Buspreneurs doing awesome stuff on planet Earth and throughout the Universe

Ricky Robinett Kansas City StartupBus

On the future of StartupBus


I never thought StartupBus would become what it has.  What started as an experiment has become a global phenomenon. Not just in what the world has seen with the events we produce (and the companies associated with our community), but also in the way StartupBus operates. The entire StartupBus organisation is run by people who once upon a time rode a bus themselves. And when I say people, I’m speaking of the 1000+ to be involved as participants, I’ve personally worked with hundreds of them in this capacity. How many global organisations touching hundreds of communities around the world do you know where the entire organisation is run by its customers and no full time employees? Burning Man as a company  has achieved this on a great scale — they are to me a great example of a hybrid Starfish and Spider organisation that I would like StartupBus to become.

When I say “customers”, let me put this in context with a StartupBus success story – or more specifically, the reason why I do this year on year. Brandon Leonardo, a highly talented but equally unconfident engineer, was on that first ever bus.  He quit his job and worked full time on StartupBus several times. Because of StartupBus, he found a job as one of the first engineers of AngelList, where he met his co-founder (the third co-founder Max Mullen is another StartupBus community leader).  They created Instacart which raised $8.5m from Seqouia capital and executed beautifully. Brandon’s (and Max’s) story, just one of many that I’m proud of — is the embodiment of our vision, which is to empower the people who can disrupt the status quo in order to create a better life for us all.

Now in our fifth year, I’ve been actively thinking about what’s next for StartupBus. I think about how this unique kind of organisation will exist without depending on any one person. To exist without falling into irrelevance due to a changing marketplace. To continue to grow and achieve our vision with new offerings and in new geographies.

In my eyes, to make this a sustainable organisation, it needs three things: it needs the right people running it, consistent cashflow to fund our operations, and good governance – which is what I am formally announcing today:

Global Community Council and Tribal Community Councils

For the next year, we’ll be running another experiment whereby the community will advise me and the directors on how to run the organisation. My hope is that this body becomes the way we run the organisation in the future, similar to how a legislature would work; with the directors as the executive branch that’s appointed by them (and I deliberately use a parliamentary example and not a board of directors comparison, as traditional companies operate like a tyranny). There will be a Global Community Council (GCC)  and Tribal Community Councils (TCC) in each of the continents we currently operate (North America, Europe, and Africa). The inaugural 2014 Global Community Council and  Tribal Community Councils will have a charter task to prepare and submit a plan regarding the future structure of StartupBus. I will be asking each TCC and, in-turn, the GCC to prepare a submission on the future setup of StartupBus as a global organisation run entirely by the community. The GCC will have a highly influential role in the recommendations that will be implemented by me and the team of directors. My goal is to take their recommendations very seriously and make this a test for what could become a new decision making group by the community.

Tribal Community Council (TCC)


  • Advise the regional directors and global directors on ad hoc needs.
    • The first one will be to complete the inaugural charter task of submitting a plan for the future governance to the Global Community Council via their representative on the GCC, and informing the directors of their plans to assist in generating discussions.
  • Provide a review of the performance of the directors in a tribe (North America, Europe, Africa)
  • Send a representative on the Global Community Council to ensure there is a voice for each major grouping of the community.

TCC Details:

  • The North American Tribal Council,  European Tribal Council, and African Tribal Council will have a minimum requirement of three people to make it active and a maximum of six available spots.
  • To stand for a position on a TCC, you must have ridden in the competition pertaining to that region (North America, Europe, or Africa).
  • No one person can hold a position across multiple community councils.  A director cannot be on a community council, but will be a part of it as an ex-officio. The exception would be the TCC representative on the GTC.
  • All “buspreneurs” are eligible to nominate themselves and if it comes to it, vote for nominees for one of the spots on their own TCC . A “buspreneur” is someone who has participated in our annual competition and launched a company on a bus. People that have not been “buspreneurs” may be approved by approval from me on an exception basis – an example would be some sponsor-representatives that have ridden a bus that have proven to be valuable members of the community.

