Pelham Examiner

Burbio co-founders Julie and Dennis Roche take calendar service far beyond Pelham

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A few years back, longtime Pelham residents Julie and Dennis Roche identified a problem that hindered not only themselves but their friends and neighbors as well: keeping track of events in Pelham. From there, the online product Burbio was born.

“I was so frustrated figuring out what was going on in Pelham,” said Dennis Roche. “I’m opening emails. I’m writing things down like it’s 1976.”

For a number of years, Dennis and Julie Roche have been heavily involved in the Pelham community. Dennis Roche dedicated countless hours to Pelham Rec and Travel Soccer, coached Pelham Youth Basketball and co-founded the Friends of Pelham Sports organization that helped raise money for the Glover turf field. Julie Roche also helped lead Rec Soccer, volunteered on the boards of the Pelham Education Foundation and the Junior League and served on a site-based council for over a decade. These experiences helped shape their view of community life.

As active and involved Pelham residents, Julie and Dennis Roche found that keeping track of community events was stressful, difficult and time-consuming. The couple brainstormed the idea of building a calendar platform that pulls event information from many different feeds into one place.

They first met working at Procter & Gamble. “I worked in media, but sort of a start-up kind of media,” said Dennis Roche. “Julie had been a math major at college. At really high-level math, you think conceptually.”

“I didn’t want to pursue computer science” after taking computer programming in college, said Julie Roche. “But I had liked it, so I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to see what I can do’. I actually taught myself some prototyping software that basically allowed me to create this version thing that looked like it would look to somebody else.”

After creating the model, she talked to neighbors, friends and other community members about her design.

“From that, I was able to get a lot of reactions,” said Julie Roche. “I said great, so now I know what I want to build, but I don’t really have the technical skills to do it. So I decided to take some classes in web development.”

“She kind of started Burbio by basically becoming a technology executive,” said Dennis Roche. “She runs the product and everything.”

In 2016, Burbio was successfully launched. Originally a local Pelham startup, Burbio has spread to hundreds of communities across the region. Larger localities such as Yonkers and Ridgewood, N.J., have announced Burbio as their official event applications. In the past year, the Roches have visited mayors in many other communities to showcase the product.

“We’ve got all these announcements where we’ve been partnering with cities and towns,” said Dennis Roche. “When we add communities, it’s almost exclusively when a government or library brings us to town. That’s how we’re scaling, and we’re scaling a lot faster. We are opening 30 new communities between now and Aug. 30. We’re already published in every town in Westchester.”

Despite Burbio’s recent success, user acquisition has continued to be a challenge.

“We’re approaching 50,000 subscribers,” said Dennis Roche. “Our goal is to get to 100,000 in eight months. We are at what’s called an inflection point.”

With 70 percent of users on mobile, it is clear communities generally prefer the phone app. Dennis Roche said civic leaders liked the fact that consumers were happy with how they were being reached.

“Seventy percent of people who come in actually pick calendars to follow, they personalize their service and they engage in the product,” said Julie Roche. “By the time we get somebody in, they’ve already done the stuff. They’ve done the work to set it up, so they’re already invested and they stick with it.”

Burbio is a free service that generates revenue through local business advertising.

“The goal would be to start to take the service out nationally,” said Dennis Roche. “We can grow lots of ways.”

In the meantime, Burbio is looking to further expand on the East Coast.

“Right now, for us, what’s very important is to stick with what’s in front of us,” said Dennis Roche. “It’s to make the product better and better against this core family audience.”

Editor’s note: Burbio provides a calendar feed to the Pelham Examiner.

About the Writer
Jack Howard, Senior Editor
From an early age, Jack discovered a love for writing. In his sophomore year of high school, Jack’s journalism career began. Jack joined the Pel Mel, which is the longtime school newspaper at Pelham Memorial High School. He worked as a sports editor for two years at the Pel Mel, before assuming the intern position...
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Burbio co-founders Julie and Dennis Roche take calendar service far beyond Pelham