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From Buspreneur To Racker: Innovation, Twists And Turns

The amount of time between the moment I heard about StartupBus to the minute I stepped on the bus was about eight hours – and I was asleep for about six of that.

My previous employer had become a last-minute sponsor of StartupBus and was hosting the Midwest/Chicago bus in Nashville on a Monday morning at 8 a.m. – that’s what I was told at midnight Sunday when I was asked to jump on board. It was the ultimate spur of the moment decision and I was completely unaware of what I was in for.

The energy that pulled into our office that Monday morning was incredible, and somewhat surprising given the lack of sleep the buspreneurs had experienced. After hearing their pitches for the startups they were creating over the course of a 72-hour bus ride, I had the luxury of picking a team and was graciously allowed to join someone’s existing business.

I immediately started writing code with a platform and technology that I had never touched before. It was the real deal. Flaming application crashes and impassioned pleas for the server gods to bestow their light on us were as common as the cows dotting the pastures along the Mississippi highways. I was on a bus. Building a company. With four complete strangers.

Soon enough, I ran into Chris Laco, a Racker who was on our bus helping us take advantage of the cloud resources that Rackspace was providing buspreneurs. Chris was provisioning servers, restarting processes, helping us understand why Node kept spiking the CPU – there was little that he couldn’t and wouldn’t do to help us succeed. His passion, knowledge, and calm demeanor were invaluable. He also had an amazing sense of humor and we hit it off pretty quickly. I was definitely thinking that he was the kind of person I’d like to work with. I was immediately curious about Rackspace as a place to work if these were the kind of people they hired.

Our journey led us to Rackspace’s San Antonio headquarters (aka The Castle), where we arrived to amazing fanfare. It made the previous three days on the bus worth it. There was excitement. There was genuine interest in what we had been doing from all the Rackers I ran into. They wanted to know where we were going and what problems we were trying to solve. They pitched in with ideas and help. It dawned on me: maybe Chris wasn’t just the lone shining light at Rackspace (he may claim otherwise). Maybe a lot of Rackers were like that.

Despite my interest and positive impressions about Rackspace as a place to work, I was committed to my employer at the time and didn’t pursue my curiosity. I had things I had to do. But life has its funny turns, and about a year and a half later, my wife decided she wanted to go back to school. As we started looking around at Veterinary schools for her, I was surprised to see that Rackspace had a location in Blacksburg, Va. — the home of Virginia Tech’s Veterinary School. It seemed like the stars had aligned. I got in touch with Chris and eventually made me way into the interview process. I am now writing this during my first month as a Software Development Manager on the Rackspace Email Webmail Team.

It’s been a long time since I first stepped on that bus and experienced Rackspace. Along the way, I made a lot of new connections with strong, entrepreneurial, smart people. And I found a new work home. Rackspace’s continued support of StartupBus is generating new businesses, helping people discover untapped potential, and is driving a grassroots entrepreneurial movement that has become a society of like-minded individuals who believe they can change the world.

I’m proud to be a part of that.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Alex Ezell.

Alex is a software developer with an English teacher's soul.


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