Global Community Council


  • Advise global directors and the Chief on ad hoc global needs and issues
    • In 2014, receive and debate the merits and failures of three TCC plans. Using the plans provided as a guide craft a global community governance model to be submitted to the founder
    • In 2014, complete the inaugural charter task of submitting a consolidated global plan for the future governance of the entire global  StartupBus Community to the founder
  • Provide a review of global directors performance

GCC Details:

  • The GCC will have one representative from each of the TCCs and a matching amount of open positions filled by direct nomination/election from the global community. For 2014, this means a total of six.
  • No one person can hold a position across multiple community councils.  A director cannot be on a community council, but will be a part of it as an ex-officio. The exception would be the TCC representative on the GCC.
  • All “buspreneurs” are eligible to nominate themselves and if it comes to it, vote for nominees for the three at-large GCC positions . A “buspreneur” is someone who has participated in our annual competition and launched a company on a bus. People that have not been “buspreneurs” may be approved by approval from me on an exception basis — an example would be some sponsor-representatives that have ridden a bus that have proven to be valuable members of the community.

Action Required – Nomination Procedure:

  • Anyone from the community can self-nominate for the three at-large Global Community Council positions and/or the five spots on your region’s TCC using the link below. You may put your name in for both roles.
  • Nominations open Wednesday April 16, 2014 and will close midnight Wednesday April 23, 2014 Pacific Standard Time. Should more people nominate themselves than open positions, an election will be held immediately following.

To nominate yourself, fill out this form:



StartupBus Founder and Chief

Rocket Ship Startup – Space Apps Grows out of StartupBus Community

0 StartupBus NYC Space Apps Challenge NASA

Photo Credit: NASA

Mike Caprio Space Apps StartupBus NYCThis weekend will see the kickoff of the 3rd annual NASA’s Space  Apps Challenge, a global hackathon pioneered by NASA and fostered from its humble beginnings by the StartupBus community across the world – especially by StartupBus NYC, which this year is hosting NASA’s global mainstage for the entire event at Space Apps New York City in partnership with the NY Tech Council.

On the History of Space Apps and StartupBus

The Space Apps Challenge was literally a napkin idea between folks working at NASA in open government and technology and innovation that actually became reality. They realized that people around the world were willing to collaborate and locally organize events to solve problems for NASA, and piloted the program in 2012 on a next-to-nothing shoestring budget.

The Space Apps Challenge was literally a napkin idea

StartupBus became involved with Space Apps right from the beginning. It started just after the StartupBus North America 2012 event; our New York Buspreneurs had come back from Texas and a good number of them wanted to keep hacking together on projects, so they asked me to find another hackathon that we could all participate in. I asked if anyone in the entire StartupBus organization could connect me to NASA or the Space Apps organizers – and it turned out that Buspreneur Sara-Jayne Terp (née Farmer) could, so she connected me to Aaron Huslage and he helped me get on a phone call that was happening between the NY Tech Council and NASA to rapidly organize the first Space Apps NYC site. This is where I also met our co-organizer Alice Ng (who later became a member of StartupBus herself).

The event was so successful that they brought it back for another year and more than tripled the size of it, again spending barely $70,000 on the entire thing but getting back approximately the value of 33 years of output from a single NASA employee, literally millions of dollars of work.

On similarities and differences between StartupBus and Space Apps

StartupBus is a race and a competition; teams compete with each other on their bus, then the best teams from all the buses compete against each other… and the focus on teams and projects is nearly always commercial to some degree, creating a new product or addressing the needs of some market. Space Apps is about collaboration – thousands of people all over the world will work together, share resources, and deliver real solutions to real problems; it’s not about making the next hot new mobile app, it’s about creating tools for protecting people from landslides and educating people about why we need to explore space.
But Space Apps and StartupBus have a lot in common as well – even though Space Apps is focused on solving the world’s problems and StartupBus is very focused on startups and business, both events can lead to creating new companies and industries, and both of these organizations are ultimately about creating communities. And they both have a mission of changing the world, disrupting the status quo, and improving life for everyone.

