Get on the Bus
72 Hours to Conceive, Build, and Launch a Startup
There are many ways to start a company. Some people go through accelerators. Others get ideas from hackathons. And still others just bootstrap it for months.
And then there are the crazies that get on a three-day startup competition on a moving bus traveling halfway across the country – like the 152 entrepreneurs who boarded six separate StartupBuses from across North America and headed to Austin for the finals.
We asked technology writer and entrepreneur Erica Swallow to document her StartupBus experience from New York to Austin.
Day 1: OMG, I have a team!
On the first day of StartupBus, we all woke up friggin’ early, boarded a bus at 7 a.m. and pitched our top ideas. I pitched my idea for a peer-to-peer delivery service, and as luck would have it, within two minutes I had four amazingly talented teammates!
6:40 a.m.: On my way to the StartupBus. I packed 12 granola bars, five dry-erase markers and a stack of Post-It Notes. I hope that’s enough…
7:15 a.m.: Whew, I’m not “the late person”. Nice going, Jacek.
8:28 a.m.: Apparently the bus is running Windows. We had to stop on the highway and reboot for the past hour. Awkward.
5:47 p.m.: My pitch was successful! My teammates are Allen, Gandalf, Rui, and Wicky. We’ve already got our name, domain, logo, social channels. That shit cray. We are team Deliverish, competing against seven other teams and the rest of the StartupBuses.
7:42 p.m.: We just had our first argument over the word “bid”. And then we decided that we shouldn’t even use that word in our product. Waste of time or win?
8:43 p.m.: So, deliverish.com was taken, so we went with deliverish.me. But I just spoke to the domain registrar, and he said he’d redirect. Sweet!
11:20 p.m.: DMX spotting at our hotel. Also, what state are we in?
Day 2: Why won’t my eyes stay open?
We’re starting to feel the sleep deprivation. Stopped in North Carolina for the night, all five of my team holing up in a hotel room, which we deemed our first HQ. Dreading getting back on the bus – my air mattress was so comfy, and the reliable Wi-Fi was like heaven. Here we go…
12:34 a.m.: We’re feeling the pressure, going so far as to allocate bathroom time as thinking time. Wicky suggests we think about subscription models while peeing.
2:07 a.m.: It’s decided – no sleep ’til Austin.
3:50 p.m.: Our website is live! Deliverish.me. OMG, I love my team.
9:24 p.m: I can’t believe we’ve been to Walmart twice today, and this time it’s for dinner. FML, I’m staying on the bus to send press emails.
11:46 p.m.: Just checked into our “hostel” and found out that our $35 reservations were for the floor. Sans blankets. Luckily, they were out of space, so a couple teams – including Deliverish – are being shuttled to another hostel with beds.
11:59 p.m.: Arrived at the new bed-having hostel and the check-in felt oddly like Ellis Island processing. I also found a weird Chinese cream under my pillow. One of our roommates is coughing like she has consumption. Please let this end. I need a drink. Bar time.
Day 3: We made money already!
On day three of startup-dom, we made our first nickel while en route to San Antonio. Yay!
2:19 a.m.: I decided not to buy a $2 towel from the crappy hostel, so I’m drying my face on my pillow.
3:01 p.m.: Survey says: Four out of five Deliverish teammates prefer Sonic over other lunch pit stop options.
4:49 p.m.: Non-stop work, but we just made our first nickel for delivering bus-preneur Josh Seefried’s empty Frosty cup to a trashcan. I’m going to tape it to the window of the bus, so we can always remember this moment… at least for the next day or so.
10:42 p.m.: “I feel so nerdy hanging up my wireframes to dry,” teammate Wicky declares after spilling water all over her Post-It Note wireframes. These better dry fast – we’re not finished with our user flows.
Day 4: Let the pitches begin.
After three days of building, first eliminations are almost here. Team Deliverish has most of its product together, including a frickin’ impressive live demo. Gandalf and Rui are rocking the dev end, and we’ve received multiple compliments on the Deliverish logo Allen designed.
3:41 a.m.: “I’m so weak I can’t chew this Twizzler.” –Wicky, expressing the exhaustion we all share. We can’t sleep, though – too much work.
12:56 p.m.: Just arrived at Rackspace HQ, where semi-finals and finals will take place. I feel like I’m on an all-star high school football team – all of the Rackers are lined up outside and through the halls, giving us high-fives.
5:20 p.m.: First-round pitches are running late, so we are rehearsing non-stop. I just took a 10-minute nap with my body sticking out from under a table. All social norms are out the window.
8:39 p.m.: StartupBus founder Elias Bizannes just announced the semi-finalist teams. Deliverish is not one of them, but we still have a chance in the content portion, where two teams driving the most blog traffic win a ticket to the finals.
11:30 p.m.: Finals are announced – New York StartupBus teams CareerMob and ExVersion made it to the finals. (Secret: Robert Scoble said CareerMob was his favorite overall. Good luck, guys!)
Day 5: Drunkspotting takes over.
2:39 p.m.: CareerMob won the finals! NYC reigns tall! Now on to Austin for the Grand Finals during SXSW. We still have a chance!
4:15 p.m.: En route from San Antonio to Austin, our bus – a mix of buspreneurs from the New York, Mexico City, and Chicago buses – decided to create a new startup called Drunkspotting, which enables users to upload and draw on pictures of their drunk friends. Within a couple hours, we’ve incorporated with 46 co-CEOs, put together an entire social media and web presence, and almost finished the first versions of our web, iOS, and Android apps. I’m focusing on PR and partnerships.
5:57 p.m.: We’ve taken over the Hilton Austin lobby as Drunkspotting’s first HQ and have already been interviewed by PBS and TechCrunch, and we have TechZulu lined up for tomorrow. I landed us partnerships with Techdrinkup and Uber, too. Sweet!
6:13 p.m.: Of course, we have a six-second Vine pitch now.
11:58 p.m.: Robert Scoble joined Drunkspotting’s board of advisors, along with NYC bus conductors Jon Gottfried and Andrew Pinzler. And we got kicked out of the Hilton, so we’re now occupying the Marriott Courtyard, HQ number two.
Day 6: So, we’re pitching after all…
8:45 p.m.: For the past two days, team Deliverish has been working on Drunkspotting. But we just found out, 30 minutes before Grand Finals, that we’re pitching, as we’re one of the two teams that has garnered the most organic traffic. Everyone else found out a few hours ago, but apparently, there was a little bot action going on with another team ahead of us. So, yeah, we’re in after all. Now what?!
8:55 p.m.: Reworking our pitch, we discovered that our live product demo is broken. Ok, plan B. We’re not pitching Deliverish. We’re going to figure out what the audience wants and give it to them. At this point, our goal is to delight and entertain.
10:27 p.m.: I’m polling the audience to see what they want us to talk about. So far, I’ve heard breakup stories, failure stories… but most of all, the other buspreneurs want to hear about what makes us passionate. So, people, this is going to be a “Passion Pitch”. See what I did there?
12:33 a.m.: Our pitch, deemed “bleepable,” made Dave McClure smile for the first time tonight and had everyone cheering. I dropped the F-bomb at least 20 times and preached about passion. Coming out of it, I’m really not sure if anyone knows what Deliverish is, but they know that team Deliverish is the fucking shit. The big thing I learned on StartupBus is that, above all, this should be about fun. And that pitch was fucking fun. Can’t wait to see the video.
Now go forth (and contemplate Amtrak).
6: # of buses participating in the 2013 StartupBus
152: # of “buspreneurs” on the 2013 StartupBus crew
231: Gallons in average coach bus gas tank
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