Overwhelmed with your ever-growing schedule of events? Us too. Thankfully, dream team Julie & Dennie Roche have a solution for us. Burbio let’s you find your local school, community, and sports calendars, making daily event organization simple and pain-free. We caught up with Julie, the company’s CEO and a Front End Web Development graduate, to hear her story as business continues to boom.
What were you doing before you started Burbio?
I began my career as an actuary before spending over a decade in marketing and market research at Procter & Gamble, Playtex Apparel, and as a consultant. I was also heavily involved in volunteer activities in Pelham, NY, our hometown, in the area of education and youth sports over 15 years.
Dennis began his career at Procter & Gamble before co-founding a company, selling it, and then spending 15+ years serving as President for three different media startups, being involved in several exits, capital raises, and acquisitions in addition to running operations. Like me, he was heavily involved in volunteer organizations in the community.
As entrepreneurs, what were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome?
Similar to most startups, our biggest challenge has probably been executing all that we want to do with limited resources. We are trying to keep our burn rate low which means everyone on the team has to wear lots of different hats. It is fun and exhilarating, but can be a bit exhausting.
How was your experience at General Assembly helpful to you in the early stages of your business?
General Assembly was extremely helpful both in terms of the courses, classes and events offered, as well as introductions to the startup and technical communities in NYC. I benefitted hugely from the web development course I took which provided me with technical knowledge that was critical in my ability to work with developers on my application. I also attended the Introduction to the New York Startup Community session led by Peter Bell which gave a great overview of available resources.
The instructors and TA’s for my web development course were all very entrenched and encouraged participation in their various organizations – everything from the Hacker Hours Meetup organized by Aidan Feldman to the NYC Ruby Women Meetup organized by Rachel Ober to CoderDojo NYC co-founded by Carl Sednaoui. I also met Aaron Smyth, from GA who runs the Front-End Study Group (for GA course alums who want to continue to hone their skills). I was lucky enough to hire him to do some freelance work, adding some new features after my MVP launched.
I also learned a lot on a wide variety of subjects from the videos and live streams available through GA’s “Front Row” program. Some of the most valuable were the videos on Google Analytics, Scrum, API’s, UX research, and outsourcing software development.
How do you stay connected to Silicon Alley while living and working outside of the city?
We routinely head into the City for meet ups, meetings, and investor forums, and as mentioned earlier I did a lot at General Assembly. We also read up heavily on industry trends and events, and have taken seminars on Lean Methodology, NY Angel events, as well as startup events involving our alma maters of Harvard and Georgetown, all in NYC. Hey, Pelham is only 30 minutes from Grand Central! It’s closer to Midtown than parts of Brooklyn!
Because Burbio is a suburban concept, we feel that a big benefit of living and working in Westchester is that it allows us to spend a significant amount of time listening to, networking with and understanding the issues of our key users – suburban parents and leaders of volunteer organizations, school groups, public officials, etc. These insights allow us to make our product better.
We are also part of The Refinery, an accelerator for women-led companies based in Westport, CT. We’ve found the access to mentors, domain experts, strategic content and investors to be extremely helpful in developing our business. The startup scene is growing all around the NY area and The Refinery is a great example of that.
How do you go about dividing roles and responsibilities in the company?
I am the CEO; my day to day role focuses on being Product Owner/ Chief Product Officer. I work on product features, engagement, and marketing. I’m also the face of the Burbio brand and the lead ambassador to community organizations. Dennis runs marketing operations, business development and partnerships, fundraising, finance, and ad sales.
What are the next steps for Burbio?
Burbio is expanding to 10 other towns in Westchester County over the next 30 days and will expand to all of Westchester by early 2015 – over 50 communities and a population of 1 million. We have added over 500 group calendars to Burbio in just the last two weeks and we expect to have thousands of public and private group and government calendars up by the end of 2014.
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you are going to found a digital company you need to embrace learning and understanding how the product gets built. I started by taking online coding classes and learning how to use prototyping software, then I took it to the next level with my GA course and reading lots of books like the “Lean Methodology” series. Now, I’m able to lead daily scrum calls via skype with my developers in Belarus and India (before waking my kids for school!). There are so many great tools and resources out there to take advantage of.
I decompress by binge TV watching – everything from Downton Abbey, Homeland, and Orange is the New Black, to Lost and Modern Family.
Dennis follows the English Premier League. He and several of our boys support Queens Park Rangers. It’s a smaller club that struggles to be competitive, they have gotten relegated and promoted several times over the past few years, creating all sorts of drama.
Nelson Igunma is a Front Lines Associate at General Assembly and and Alumni Writer for GA Success Stories.