StartupBus is a three-day hackathon to build a business with a team while riding a bus to Austin, Texas. On Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 7AM I departed Tampa, Florida with seven other competitors and several great mentors and organizers.
Why did I do this?
I enjoy hackathons, I like riding the bus, my partner Marley was hyped about going, I’ve never been to Austin, and it just seemed like a fun, crazy thing to do. I didn’t officially sign up until the day before, so it was a pretty last-minute decision.
The general order of events is:
- Come with a startup idea and pitch it
- Form teams around the ideas that people are most interested in
- Come up with a business plan
- Start building a product
- Pitch and refine based on feedback
- My team pitched at least 10 times in total
- Have fun with your teammates
The buses depart from different parts of the continent and each have their own journey. Aside from food and rest stops, the Florida bus stopped at UF Innovate, Domi Station, and The Idea Village to hear from different entrepreneurs and pitch our ideas. These stops were inspiring and re-energizing. Shoutout to Evan Thacker for planning all these stops.
The energy in the room was palpable when we arrived in Austin for the pitch day and met the buspreneurs from the other buses. It helped that organizers were doing a great job running the music and getting everyone fired up with inspirational words.
How did the pitches go?
I was extremely impressed by the quality of the pitches, despite the fact that we didn’t know the exact format of pitches until moments before pitching began. We had a loose idea of the format for the first pitch (one minute to pitch) but were surprised to find out we had to pick one person on our team that would pitch, then there would be Q&A, and then the judges would pick someone else on our team to give another one minute pitch. I did not like how they picked someone on each team to pitch and sometimes the person they picked wasn’t comfortable pitching in English. I hope that language level was not a significant factor in the ultimate scoring.
After the qualifying round (one minute pitches), 10 of the 15 teams moved to the semi-finals. These were structured three minute pitches followed by two minutes of demos and then an off-stage technical assessment.
My team, Next Responder, placed fourth in the semi-finals. However, we chose not to move forward to the finals because we would have had to give up 1% of our company. Under the pressure of a five minute decision window, we didn’t feel like there was clear enough value in the offer (mentorship, resources, and exposure) for our business, which is very B2B. However, Stayges, the other Florida bus team, accepted the offer and placed second overall!
Like any good challenge, there were some rough spots, but at the end of the day StartupBus was an awesome experience. The friendships, the travel, the challenge, and the creativity all blended together in a great way. I started with a bus full of strangers and ended with several buses full of friends.
Shout out to the people who made this an experience to remember:
- FL bus organizers and mentors (Joey, Mandy, Evan, Carey, and Josh)
- FL bus participants (Chevy, Julie, Marley, Charlotte, Sasha, Justin, and VJ)
- The people who broke bread, swapped stories, and went out of their way to spread good vibes (Gustrazo Reyes, Claudia Clo, Abril GaRa, Guillermo Vizcaíno, FanNy O'malley, Jackie Benítez, Yoali, Elena Itchel, Claudia Davila, and many more)