A Halifax startup is aiming to create an online platform that leverages the positive, community-oriented aspects of social media without relying on manipulative engagement-boosting practices or monetizing users’ personal data.

Chief Executive Sam Daviau described UpBeing Tuesday as “social, but not social media,” quoting from ads the company is running, ironically, on social media. He and CTO Sean Kortschot co-founded the business in 2021.

“We use a lot of the same things that get people to go on to social media, and then use the engagement that we’ve created through that social network to benefit those people,” said Daviau. “We’re trying to improve their wellbeing.”

UpBeing users post regular “check-ins” through which they share information about their mood, energy levels and other factors that can influence physical and psychological health. Data from the check-ins is shared with other people the user has chosen in advance, such as loved ones and business partners, whose check-ins are, in turn, also visible.

Speaking at Halifax innovation hub Volta, Daviau said UpBeing employs user acquisition techniques similar to social media sites like TikTok to grow via users’ personal networks of contacts. But unlike conventional social media, UpBeing contains no videos, text posts, comment sections or other material callibrated to keep users scrolling.

Importantly, Daviau said UpBeing’s engagement metrics are more in line with traditional social media than with health and wellness apps, which tend to have weaker performance. About 63 percent of UpBeing users continue engaging with the platform for at least three weeks after signing up, and three quarters of users who join go on to invite someone else. Growth from those network effects has been particularly strong in the last couple months.

Daviau’s now seven-person team launched its app in March as a minimum viable product. So far, he said the user reception has been largely positive, with the exception of a few technical glitches.

“Our active users use the app every single day, multiple times a day,” said Daviau.

In addition to users’ self-reported experiences, the app’s “My Wellbeing” metric is also based on data from sources like calendars and fitness tracker wearables, all of which UpBeing uses to help identify patterns in how users’ moods and energy levels fluctuate.

“We don’t do behaviour-tracking,” Daviau said. “All your behaviours are piped into the app (from other platforms) …  We also pipe news sentiment, weather, things like that.

“And then it’s correlated to your own (self-reported) data to give you insights. Sometimes insights include your loved ones, sometimes they just include yourself.”

Use cases vary depending on a person’s demographics, Daviau added, citing the examples of neurodivergent users who have found the app helpful for communicating when they are struggling with speech and entrepreneurs using the app to inform how they collaborate with business partners.

UpBeing also allows users to join groups that display aggregate user data for a larger collection of people, such as the LGBTQ community, who represent around half the app’s user base.

Daviau emphasized that he plans for the app to always be free to end users, though they will be able to purchase subscriptions to access more features, as will organizations looking to create and manage their own communities. One such deal will be on display later this month when the Collosalcon comic book convention in Ohio runs an UpBeing community for its members.