On the sixth day six after departing from San Francisco, buspreneurs gathered to socialize and to let steam off at a happy hour organized by Twillio. GhostPost brought a projector to the bar to show their anonymous live chat. The funny story is that the projector was sold to them by of a fellow busmate (from the Grassroots.io team) whose Austin-based friend the Grassroots guy to handle the Craigslist projector ad. :-) Apparently the GhostPost team weren’t happy with their defeat (and who would be?) and hustled their way through the competition to become an All-Star wildcard — and by the evening they were indeed selected as a wildcard!
StartupBus 2013 West Coast – random stop
Rackspace bought out the Champions sports bar in downtown Austin. GhostPost and other teams pitched during the evening to Dave McCure, Robert Scobler, and other important startup personas. The sound quality wasn’t very good. Every now and then somebody would shush the drunk, happy and tired crowd, but that didn’t help much. Despite it being very entertaining to watch Dave McClure rip apart startups and Robert (because he saw the evolution during the span of 3 days) explain and sometime defend them — in the end the decision was the same. They announced that the winner was CareerMob, and the runner up was NextChaptr.
StartupBus 2013 — Dave McClure and Rober Scoble
Summary of StartupBus 2013
Overall StartupBus is a great experience but I can’t say that it has changed my life. :-) There are similarities to a real startup life:
Scarcity of resources, balance of risks and trade-offs, ample creativity to solve problems
Building, motivating and selling the concept to your team while pitching your idea to judges
Human drama: communication issues, interactions among team members in close quarters, under stress, without enough sleep, etc.
Startup lifestyle: exhaustion, abundance of stress
But some things are far from the reality. Mainly, in an actual startup:
Founders can focus not only on consumer segment, but also on small business and/or enterprise customers. Obviously, due to the lack of time and resource constraints buspreneurs targeted consumer audience.
Team needs to be serious and to pick not just fun and sexy ideas to get the most buzz. Solid business models usually come from ugly and boring, though concrete and painful problems.
These days, anyone who wants to start up a business has full-time reliable and even speedy Internet access without having to get stranded in the middle of a desert or having your mobile hot-spot picking up Mexican cell phone carriers. :-)
My conclusion is that a StartupBus trip was a good experience, but it’s not exactly the same as building a real startup.
Everybody else was allowed to sleep in till 10am. An unheard of luxury, which came in handy for people who didn’t sleep well for the past week and went partying on the previous night in downtown San Antonio.
Then our pack rode shuttle buses to the same place at Rackspace HQ. We weren’t very lucky because our driver got lost, took narrow back roads, and drove in circles really slowly (more on this later).
StartupBus 2013 hacking
The pitches of almost all of the finalists improved greatly. I especially liked how much improved Grassroots.io’s pitch (I wasn’t able to find the video but here is the GoAnimate clip). Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same about the Cloudspotting or GhostPost teams’ pitches. They just weren’t able to replicate the success of the previous night. :-( It felt like the fun aspect of the crowd cheering and support wasn’t there. Maybe the audience wasn’t surprised any more?!
After some deliberation Robert Scoble, the famous racker evangelist, announced the runner up: NextChaprt; and the winner: CareerMob! The latter decision was unexpected for a lot of people (you could see it on their faces), and many complained that CareerMob doesn’t have anything live (even a website), and has no business model whatsoever. I guess the charisma of the Air Force lieutenant made the pitch and the whole idea sound reassuring. :-)
Famous Briefskate.com prototype
It was time to wrap up and go to South by South West (SxSW) interactive festival in Austin, Texas. Sadly for our West Coast team and other random people who joined our bus, we had the same driver that we had in the morning. We got lost a few times again, took the longest detours back to the hotel and around Austin airport and its military base. When somebody finally gave Google Maps to the drive, we arrived to the Austin Convention Center. This marked the final stop of the bus part of StartupBus 2013 adventure. Virtually all of us pledged not to ride any type of buses for at least a few months. :-)
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.
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:
StartupBus 2013 North Americacs: facebook.com/startupbus
Dry Erase Web
Friends Judging Friends
Wrong Credit Score
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/)
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:
Today we finished the biggest leg of our trip, San Francisco, CA — San Antonio, TX.
Giant chili pepper, Las Cruses, NM
We took photos with a giant chili pepper, drove by the Mexico border in El Paso, ate at K-Bob steak house, and arrived at Four Point by Sheraton in San Antonio, TX. There wasn’t anything out of ordinary on the bus. Teams worked hard last night trying to launch their MVPs. Many thanks go to our driver Joe for driving us safely and comfortably.
Our west coast bus was the first to arrive to San Antonio. Mexico City bus followed shortly and the lobby filled with sleep deprived 20 and 30 year-olds. Buses from Chicago, NYC and Tampa are arriving to Four Point as well. Teams plan to pull all-nighters to present tomorrow their startups at Rackspace for the semi-finals.
