.
In November 2021, GetUpside announced a partnership with Uber, under which the Uber app would use GetUpside’s API to show their driver’s cashback offers available at GetUpside partnered gas stations. Uber drivers can save money on gas by using these recommendations to avail cashback. Besides Uber, GetUpside has also entered into similar partnerships with delivery companies like Instacart and Doordash.
How GetUpside Makes Money
GetUpside makes money from the profit-sharing agreements it has with merchants. In exchange for getting more new cashback-driven customers, and in turn more business to the merchants, GetUpside takes a cut from merchant profit. Because GetUpside only receives a cut on incremental customers & transactions, the model incentivizes the company to be invested in the merchants’ success.
If we were to look at it purely financially, GetUpside drives more customers to merchants because it operates on a profit-sharing model with them. But from the standpoint of GetUpside’s purpose for existence, GetUpside is actually in the business of empowering traditional brick & mortar shops by empowering them with a layer of digital personalization.
Now, the statement as mentioned earlier sounds like corporate jargon, but therein lies the reason why GetUpside was founded in the first place & the way the platform works.
Let me explain how. Alex Kinnier, CEO of GetUpside, realized the power of personalization in the early 2000s when he was working in the Google ads team. The subsequent use of personalization across the digital world, especially in the world of e-commerce would mean that brick & mortar shops were against competitors equipped with better technology than them to convert customers.
To solve this problem and empower the local community shops, GetUpside uses the power of personalization to showcase relevant cashback offers to customers, in a way empowering the brick and mortar guys with the kind of personalization a tech giant would use to drive increased sales.
So how does GetUpside’s layer of personalization work? When GetUpside partners with merchants, the company uses the data that these merchants already have — their anonymized credit & debit transaction data — to understand the buying habits of consumers transacting at merchant sites. Using Machine learning, GetUpside then develops personalized cashback promotions to drive incremental sales for merchants. In addition to nudging existing customers who have already visited the merchant’s site. The critical thing to make a note of is that GetUpside gets merchants additional sales they would have missed out on otherwise due to lack of technological expertise.
The revenue GetUpside makes from the profit-sharing agreements with merchants is then used to onboard more merchants and acquire more app users through marketing, which can then again be driven to merchant sites and incentivized to buy more. Users get sweet deals. Merchants get more sales. GetUpside makes revenue. And the cycle continues in a loop.
GetUpside Future Plans
GetUpside has a successful model. The next obvious steps would be expanding its presence across the United States and eyeing internal expansion by either organic or inorganic methods like acquisitions. In an interview with Authority Magazine, GetUpside CEO Alex Kinnier mentioned the company’s super ambitious goal of helping merchants drive $25 billion in additional profitability, a massive jump from the $200 million in incremental profits GetUpside has driven until now. Besides helping merchants, GetUpside has pledged 1% of its revenue towards climate sustainability initiatives.
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