This week, about 300 entrepreneurs from around the country pile into 10 different buses and head to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest Interactive with one common goal in mind: get their idea funded.
Each person on the StartupBus has the opportunity to pitch his or her idea to the crowd on the bus; the other members join teams depending on the idea that strikes them. Each team contains at least one web designer, one web developer and one business developer…if they’re lucky. The idea is to hack together a functioning startup during the three-day journey to Austin. Once they reach their destination, they’ll have the opportunity to pitch the idea to the people with the dough – VCs and angel investors – in the hopes of really giving their creation legs. Or wings. Or appendage of choice.
So where do we come in?
Dave Snyder explains, “She (me, Courtney) has been bothering me for a year to go to South By, and I’ve told her no; I’m too busy. So then I saw StartupBus had something out of Tampa so I was like, ‘If you can get in contact with them and see if we can follow them and film it – and then we’ll hack together our own app on the way…’”
So now we’re here. We’re following [stalking] StartupBus Florida from Tampa to Austin; stopping overnight in Atlanta, Baton Rouge and San Antonio. When the car is in motion, we’re working on Referrin: a web application that uses LinkedIn connections to allow professionals to refer business in a measurable way. (Sign up for a beta invite at referrin.com. Plug, plug.) We’re also streaming live from the #teamreferrin car, so people can follow our journey of the StartupBus’s journey (OMG, this is JUST like Inception). When we’re stationary, we’re filming and collecting interviews from people on the bus. And eating.
“I wanted to get involved,” Dave says, “I think the Tampa scene has a lot going on with it, and I want to get more involved in helping grow that out. So this is a good way to network and give back, and also hack our own app together on the way. Shoot some cool footage. We’re doing a lot of good stuff in our car.”
So what’s StartupBus Florida doing? Well, they’re learning to expect the unexpected, for one.
Doug Smith explains, “My big surprise, actually, was looking at this competition – which was primarily technology – and [realizing that] half the teams are non-profits. And each team actually has some type of ‘social good’ project that they’re working on.”
Doug is on Team BumperCrop, which he describes as an app that facilitates the sharing of food locally, among neighbors and avid growers in users’ regions. The other teams on the bus include a social education app for kids (Popcorn U), and two non-profits which are focused on, as Doug says, “disrupting and taking care of large problems that are indicative of fund raising.”
The biggest surprise, however, came in a slightly different form.
Jessica Barnett, shot-caller for StartupBus Florida says, “My favorite part of this entire trip has been driving alongside a woman in her 50s…I can’t say this…pleasuring herself with incredible exuberance while driving her 1995 minivan down the highway at 75 miles per hour.”
There’s a lesson in here somewhere…
“She was very enthusiastic,” Greg Ross-Munro, head honcho of StartupBus Florida, explains, “and that’s what we like to see in people these days. There’s enough people who go ahead full-hog as much as they could. People generally half-ass things. It’s nice to see someone following through with such excitement and doing something they love…even if it is themselves.”
I guess that was the idea that struck her. Now if she could only get some funding…