The journey continues. We entered and crossed Arizona stopping for a late lunch in Tucson near University of Arizona campus. The weather was nice and everybody got a chance to stretch legs and grab quality food.
StartupBus and SxSW
StartupBus is a national hackathon on the way to SxSW in Austin, TX. I’m participating with West Coast/SF team, there are buses from NYC, NY, Chicago, Tampa, FL and Mexico City, Mexico.
Getting ready for @thestartupbus and #SxSW #leanstartup #RPJS [pic] — http://path.com/p/17pfToAzat Mardanov
Hey hackers/designers, don’t miss the ride of your life on @TheStartupBus departing March 3 – apply today at http://bit.ly/nytmbusTheStartupBus
Stocking up NYC team with Vitamin Water.
Thanks @vitaminwater!! “@jonmarkgo An endless supply of @vitaminwater for @TheStartupBus NYC. Oh man I’m excited! http://pic.twitter.com/sqcU4zSejS”MikeCaprio(╯°□°）╯︵┻┻
And with Kind snacks.
Just got our final delicious food delivery for @TheStartupBus from @kindsnacks – thanks! http://pic.twitter.com/aIq36Z2PVYJonathan Gottfried
Thank you @pretzelcrisps for making @TheStartupBus NYC so much more delicious! http://pic.twitter.com/muvwIGeU5ZJonathan Gottfried
I’m pregaming @TheStartupBus with Dane! http://pic.twitter.com/Ki8uWU1Ic5Jonathan Gottfried
Wondering how to prepare for @TheStartupBus? Here’s a list of suggested items to bring on the trip! https://plus.google.com/114275248428793781779/posts/cNh6YLnCH83MikeCaprio(╯°□°）╯︵┻┻
Riding @TheStartupBus again this year out of Tampa.Joe DeSetto
Mexican teams have 3 days to conceive, build and launch companies at 60mph @TheStartupBus @StartupBusMX Cc. @l1452¿Cintli?
Holy crap. I’m on @TheStartupBus. Cannot wait to meet some people and code like a mofo.Rui
Excited some new gear came in before I left for @thestartupbus http://pic.twitter.com/7FoDSOD3cmJosh Seefried
StartupBus 2013 Promises More Excitement, Bigger Surprises http://bit.ly/15RcxZv via @TheStartupBusAzat Mardanov
NYC team is getting all exited as well.
@azat_co @thestartupbus Yeah! I’m on the NYC #StartupBus. You??Erica Swallow
West Coast team got some nice stuff thanks to @prtkgpt.
@prtkgpt @jonmarkgo @TheStartupBus @GranolaLab @michiamoalice Try Eat24 because you know what they say…once you try us, after ya love us!Eat24
@jonmarkgo @thestartupbus @granolalab @michiamoalice Haha! We got @eat24 on our side. #BeatThatPrateek Gupta
StartupBusWe’re building an entrepreneurial ecosystem through unique experiences and inspirational connections. Our vision is to empower the people…
To the story-tellers, it starts with an Australian and a pub (fun story). To the people watching, it’s a annual competition that brings out tribal-like rivalries. But to anyone part of the experience, it’s a personal challenge with a lifelong impact.
StartupBus has a long term vision to encourage the creation of successful startups that improve our world. We do that, not by building startup’s directly but developing a global community of some of the smartest people in technology, bonded by one of the most intense learning experiences they will ever go through.
GhostPost Twitter account was blocked because they were tweeting to random people too frequently.
Coders Without Borders (coderswb.com) launched their website and PR campaign. They’ve got over 200 likes on the MSFT BizPark Facebook post!
Grassroots.io is also making good progress. Their campaign against making cell phone unlocking illegal is gaining momentum with over 115,000 signed-up.
Tonight we’ve stayed in Americas Best Value Inn in Las Cruces, NM. The hotel hosts are very hospitable. They made a special sign for us, arranged for mid-night snacks and drove Falon and Ruben to Sonic to get us dinner! Such an upgrade with a swimming pool and gym over our last night’s downtown San Diego motel.
We use GroupMe for text messaging buspreneurs, it’s an amazing tool.
We’ve started at Falon’s house in San Francisco, CA, got awesome coffee in a cycling shop and pitched all the way till the stop at Walmart in Los Banos, CA. We broke into team and got supplies (neck pillows, fruits and booze) and left without one buspreneur!
