StartupBus began life as a joke in Australia: a roadtrip starting in San Francisco with friends, but with the twist of launching a startup on arrival in Austin in time for the SxSW technology conference. Somehow though, people thought Elias Bizannes (our founder and fearless leader) was actually serious. A few unexpected blog articles and many emails later, he was stuck with having to now make good on his pub night promise.
A month before departure in March 2010, Elias hustled to find a bus with wifi, sponsors to cover the costs, and he also selected the original Buspreneurs. Those 25 people without realising it set the tone, culture, and rituals that hundreds of other people have now experienced.
The 2010 buspreneurs hacked an engaging website with live bus tracking and even a game, designed the logo and even some merchandise. And so began the experiment: traveling at 60 miles an hour for three days on the road between San Francisco and Austin. The question was what could people produce under unique (and some would say extreme) time and resource constraints?
Six functional prototype web services were built and they were presented to a panel of high profile Austin investors. The inaugural event received a lot of exposure, the winning team was offered funding to turn their prototype into an actual business and a community of entrepreneurs who still work together was created. And over the next year, that experience proved to be life changing for many: moving countries, changing jobs and going in new directions in life all because of this experience.
In March 2011, that community expanded this experiment into a competition and grew six-fold with buses departing from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Miami. Participating were 156 new ‘buspreneurs’ who produced 38 different products. In December 2011, we launched in Europe with 20 buspreneurs building five products and a whole new community base in another continent.
StartupBus has evolved from an experiment to a competition and an international community of unique people. As we grow the annual competition across four continents which serves as an initiation into the real asset we are building – our community – we look to grow into a unique type of institution that leaves a lasting legacy on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.