TechBreakfast, the monthly startup showcase founded in Baltimore that began two years ago as a group of a dozen people chatting around a conference table, is going national in September.
Founder and organizer Ron Schmelzer is now making the final venue, sponsorship and scheduling arrangements for the debut of TechBreakfast in:
- Palo Alto
- Boston (where Schmelzer used to live)
- New York City
This is in addition to the Philadelphia breakfast he launched in April, the Northern Virginia breakfast he launched earlier this year, and the Columbia, Md., and Washington, D.C., breakfasts he launched in the late summer and early fall of 2012.
To better organize all the breakfast events Schmelzer holds — as well as his BizWorkshop and Exec TechBreakfast events — he launched TechCombustion this month, an online hub to help “cross-pollinate” different cities’ technology communities, he said.
“I thought I was going to run out of companies,” but TechBreakfast, Schmelzer said, “is growing gangbusters.” His TechBreakfast Meetup group now has more than 2,400 members.
And the events make money. Sponsors pay the expenses of the breakfast foods and drinks at each of the free events. While Schmelzer plans to keep the sponsorship rates the same, he is looking to attract more sponsors, including national ones interested in paying expenses at multiple TechBreakfasts.
In fact, the events are making nearly as much money as Schmelzer’s own startup, Bizelo, which creates inventory apps for small e-commerce businesses and charges $24.95 per month for complete access.
He said that Bizelo has “hundreds of customers” and “just a handful” of apps, and that the bootstrapped startup isn’t losing money. But the model he’s employing “is proving to be more challenging” than he initially anticipated.
Schmelzer said the space Bizelo occupies in the e-retail market isn’t overly advantageous. On the one hand there are large e-commerce firms capable of producing their own ERP software. On the other hand are hobbyists, selling goods on such sites as Etsy, who won’t pay for inventory management apps.
“I’m not pulling the plug on Bizelo,” he said. “But the e-retail market is not a very good market.”
Of course, if TechBreakfast keeps growing, he won’t have to concern himself with the e-retail market anymore. According to the breakfast’s sponsorship page on TechCombustion, it appears as if Schmelzer is eyeing a worldwide expansion of TechBreakfast — and will charge companies $30,000 for the privilege of sponsoring.
Granted, there is a very real difference between scalable software products and the more services-oriented events racket, but Schmelzer said the response he is seeing in other markets makes TechBreakfast’s expanding a mission worth pursuing.-30-
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