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Beyond freemium: The Timebridge business model works

The meeting planning service upsells conference calling and screen-sharing services, and it's growing.

The meeting scheduling service Timebridge, which we first covered in 2006, has been upgraded recently with a somewhat better e-mail user interface and some important related services. And according to CEO Yori Nelken, the business model he set out to execute is actually working, even in this awful economy.

The thing that I didn't get at first, but Nelken clearly did, is that, "scheduling is our sales mechanism," as he says. The feature of the service that I like--Timebridge's capability to broker multiple proposed meeting times to multiple different people (for different meetings) all at once--is just the come-on. The business is the service's resale of online and phone meeting services.

Timebridge meetings can now instantly get their own dial-in conference bridge numbers, and Nelken's gets a cut of the call revenues. Timebridge is also selling relatively inexpensive subscriptions to an online screen-sharing service, the open-source DimDim (previous coverage), that competes with Webex and GoToMeeting. Timebridge's conferencing service is $8.95 a month, compared with $39 a month for either GoToMeeting or Webex.

I call this the "beyond freemium" business model since Timebridge isn't selling upgrades of its own technology product, as most freemium plans do, but rather services made by other companies.

Timebridge hooks you by managing meeting scheduling. It makes money by re-distributing phone bridge and online meetings services. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn / CNET Networks

And since Timebridge uses its scheduling service as a hook, Nelken says, it has essentially no customer acquisition fee. The other services have to advertise to get customers, and, he says, that costs them on average $130 for each new user.

Timebridge integrates well with Outlook. I use it and can vouch for it. It also works with Google Calendar and iCal, but I have not tried it on those apps.

Coming soon: Group collaboration and shared space features (see also: cc:Betty). The service has 300,000 users, Nelken says, and is growing 30 percent month-over-month.