Local tech business sees an upside to challenging times
Techpreneur Clarence Bethea serves as the CEO and founder of Upsie Technology Inc, a Black-owned tech business headquartered in St. Paul. The company offers affordable protection plans for electronic devices and appliances.
Before building an $8.5 million Upsie empire, Bethea grew up in the “‘hood of Decatur, Georgia.”As a youth, he dealt drugs to put food on the table for his family. “I grew up really trying to hustle,” recalled Bethea.
Fortunately, the narrative of his life changed when he came to Minnesota in 2002. At that time, Bethea received a basketball scholarship from Bemidji State University. He eventually chose to become an entrepreneur.
Bethea pays homage to those who helped him pursue his dream along the way. He said that he was mentored by a former CEO from a Fortune 500 Company, and as a result of individuals believing in him, he decided to develop Upsie, It’s become a major success.
As for the meaning behind the name Upsie, it’s the upside of an oopsie. Bethea introduced the company back in 2015 with a Beta launch for the app. The company was officially launched in 2016. Shortly thereafter, Upsie received a little over one million dollars in funding from venture capitalists and angel investors.
Important to note, Upsie offers affordable protection plans, which costs significantly less than an in-store warranty offered at large retail corporations. At Upsie, customers can purchase a warranty for new and/or used electronics and appliances.
Products covered under their warranty include; smartphones, laptops, tablets, TV/home theatre, smartwatch, major appliances, cameras, video gaming, lawnmower/power, small appliance, fitness, beauty, baby, and car electronics.
Speaking about important stats, Bethea said, “In 2016, almost 60% of consumers don’t have $1,000 in their account. iPhone, new Samsung [phones] are almost $1,000.00.” The information reaffirms why it’s important to have coverage on new and/or used electronic devices. Cellphones in particular, are prone to accidents.
Furthermore, in 2017, Bethea participated in the Techstars Retail Accelerator Program. Venture capitalists such as Techstars Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, Gopher Angels, M25, Village Capital Investments, and Syndicate Fund, invested in Upsie. The angel investors included Marc Belton, Mark Addicks, and Jim D’Aquila.
In May 2019, Upsie raised even more funds with assistance from True Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley.
Due to growth, on January 3, 2020, Upsie opened a new office in St. Paul. Bethea said, “Our team was growing and we saw an opportunity to be ourselves.” Now, there are 12 full-time employees. Everyone works together to ensure the business is running smoothly and customers are taken care of.
“Being a Black founder, no better place in town except St. Paul,” added Bethea. “It’s extremely diverse, rich in heritage and we want to be a part of a community where we can add to that.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses, but surprisingly, it has caused an increase in business at Upsie. Consumer behavior has changed dramatically. “People have had to buy new products—upgrade because they are spending more time at their house,” said” Bethea.
The pandemic has also influenced the way consumers shop and how they spend money. Due to COVID, it seems as if more customers are shopping online. Sales have been great lately,” said Bethea, noting a “substantial increase.”
“Up to date, Upsie has raised over 8.5 million,” Bethea said in August 2020. But success didn’t happen overnight. “A lot of trial and error. I’ve had great mentors that have breathed life into me,” Bethea said. He also attributes success to his Upsie team.
Every team member at Upsie is dedicated, highly skilled, and committed to consumer centricity. They pay attention to what consumers need and operate with ethics, transparency, and kindness. Team members also constantly check in with each other in an effort to maximize results.
When asked what motivates him every day, Bethea said, “My family; I’m fortunate, married to an awesome woman. My kids.” He also mentioned his team. “I work with some of the smartest people in the world,” said Bethea.
As for challenges in business, Bethea said, “Staying focused on culture. Always keeping it in front of our team. Challenge of raising capital.” As for the team, he said, “They are constantly analyzing then comparing.”
When it comes to supporting local businesses, Bethea encouraged community members to “put money towards either investing in it or buying their products,” said Bethea.
He concluded with encouraging words: “There are better days coming.”
For more info about Upsie, visit the website at upsie.com or call 1-877-844-7745.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.