On day four of our StartupBus hackathon we arrived in San Antonio, Texas. Unlike on the previous days, we settled in a nice Four Points by Sheraton hotel. The West Coast bus came first, then right after us came the bus from Mexico City, representing the whole country of Mexico. Despite being exhausted, buspreneurs filled the hotel lobby with loud voices and cheers in English and Spanish. In a few hours, the rest of the buses arrived:
- Chicago representing the Midwest,
- Tampa representing the Southeast,
- New York City representing the East Coast,
- Alumni bus from NYC representing people who participated in the previous years competitions.
— Joe DeSetto (@desetto) March 6, 2013
Because semi-finals and finals were supposed to take place on the next day, after the dinner pretty much all the teams kept on working till late at night.
The next day, after breakfast in the hotel, we (over 150 StartupBus participants) were transported to the Rackspace HQ, a.k.a. The Mothership. It is situated in San Antonio, and was just a short ride from the hotel. Although our driver managed to get lost due to roads blocked by construction. The Rackspace HQ building is a huge box-like structure resembling a shopping mall. It is surrounded by parking lots and construction (they moved here recently) in a suburban area. We were met like rockstars, but were told not to explore anything outside of the huge hangar-like room. Knowing that most hackers disrespect any rules, Rackspace management wisely put lots of employees and security guards around us. The lunch food was subpar. Elias Bizannes (the founder of StartupBus) and other judges listened to each of more than 40 teams pitch individually. Here is a list of the teams:
- Dry Erase Web
- Friends Judging Friends
- InstaLodger (alumni)
- MyBestRx (alumni)
- RepCheck (alumni)
- Wrong Credit Score
- Yaank (alumni)
More information on each team is available at StartupBus.com LeaderBoard.
- DrunkSpotting was formed after the main competition on the way from San Antonio to Austin.
The judges looked at a few criteria such as working prototypes (or the lack thereof) and team commitment, and chose twelve teams. Here is the list of the finalists and the descriptions of their projects/startups:
- CareerMob (NYC): website that helps military professionals to find their civilian career
- Usupply.me (Mexico): marketplace for construction industry)
- NextChaptr (Chicago): book publisher with a kick starter model
- Grassroots.io (SF): kick starter for activism campaigns (e.g., [FixTheDMCA.org]http://www.fixthedmca.org/)
- GhostPost (SF): anonymous chat
- Coders with out borders (SF): code for a good cause/experience
- Deliverish (NYC): marketplace for delivery tasks
- Portioned (Chicago): single portion food delivery
- Readin.gs (NYC): curated book recommendation and store service
- Cloudspotting (Mexico): draw on photos of clouds
- Exversion (NYC): GitHub for data
- Gifdme (Chicago): animated way to share emotions via GIFs.
Next, those twelve teams pitched on-stage to Robert Scoble of Rackspace, Nicholas Longo of CoffeeCup software and GeekDome, and other judges from sponsors such as Elance and Rackspace. That was probably the most entertaining part of the whole competition! GhostPost and Cloudspotting had killer presentations. The former had a live anonymous chat on huge screens with all the unfiltered messages from the audience shown in real-time. GhostPost grabbed everybody’s attention when Elias read a Cease and Desist email, and people fell in love with GhostPost’s beautifully crafted PAC-MAN-like avatars. The latter team spokesperson can easily perform stand-up comedy: e.g., he said that Cloudspotting is not the first company to make money on clouds (Google, Rackspace, Dropbox). To appreciate the joke, you need to know that Cloudspotting allows users to draw on pictures of clouds and share their creations. :-)
The competition was set up that there would be one winner and one runner up from the pitch competition, two winners from the alumni bus (NYC) and two winners from the score competition. They selected six out of twelve teams for the finals:
Tired but relieved (for most of the people the competition was over), we went on to celebrate. The six finalists kept on working for the second sleepless night.
Read more about the finals and the conclusion summary in my next blog post.
Look at social story on Storify storify.com/azat_co/startupbus-and-sxsw.