BATON ROUGE — On the StartupBus one quickly learns that this is more of a pitchathon than it is a hackathon. While it is important to have a viable product, it is critical to pitch a viable business. You need to be able to tell everyone you meet about your business idea in simple terms and with great excitement.
Very late last night in Baton Rouge, teams were in hotel rooms still poring over their ventures. Many developers were really pounding their computers. A solid Internet connection — finally! — is one reason. The other is that there are two ways to play this game, and it depends how viable your team wants to make your product.
A team can choose to make an application that fully functions, which requires hours cranking out code and working through glitches. Or, they can make the equivalent of Web pages with no programming behind them. This is still a lot of work, but it allows your team to concentrate more on the pitch and refining your concept.
Ultimatelty, the endgame of the StartupBus is to pitch your business to a panel of judges. You’re given five minutes, only one or two minutes of which should be devoted to a product demo.
For example, my team had an idea for a business called Givingline, which allows you to use Twitter hashtags to ask for help. Before writing a single line of code, we pitched it to at least 10 different people who got excited about it. Since we finished our prototype Wednesday, we could concentrate on making the product more viable.
This is not to say that the more complete projects are wasting time. They will be better prepared to meet potential investors after the pitches at South By Southwest. Time to load the bus.
The writer, a programmer from Vienna, is a passenger on the D.C. StartupBus, which is a bus of entrepreneurs headed to the South By Southwest festival in Austin.