Undaground is a platform for community interactions that takes “for the people, by the people” to a whole new level. Cofounders Cole Sweeton and Dave “Alf” Castaneda, 2015 winners of the Will This Float? competition by The Company Lab (CO.LAB) created an app that hosts local music and playlists created by local tastemakers and musicians. While their original focus was music-centric, they expanded the scope of their content to touch every aspect of what they think makes Chattanooga unique to locals and visitors alike.
Initially the focus of undaground was music centric. Has that changed?
Cole: We started working on that, but then the things we had been working on for the past ten years in Chattanooga started coming through that. We started thinking about how we could build a better community for artists and bring cultures together that didn’t previously know about each other. Chattanooga has a really diverse culture and half of those cultures don’t know that the other exists. We started meeting people in different cultures outside of just the music scene that we’ve been working in and focused on finding ways to connect people. That’s when we started thinking about expanding from just music into food, sports, beer brewing, cocktails, agriculture – everything. Anything we could dive into to really uplift community driven culture and cross it.
Do you want this to be Chattanooga–based?
Cole: Chattanooga is our first city because we live here and in many ways are already connected in this city. It’s a good test market for us, but then we want to move it to other cities and build an undaground environment for each of them. As we grow we will probably move to other mid-sized college towns at first and then expand into metro markets.
What is undaground’s mission statement?
Alf: I guess we should condense it, shouldn’t we? We’ve been using “Your backstage pass to local culture” but that’s more of a tagline. You could say that we want to give a voice to those in the local community who don’t have one.
I know that you two are the cofounders, but what exactly do you two do respectively?
Cole: We each wear a lot of different hats. I’ve kinda forced Alf into a closet to work on the app.
Alf: No, Alf forced himself into a closet to work on the app.
Cole: I’ve done all of the branding and marketing design for this project but I also work closely with a team of other people. Nate Peckinpaugh, Walt Chapman, Ben Park, Ian Tejeda and I do things to expand the community and get involved with different people. We find show curators and link them with recording studios to make the shows possible. I guess part of that is production of content. We also try to stay involved in things that are going on in town so we always have little spies at events and try to talk to people who have exciting new project ideas so we can share what they’re doing on undaground. We’ve become more involved in things like partnering with the Chattanooga Football Club and the Hydroponics groups in town.
What would be a couple of goals you guys have for the next six months?
Cole: Our next milestone will be releasing our app to our private beta users. We have a list of 150 people who have volunteered to test out our app. They’ll be able to use it and browse around and give feedback based on their observations. There is already content available on the app. We most look forward to receiving feedback on how to improve the quality of the app and the content.
Alf: We’ve collected this content for the past six months. When we started, we thought that a Kickstarter project would be a good way to raise funds to pay someone to create app program for us. After some mentoring with CO.LAB, we decided that it would be best if we did the nitty gritty work of designing it from the ground up. That takes a lot more time to do, but because Cole does design and marketing and I do marketing and technology, it’s just cheaper for us to partner in its development.
Cole: And we also have an awesome team who have been super helpful. Most of the stuff we’ve been able to do with Make Music Chattanooga or the Chattanooga Film Festival or working with the local library wouldn’t have happened without dedicated friends to help us with it.
How can fellow Chattanoogans support your project?
Cole: They can keep checking us out on social media, and if they have ideas for content they should share it with us.
Alf: If they already have a podcast, they should partner with us so we can put it on the app. We have some interesting incentives for people who create content such as financial incentive based on number of streams and sponsorships. If someone is providing audio content, we hope to promote them on other platforms too.
Cole: This is an experimental thing. We want to grow organically as Chattanooga continues to grow and change. Also if anyone wants to sponsor a show or content or undaground in general, please touch base. The best way to get in touch is to call (423) 797-8632 or our website http://undaground.co/
Cofounders Cole and Alf are pictured center and right. Photocredit goes to facebook.