On Why StartupBus Alumni Are Attracted to Space Apps

Buspreneurs are a unique bunch. They are doers and dreamers, and they want to make the world a better place. Startup culture can often be a bit oppressive, navel-gazing, and elitist – it’s good to get away from that sphere of influence as often as possible. And people in that realm may talk big about changing the world, but what are they *really* doing about it? Most of the time they’re really just talking about making money with a new kind of photo sharing service. Space Apps is an actual opportunity to truly change the world, and Buspreneurs want to make positive change happen for real.

On the Success of Space Apps

A number of things make Space Apps successful – NASA, of course, is the keystone. NASA is providing all of its output for free to the public; data, imagery, software, all of it. They’re giving away all of these resources and they’re saying: “Make something with this. Help us solve the world’s problems.” The NASA brand is solid gold – everyone loves NASA, and for good reason. When was the last time you threw an SUV to Mars and landed it gently on its surface with a rocket crane?? Who doesn’t love the idea of working with NASA, meeting astronauts, building robots and rocketing them into space to explore the universe? Well, go ahead and do it. Everyone can get involved and actually do these things through the Space Apps Challenge.

everyone loves NASA, and for good reason. When was the last time you threw an SUV to Mars and landed it gently on its surface with a rocket crane??

That’s the real driving force, that passion and romance for space. Look at what all the billionaires of the world are pursuing – nearly all of them are doing some kind of work to get into space. Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson… the list of people pursuing commercial activity in space goes on and on. So there’s another reason, there’s great economic opportunity involved as well – NASA’s technological advancements have almost always led to great leaps forward in the tech sector, and this is just another way to incubate innovation, just in a grassroots fashion.

How to Get Involved with Space Apps

Anyone can get involved at any time – sign up at http://spaceappschallenge.org to participate at a local site or virtually online this weekend. And the site itself is more and more becoming a resource center – previous challenges and their solutions can be seen on the archived 2012 and 2013 sites. Everything produced at the Space Apps Challenge is made completely open source and free to the world, so there are now numerous Github repositories containing the work of thousands of people – and NASA has open sourced massive amounts of its own code through various programs too.Anyone can apply from anywhere in the world to locally organize their own Space Apps site next year. Projects have continued past the hackathons, companies have been formed to continue tackling NASA’s challenges. There are a ton of opportunities to get involved, you just have to step up and take part! Follow @SpaceApps on Twitter, like their page on Facebook, and register today at the http://spaceappschallenge.org website to get news and announcements fro NASA in the future.

Finalist Beander Sits Down for Coffee

Beander StartupBus finalists

Finalists for North America 2014, Beander spoke with the 1Million Cups Blog about how they started and where they are now. Beander is the online marketplace for green, specialty coffee.

Despite the end of the North American competition a month ago, Beander is alive and well, Tatiana Becker the CEO of Beander reports:

All 6 of us are continuing with Beander, and are bringing on more importers and developing the site in preparation for the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference next month. We will be debuting Beander to scores of roasters at that event.

Read more about Beander on the 1Million Cups Blog


Being Brave, Launching Branch: Cemre Güngör

CEMRE GÜNGÖR Branch StartupBus

Recently we interviewed Cemre Güngör of Branch fresh off participating in StartupBus North America 2014 as a finals judge. Following this interview, his company Branch was acquired by Facebook.


Tell us about Branch. How was it founded? What do you do? How big is it?

We make web and mobile products for public conversations. Our team currently has 10 people, of which 4 are engineers and 2 designers. We got started when me, Josh Miller and Hursh Agrawal met in summer 2011, building an online panel discussion tool called Roundtable. Shortly after we met with folks from Obvious corporation and raised funding of $2M.

What were three things that you gained from StartupBus that helped to form what became Branch?

Firstly, StartupBus made me more brave. I had a tendency to self-disqualify myself from opportunities because I didn’t have enough experience and feel ready. StartupBus made me more comfortable with learning on the go, which is what we’ve done with Branch all this time. Secondly, I realized how much work I can get done if I work as hard as I can and not sleep :) I had never tested the limits of my ability before, and I think the crazy work schedule of StartupBus became a decent precursor to crazy crunch times we sometimes have for Branch. Lastly, I really learned that in the startup world, people are judged by their creative output and not their labels. A bunch of us on the bus didn’t have a lot of experience or fancy titles, and through what we made on the bus, doors opened to a lot of us. (For example, based on what I made at the bus, I secured an internship at Etsy, where I worked until we started Branch). I wasn’t very familiar with the startup scene before and I was very happy to find out opportunities exist for people that put the work in.

