As a professional software consultant I can vouch for the fact that most small businesses that are using software to manage their stores are doing so with a side of Tylenol. The big players in the space like Intuit and Microsoft have all but cornered the market and because of this, are less concerned with user experience and more interested in user acquisition. This opens up a lot of opportunity for innovation.
Bizelo is a suite of apps for small businesses that either has Intuit going back to the drawing board or forcing them to do so very soon. Their secret: rather than cram a ton of functions and features into one big app, they’ve broken down those individual functions into many, low-cost apps available on a subscription basis — most for under $30 a month. This allows small businesses the freedom to pick and choose and only pay for what they want.
Another one of Bizelo’s unique offerings is custom apps based on industry. Most products that are available on the market today make their customers conform to their general terminology, which is more than likely different than what terminology that industry is used to using. Bizelo offers these industry-specific apps that make, say the spa-industry-user, feel like that app was written for them. They’re seeing substantial growth and acceptance of this on Etsy.com as well, where the craft-making community feels like they have products/apps that have been written for just them.
Bizelo, a Baltimore-based company, was founded in April of 2010 and in less than a year was already profitable. The two founders of the company are Ron Schmelzer and Jim Hagen.
Ron is no stranger to success. Originally from Boston, he was able to raise close to $60M for his first company Channelwave which later sold to Click Commerce. Then, he started a second company which was completely boostrapped and was generating millions in annual revenue within just a few years. It wasn’t until he started a small apparel company called ZopTopz that he realized their was opportunity in small business apps. Thankfully he’s ended up here in Baltimore to stay and to launch Bizelo as CEO.
Of equal value to the team is the creative excellence that is Jim Hagen. Many design folks around Baltimore know him as founder of no|inc and from his design roles with TidalTV and AOL’s Advertising.com. Both Jim and Ron have recognized that a big secret to their success is design and user experience which is one of their main focuses for disrupting their industry.
While interviewing Ron for this article, he expressed Bizelo’s current challenge of finding talented developers to help scale their operation and churn out more of these awesome apps. He’s been taking regular trips up and down the “Acela corridor” from DC to NYC to try and scalp talent but wishes he could leverage our own region’s resources instead. His fast-growing Baltimore Tech Breakfast meetup is one of many ways he’s trying to meet prospective talent and has plans to get even more involved in the community. I’m convinced that whether he finds talent here or there, Bizelo will continue to be a train that I’d want a seat on.