The “buspreneurs” were not informed of the route we were taking nor of the stops we would make along the way, so our Northwest trajectory as we departed D.C. was confusing, to say the least. But our first destination was The Brandery, a consumer marketing venture accelerator located in Cincinnati.
The teams from D.C., only about eight hours old, pitched for the first time to alumni from the accelerator program; the nascent teams received feedback that validated their projects or provided some guidance that might otherwise take months or years to figure out.
From there, the Cincinnati and D.C. buses caravanned down to Nashville and met up with the bus from New York City. There we had yet another pitch session where all three cities demoed their ideas, followed by meetings with mentors the next morning.
The feedback sessions with the mentors provided a lot of insight into the process of developing a start-up and pitching to investors, and by the afternoon, it was clear that many of the teams had incorporated this into their products and their pitches.
On the second day, the three buses departed from Nashville and began heading South toward Baton Rouge (with a quick detour to Graceland for lunch). Baton Rouge has a feisty entrepreneurial community that is enthusiastic and determined to make itself known as the tech hub of the South.
The Louisiana bus hosted the event and Boston joined up with the crews from New York, Cincinnati and D.C. Many “buspreneurs” were not aware of all the start-up activity that was happening in Louisiana and it was a great opportunity to introduce all of these communities.
On the third day, all 11 buses set their sights on San Antonio, where everyone converges before heading to Austin for the final showdown. The start-ups will once again confer with mentors who can offer some last-minute feedback before judging starts.
In the end, the competitive spirit and sense of camaraderie defines the StartupBus journey. It will be exciting to see how the experiences differ for each bus (Mexico’s bus had no power while the West Coast buses had to turn around due to a sandstorm) and what ideas came from each.
The writer, an environmental consultant from Washington, is the organizer of the D.C. StartupBus, a bus of entrepreneurs that is headed to the South by Southwest festival in Austin.