StartupBus has arrived.
Roughly 150 hackers, hustlers and hipsters – or coders, marketers and designers – rolled into Rackspace’s San Antonio headquarters Wednesday on their way to SXSW Interactive in Austin armed with what may very well be the next big thing.
StartupBus is an exclusive community that runs an annual competition in Europe and the Americas. Thousands apply, but only the best are selected to team up with strangers and, over the course of three days, conceive, design, build and launch a startup - all while on a bus traveling 60 miles per hour.
StartupBus 2013 in the Americas features six busses that arrived in San Antonio this morning, storming the Rackspace Castle prior heading north to SXSW. Two busses rolled in from New York City, one filled teams of startups, and the other with StartupBus alumni dating back to 2010. Other busses making the cross-country trip to the Third Coast departed from San Francisco, Chicago and Tampa. And the final bus made an international run all the way from Mexico City.
The Buspreneurs loaded their teams on the StartupBus busses and created concepts, further developed current endeavors and readied their startup pitch for a panel of startup celebrities in San Antonio, including Rackspace's own Robert Scoble. While on the StartupBus, teams competed in three contests: the Buspreneur Battle and the People's Choice Wildcard, and the Alumni bus will face-off with the Buspreneur Battle winners along with a wildcard team in the StartupBus All-Stars Event, a new competition this year.
Today and tomorrow, the wheels come off the StartupBusses. Teams will pitch their startups in the semi-finals, continue hacking during working sessions and be narrowed down to the finalists to be crowned StartupBus champion at Rackspace.
And the Rackspace Startup Program just happened to have an insider on the Chicago StartupBus, Chris Laco, DevOps II, a member of the Rackspace Private Cloud engineering team. He calls himself a jack of all trades, entrepreneur included, as this is his third year on StartupBus. Last year, Laco rode on the Vegas bus, and the year before that, he departed from Cleveland.
"A long time ago, in a land far, far away in 2011, I met Anthony Broad-Crawford, now the StartupBus Executive Director, at a weekend coding project in Cleveland," explains Laco. "That year, he was the conductor of the Cleveland bus. Months later, he was my new boss. The rest, as they say, is history."
Traveling with Laco on the Chicago StartupBus are five teams:
- NextChaptr, professional publishing for user-demanded content
- TheTagSet, building the world’s first collaborative mixed DJ set
- Friends Judging Friends, a game similar to the Apples to Apples mobile app with ever-changing content
- MyBestRx, a personal Rx concierge service
- Portioned, a mobile app that will allow a user to choose a recipe from the web, pull the ingredients into a shopping list, and then select the exact serving size they want to buy
Stay tuned for more on teams from the San Fran, NYC, Chicago and Ciudad de Mexico StartupBusses!
Here's what Laco had to say about the atmosphere on the Chicago bus: "Oh, it's what you would expect. The bus is slightly cramped, with poor to non-existent WiFi and an ever-increasing reminder that someone has just used the restroom."
Laco adds that the collaboration between startups on the bus is "surprisingly friendly and cooperative. While technically competing against each other, people are more than willing to help out other teams. Out of the three buses I've been on so far, this one is the most calm, non-cranky bus of the bunch."
"It's been surprisingly non-eventful on our particular bus," continues Laco. "Last year we had a six-hour delay due to sand storms at the New Mexico border. I guess one of the buses this year suffered a breakdown and is rumored to have picked up a hitch hiker. Probably the event we'll all be talking about was our stay at a hostel in New Orleans, since all of the hotels were sold out for a conference. Let's just say that this place has a colored past as an orphanage. When we stopped for a bite to eat after crossing the Texas border, we told the waitress at the restaurant that it was our driver's birthday, and they brought him cake and sang Happy Birthday. Only on StartupBus!"
Laco says he’s learned a lot from his three years bounding down the highway on the StartupBus.
"The thing I would say is that being on the StartupBus is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. It's not often that you get to pitch your ideas in front of VCs, and the contacts and bonds that formed during this short amount of time together is nothing short of amazing. I'm surprised there isn't a secret handshake."
StartupBus is just one of many events Rackspace is participating in around SXSW Interactive 2013. And if you want to find us on Twitter, be sure to keep an eye on the hash-tag #SXRackspace.