When my co-worker heard about StartupBus for the first time he thought that it was a joke. How crazy is to put yourself on a bus with strangers and try to hack together functional prototype without reliable Internet, time, outside help. But StartupBus is not a joke! Although it might have started as one in 2010. The main reason is to present something good and valuable to other people at SxSW in Ausitn, TX. You would be surprised how much can be accomplished in a close quarters riding a bus at 60mph. Here are the finalists
Last year I was offered to join the New Orleans Startupbus team, but I decided not to go because Gizmo was about to finish 500 Startup accelerator program and it required my presence in Mountain View, CA. This year I’m going with a West Coast team and we’re departing tomorrow morning, March 3rd, from Fillmore in San Francisco, CA. There are three other buses going from NYC, NY, Mexico City, Mexico, Chicago, IL and Tampa, FL. We’ll have only 72 hours to form teams, take our idea to prototypes, test them on real customers and market the product. We got supplies from sponsors (24eat, Kind, VitaminWater, etc.) and media coverage from Venturebeat — Epic hack trip: Be one of 50 to join me on the Startup Bus.
Sunday, 3/3: SF -> San Diego
We will be leaving SF on Sunday 3/3, stay in San Diego for the night.
Monday, 3/4: San Diego -> New Mexico
On Monday 3/4 we will drive through Arizona to New Mexico where we will spend the night.
Tuesday, 3/5: New Mexico -> San Antonio
On Tuesday 3/5 we will end up in San Antonio for the night.
Wednesday, 3/6: San Antonio Semifinals
Semifinals will be Wed 3/6 in San Antonio where we will spend the night.
Thursday, 3/7: San Antonio -> Austin
On Thursday, 3/7 everyone will be shuttled to Austin where semi-finalists will have time to prepare for Grand Finals.
Friday, 3/8: Austin Grand Finals
Grand Finals will be in Austin on Friday 3/8.
I’ll try to blog once a day about major events, help team with technical implementation and engineering. For live coverage, I also created Storify story — storify.com/azat_co/startupbus-and-sxsw, and will be adding the most interesting tweets, Instagram photos and vine videos.
UPDATE: 06/28/2012 Today we received an email from AngelHack.com organizers. FashionMetric was selected to participate in the Grand Finals Demo on July 12. What are the odds? They choose 6 wildcards from over 40. Unbelievable! Main prizes include airfare to Silicon Valley, other team members are in Los Angeles, hotel and other things.
We are the finalists, AngelHack Grand Finals Demo
I have been writing code for many years but somehow I managed to avoid hackathons till last weekend. I was wondering why would somebody spend their time and energy, deprive themselves of sleep and stress to deliver half-backed products in such a short time? Yet I’ve heard that it could be fun. When I got email with early bird 75% off code for AngelHack 2012 in San Francisco I didn’t hesitate to register. I’ve heard that it’s one of the biggest and the best hackathons around. Teams from different cities compete with each other using sponsors’ APIs.
Team pitch their ideas to attract designers and developers
On the day of the event I still didn’t have my own team or even any decent idea due to being busy with other things. I thought I can still come and check it out, say “hi” to friends and meet new people. Immediately I was drawn into auditorium on the first floor to hear teams pitch their idea to attract designers and developers. I’ve heard a few good pitches and approached people. One of them was FashionMetric, they won Lean Startup Machine last week in Los Angeles and as a prize got tickets to this hackathon. Nevertheless I liked much simpler idea after I realized that it could be done in 24 hours and I decided to give it a try. Too bad there was only high-carb breakfast food and when I came back after lunch in downtown Palo Alto my team disassembled and their members split to contribute to other teams. Gladly, FashionMetric still needed developer so I joined them and was very glad that I did later!
Team FashionMetric, winner of Lean Startup Machine in Los Angeles
I’ve noticed that there is clear separation between veterans of hackathons and just random curious folks. Former group bring sleeping bags, support teams, supplies, tooth brushes. They have strong teams of long time friends, know sponsors, their tech stack and stay heads down coding and hacking mostly all night. Latter group tends to be more individualistic, leave early to catch the last train back to San Francisco and seem to be less dedicated. I think there is nothing wrong with being casual but it could be distracting to more focused team members. We had funny situation when our designer disappeared leaving her laptop, food and 7th cup of beer on the table (she drank the previous 6). The AOL building provides many places to crash, in fact it’s the same building where startuper lived for free for 2 month escaping from security while building his prototype. She was nowhere to be found and our biz people, respect to them, had to master Photoshop, HTML and CSS to speed up our development :)
Hackers at rest at AOL lobby
A few word about organizers. They were up all night bringing pizza, drink and normal food. They re-tweeted and responded to tweets quickly. I’ve seen somebody on Hackathon.io complaining about how they didn’t enforce rules of the hackathon: to limit development time to 24 hours, not to use code developed before the event, etc. but I’m personally not aware of bad were the violations.
Soldering and some real hardware hacking
Overall, despite the fact that our team, FashionMetric didn’t pass into second round I had fun working with awesome people. I was impressed by the amount of work we were able to accomplish, dedication and focus. Because we had everything brought and catered to us, even chair massage, we could concentrate on work. I think hackathons are good to test team, idea or even learn something cool like Firebase – I finally got beta invite! In addition we used Windows Azure cloud servers and BackboneJS as our thick MVC client framework.