What did you think about StartupBus before you went on it? What did you think after?

I thought it was a crazy group of people and that I’d fit in, which definitely was the case. However I never anticipated how life-changing it would be for me. The opportunities I got following StartupBus definitely paved way for my current career.

Did you think you’d be doing what you’re doing now before you started the bus?

Probably not, I think I’d shy away from this opportunity thinking I couldn’t do it and just get a regular job.

What are some things about Branch that you’d say are direct results of the StartupBus?

I think the bus had a really eccentric group of people, so even though from the outside you could label us as “tech people”, everyone had something about them that made them very interesting outside the work context. When we started Branch, we wanted to see this sort of culture in our company as well, ie. people who are interesting. It definitely influenced who we hired and helped us get the amazing team we have now.

What would you say to people who haven’t done the bus before but are on the fence?

There is no other life-changing opportunity that’s as fun and will create as many interesting experiences and memories for you. Especially if you feel like you have unrealized potential, StartupBus is a great way for you to explore that and level up in life.


0 StartupBus 2014

StartupBus founder Elias Bizannes was flown into Baton Rouge on February 9 2012 as a special guest speaker to a room of Lousiana’s innovators. After a bunch of questions, Elias was asked when was Louisiana going to get its own StartupBus representation? The organisers of the event then played this video.

Walking outside in the city centre right near the government buildings, the song was being played on repeat with speakers spanning hundreds of feet blasting this parody of Billionaire. (Video of how it looked in downtown Baton Rouge.)



Last month, TechCrunch broke the news that we are expanding in 2012. We can confirm we’re full steam ahead and pending sponsor commitments that have been verbalised as coming true, we will be having 300 people in this competition in what is our annual intake program to bring people into our community (double what we did in March 2011).

Where will the buses be departing? Today we are announcing that both Silicon Valley and New York City will be having a representation, due to their winning performance in last years finals. The unlock campaign which has helped us get insight (not decide) has yieled some surprising results. It has influenced us, but the final decision will not be based on those votes and we will announce our decisions progressively over the comming weeks. If you want to understand how to get a tribe represented, local sponsorship contributions to the competition and quality of applicants from a particular place will be what impacts this. We will be announcing where the remaining buses will depart from in coming weeks, who will be led by “conductors” driving the campaign (more on that another time).

Which leads us to the reason we are posting today: we are officially announcing that applications for our competition in March are now open.

Now what?

1) Authenticate on StartupBus.com.  Connect your Facebook accounts to the site or create a new account with your email. This will authenticate you into the system where you can find out more. What this does is log you in our database as interested — it doesn’t mean you have access to the application page.

2) Get invited. If you’re noticed as someone with potential, one of the organisers might send one. A better bet is to look on social media for people offering to invite other people (people that have been invited also have two invites to give to people they believe in).

3) Apply. Once invited, the application webpage will show you options on how to apply. Go ahead and be creative — since that TechCrunch post, we’ve had over 800 people ask to be on the waiting list, so we’re expecting more than we can handle.

4) Confirm your attendance. If accepted, congratulations! We’ve got a team of people that will be reviewing and re-reviewing every single application in the next month. We heavily invest in this process because for us the competition is just the start of a long term relationship with you and the rest of the alumni whom are all very unique people in the technology industry. Details about this step will be sent out to those accepted in February.



Congratulations! You’ve come to the right place.This is the first step but not the last: your decision to participate in the most grueling hackathon-esque competition on the planet.

Each year we receive far more applicants than we could possibly accept. Additionally, we look for a certain type of person as we’re not about just producing an event with wicked people as an end goal (though we’ve got to admit, that’s something we do well). Accordingly, you will have to prove that you’re among the best of the best in order to receive a boarding pass.

