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International Flair Comes to JHU Campus During TechBreakfast

Some spoke in Russian. Others in English. Either way, the mission was the same: To gain experience describing their entrepreneurial ventures to a room full of Americans.

Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus sponsors TechBreakfast, a monthly event that brings together entrepreneurs, businesspeople, tech enthusiasts, economic development experts, scientists and others for show-and-tell presentations. In January, TechBreakfast collaborated with the U.S. Department of Commerce SABIT program. SABIT, or Special American Business Internship Training, brought 20 professionals from seven Eurasian countries to the United States for a two-week tour. One stop on their tour was TechBreakfast so they could practice their business pitches.

The group consisted of leaders of information technology startup companies as well as leaders of tech incubators, investment firms and IT training organizations.

Seven people took their turns at the front of the room. They had one-minute to make their pitches. An interpreter assisted those who preferred to speak their native languages. Then they fielded questions from the audience. Presenters showcased concepts including a marketing web app for small businesses; a cloud payment processing platform for websites and mobile apps; a software program that assists with the electronic collection and storage of medical records; a product that provides analytics for oil, chemicals and other commodity markets; and more.

For many, this was their first time presenting in the United States.

After visiting the Washington, D.C. area, the group – hailing from Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan – was slated to visit Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.

The idea behind the SABIT program is to give the entrepreneurs an opportunity to network with the IT startup community across the United States and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem. IT is a quickly growing industry in many Eurasian countries.

“The participants will return home with the skills and knowledge necessary to support the development of the IT sector  in their home countries and make positive changes within their organizations,” according to the Commerce Department. “The program will also provide American companies with an opportunity to be directly involved in the region’s economic development by encouraging the formation of business partnerships.”

TechBreakfast is the brainchild of Ron Schmelzer, a graduate of the Carey Business School. He started TechBreakfast in 2011 and has expanded it to several cities throughout the country. TechBreakfast has approximately 5,200 members in the DC/ Maryland/ Virginia region, and more than 10,000 members nationwide.

At the conclusion of the event, representatives from TEDCO, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development talked about resources available to businesses and entrepreneurs. Said Sally Sternbach, acting director of Montgomery County Department of Economic Development: “All you need is an idea.”

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Upcoming TechBreakfast events:
Feb. 24
March 31
April 28
May 26
June 30