A Halloween-themed flash mob entertained UD students last week as a promotion for Upgoat, a new app created by two UD alumni.

Halloween flash mob

UD alumni organize surprise dance performance on campus to promote new app


12:59 p.m., Nov. 6, 2014--Last week a group of 50 dancers surprised University of Delaware students on The Green with a seemingly spontaneous performance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller in full zombie regalia

Hundreds students and other members of the UD community stopped to watch the zombies perform Jackson’s famous dance.

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Michael Shay, professor of physics and astronomy, was on The Green at the time of the flash mob. 

“It was very creative,” said Shay. “It was entertaining to watch all those people dancing to a song from my high school days. Everybody who was a teenager in the ’80s knows that dance.” 

“It seemed to surprise many of the students,” Shay continued. “They seemed to really enjoy it.”

UD alumni James Dalessio and John Meyer organized and participated in the flash mob to promote the launch of their newly created app, Upgoat

The app, which Meyer calls “an Apples to Apples game for your community,” provides a caption each day. Users then upload a photo in the hopes that theirs will be voted the funniest companion to the caption. Players compete on social, local and global levels for “G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time)” prizes. 

Meyer and Dalessio met as UD students working toward their doctorates in physics. Making use of their shared interest in computer programming, the pair started their own company, Foolhardy Softworks

The company created a few different apps, which eventually evolved into Upgoat. 

Meyer calls this a more “silly” project, and it has a marketing strategy to go with it. The flash mob featured orange T-shirts, flags and capes emblazoned with Upgoat’s logo.

“Everyone wanted a cape,” said Dalessio. “There were hundreds of people with their phones out taking video and pictures.”

Those interested in watching video of the flash mob can do so here. The Flash Mob was produced by Flash Mob America.

Upgoat can be downloaded for iOS and Android systems here, and has a presence on Twitter and Facebook

Work with the Horn Program

When Meyer and Dalessio first created their company, they reached out to the community to learn more about business and entrepreneurship. The pair worked with Startup Delaware as well as UD’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, which provides resources to student startup businesses.

“It’s been a community that we’re still learning a lot of business savvy from,” said Meyer.

Meyer and Dalessio began attending Free Lunch Friday events at the Horn Program’s Venture Development Center, where they met UD undergraduate Ben Rapkin. 

“As president of the Entrepreneurship Club I’m always looking for new opportunities to help members flesh out their ideas,” said Rapkin. “When you meet programmers that’s a rare commodity, and it’s good to connect with them.”

As their working relationship evolved, Foolhardy Softworks became the first clients for Uzer, a business Rapkin started with his fellow UD undergraduate Austin Crouse to provide marketing and business development services to entrepreneurs. 

“The Horn Program has been a vital part of building this company,” said Rapkin. “It’s not just a meeting space and center of entrepreneurship on campus. It inspires creativity and it’s the reason so many businesses are being launched on campus right now.”

“A mission of the Horn Program is to tie local businesses into student startups,” added Meyer. “Our partnership is a prime example of a possible realization of that.”

Under this new collaboration, Rapkin and Crouse analyzed customer feedback and planned a marketing strategy for Upgoat’s launch that included last week’s flash mob.

“The flash mob was absolutely a success,” said Rapkin. “Anyone who was there looking on would see tons of people sharing it on social media, tons of people laughing. Someone even joined in the dance.”

“We wanted to create an idea with a measurable return and also a fun, Halloween-themed atmosphere,” Rapkin continued. “There were a few hundred people watching from all sides. That’s the kind of thing that, as market planners, Austin and I like to see.”

Meyer said that, although official numbers aren’t in yet, response to Upgoat in its first week has been strong. 

“We have lots of people voting and contributing pictures,” said Meyer. “I think this has been a real win.”

Article by Sunny Rosen

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