So what are we looking for?
StartupBus exists to create a community of the best hackers, hipsters, and hustlers. A community that is a life-long asset you can tap into, with our annual competition acting as our intake into this community. The competition itself forges these “buspreneurs” together through shared experience and is a vehicle (*ahem*) that fosters talent that have the capacity to change the status quo.

StartupBus is intense. StartupBus is challenging. StartupBus is an experience unto itself. If you are one of those driven, maniacal world-changers, you’re probably what we’re looking for. If you’re the type that think movie-marathons are a worthy way to spend a weekend,here’s the door.

Hustlers: No means yes and yes means MORE.

Your business acumen is second to none, you pitch in your sleep and can sell bottled air. Silver-tongued fox that you are you drive too fast just for the opportunity to talk your way out of a speeding fine. You have been known to organise the takeover of small nation states. You created the bubble.

Innately undefinable, hustlers must prove they have the Midas touch. Be creative.

Hackers: You took the red pill. StartupBus is an environment of constraints, the least of which is time, pressure and lacklustre wifi. Your Github profile, side projects, websites will all help you to prove you are legion. As will a list of your preferred coding languages and proficiency level. They won’t be enough to clinch it though. Demonstrate you’re more than a coder: you’re a versatile hacker, you’re bad-arse and you do what it takes to get the job done.

Hipsters: Form and function. Beauty. Purpose. Poise. Need we say more?

Shoot us a link to your portfolio. (If you’re a front-end coder, say so. n.b. This is not a requirement)

To surmise, Prove that you’re awesome. Good luck!



Arne Huckstein who’s been the driving force of our logistics in Europe has posted about the upcoming trip of the inaugural StartupBus European competition.

Yes, we are getting ready to leave. On Sunday morning, StartupBus Europe will hit the road and we will not stop until we have launched some great startups. And you can be part of the experience.

To start off, Startupbootcamp and Atlassian are sponsoring the launch party in Amsterdam on Saturday the 3rd of December. If you are in Amsterdam, register tonight to be part of the first StartupBus Europe party.

On Sunday morning everyone is welcome to wave us goodbye as we board the bus in front of the Hotel Victoria in Amsterdam. (Across from Central station.) No reservations are needed. ;-)

On Sunday night Startupbootcamp will be hosting us in Copenhagen. We will have drinks, a pitch competition and plenty of time to network with fellow entrepreneurs. Register here!

On Monday afternoon Startupbootcamp will be hosting a startup lunch for us in Berlin around 2pm. Details will come shortly and so will the possibility to register. More pitching and more competition.

On Tuesday morning we will be welcomed to Google’s European headquarters in Zurich for breakfast, a tour and more pitching competitions. If you want to be part of this, please register quickly as the number of places is limited. But it will be a great experience.

If you are at LeWeb, StartupBus Europe will be there as well. You can meet us at the conference, but you can also meet us at the bus. We can show you around and you can meet our startups, get demo’s or offer your investment money to your favorite startup.

A big thanks you go to our sponsors who are making this unique experience possible: Twilio and Softlayer whom we’ll be talking about more later. In the next 24 hours, we’ll be unveiling our website which will allow you to track, engage and interact with the teams that are on the journey of a lifetime, so stay tuned.



November 1, 2011 — This December, the StartupBus phenomenon is coming to Europe. Starting in Amsterdam and ending at Paris in time for the LeWeb conference, StartupBus Europe will be an entrepreneurial competition like no other.

Part-hackathon, part-road trip, participants will have 3 days to conceive, build and launch a startup while traveling 100km an hour across the continent before pitching to a panel of top industry figures at LeWeb.

Participants will have the opportunity to test their skills against Europe’s best hackers (developers), hustlers (marketeers) and hipsters (designers) while competing for the title of European Champions. In addition to the community that is formed, participants will be exposed to leading tech operations in Europe.

Selection onto the StartupBus is competitive. Hackers, hustlers and hipsters are encouraged to apply via the application page. (You need to be logged in to see the application page with your Facebook account; for people with non-Facebook accounts and other issues please email team @ startupbus.com.)

More information is available at StartupBus.com/Europe Media inquiries should be sent to media @ startupbus.com.