Buspreneurs doing awesome stuff on planet Earth and throughout the Universe

StartupBus Belgium

This Year, StartupBus has gone Pirate

0 Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 - Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
StartupBus Europe 2015 is a special guest with Pirate Summit, a tech Startup “jubilee” in Cologne. All StartupBus 2015 participants will get automatically accepted into Pirate Summit 2015.

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus EU?

Apply today


Want to know more about Pirate Summit? Read more:

What is Pirate Summit?

The first Summit was in 2011 and is now on it’s fifth run, founded by Till (Ohrmann, Captain Till) who is still first matey and CEO. The Pirate Summit celebrates entrepreneurship. It’s an unique meet-up of early-stage startups and investors on a rusty scrapyard. Core activities: Walk the plank pitch competition with 70 pre-selected startups from 50+ nations. Burning Man and Party on the first night. It’s a startup festival to celebrate entrepreneurship & foster strong connections among the european startup eco-systems. The mission of Pirate Summit is to connect the best early-stage startups of all seven seas with the best investors. A typical attendee is wearing jeans and an eyepatch, screaming “ARRR” all the time. We have fire, shanties and rum everywhere.
Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 - Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 – Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

The Pirate Summit is an incredibly cool event that totally lived up to our expectations! It is a great opportunity to mingle with the European startup scene.

Philipp Moehring – Head of Europe at AngelList (US/UK/Germany)

Some etiquette rules from: http://www.arrr.co/eps/show-your-inner-pirate-how-to-dress-and-talk/

How to dress

Eyepatch, pirate hat, pet parrot, sword (fake please), a huge beard (if you can), wooden leg. Well, you get the concept. It is all about making your inner pirate visible. For the ones wondering whether we’re joking right now… No, we’re not!

Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 - Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 – Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

How to talk

For sure you have come across the typical pirate ARRR! – which you can use in almost any situation – a few times already. Yep, this is lesson 1. Not too difficult, ey? Use it once in a while and you’ll be fine. We’ll make sure to remind you of that one as well :) Still, if you want to impress your fellow pirates even more, make sure to memorize a few of the following words and sentences as well.

It is a really down-to-earth event and the whole setting gives you the freedom to be who you are. People here act without an agenda and focus on what they can do for each other. I will definitely come back.

Fabio VolkmannBlitzbude (Germany)

Want to read more about Pirate Summit?

Check here: http://www.arrr.co/eps/582/ and here: http://www.arrr.co/eps/well-thats-a-success-props-to-former-eps-participants/

5 Epic Reasons to Join StartupBus Europe

0

 
In less than a week, the best and the brightest will come together to compete in StartupBus Europe, the continent’s most epic competition – combining the magic of a hackathon and a road trip to create the ultimate adventure on wheels. We’ll be hitting all the raddest hot spots and tech shops as we make our way to the invite-only Pirate Summit 2015, where buses from 5 countries will converge in the quest for StartupBus glory.

If you’re crazy enough to hop on a bus and build a business with a bunch of strangers in 3 days – or you know someone who is – send them our way

Epicness awaits. 

 

apply now

 

Still on the fence? Here are 5 more epic reasons why you should stop everything you’re doing now and sign up for StartupBus Europe:

 

#1: Do Something That Scares You.

like_a_bus

If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. Push yourself past the limits of what you thought was possible and find out what you’re truly capable of. Whether you’re a hackathon junkie or a total n00b, chances are you’ve never been stuck on a bus with 20 strangers and given 3 days to build something – it’s nothing short of magic.

 

#2: Eurotrip – ‘Nuff Said.

double_decker_bus

Who hasn’t dreamed of driving across Europe on a double decker bus in a blaze of glory? This is your chance to travel all over the continent stopping at all the coolest spots and making plenty of killer products (and bad decisions) along the way…

 

#3: Make Epic Shit.

going_to_space

Think of it as a people accelerator, or a way to fast forward your life. You’ll learn more about yourself in 3 days than you have in 3 months. Cause when else in life will you have a completely safe environment to test out those crazy ideas with complete creative license?

 

#4: Join The Club.

super_heroes

You’ve heard it before: “the StartupBus will change your life” – but it’s only after 3 days of no sleep and countless hours on the road that you understand what it means to be part of the tribe. Become part of a #DreamTeam you can’t buy your way into and join ranks with some of the most elite hackers, makers and hustlers around. Start friendships that will last a lifetime and fill your rolodex with a list of insanely awesome people that you can call at any time.

 

#5: Pitch at Pirate Summit.

pirate_walk

1st Rule of StartupBus: Always Be Pitching. This year’s finalists will get the chance to brush up on their elevator pitch skills on stage at Pirate Summit’s infamous ‘Walk the Plank’ competition. Route escapades aside (and trust us, they’re awesome) – the destination alone is worth the trip. When else do you get to crack some beers and nerd out in Odonien, a scrapyard in Cologne with rusty robots, zip lines and fires galore? 

Whether you’re a billionaire or haven’t started a company, if you’re the kind of person who dares to risk it all, this is the place for you.

 

Chances to change your life don’t come often. So what are you waiting for?

 

apply now

 

Major League Hacking, Jon Gottfried on MLH Origins and StartupBus

0 1908082_790969547620392_5811290487377053989_n-1
Jon Gottfried, Co-Founder MLH

Jon Gottfried, Co-Founder MLH

Jon Gottfried is a co-founder of Major League Hacking and a StartupBus Alumnus, former director and conductor

Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus EU?

Apply today


How did you get involved with StartupBus?

I heard about StartupBus in 2011. I had recently joined twitter and I didn’t have many followers and I started to follow a bunch of people in the tech space. I saw it popup in my timeline one day and so I applied on a whim but I didn’t really expect anything to come of it but I got an email from Justin Isaf who was the conductor that year to schedule an interview. While I was waiting to hear back I started to hustle a bit and used Twitter to find all the other people who were on StartupBus and kinda immersed myself in that world pretty quickly.

MLH has a weird long history. I actually registered the domain name majorleaguehacking.com in 2011, a week after I got back from StartupBus.

What drew you to StartupBus?

I honestly have no idea why I decided apply. I guess it was just crazy enough and just weird enough and just legit enough that I thought it was a real thing. That year, Justin was a great conductor, but the communications from the organization were almost non-existent. We would go on for weeks at a time without hearing anything and then the night before the buses were leaving you’d hear “Oh by the way we’re meeting here tomorrow at 6am at this location.” It was just very scrappy and I think that added to the appeal of it.

You were one of the first directors for StartupBus what was your experience like with that?

So I was on the bus in 2011 and then I was a conductor in 2013 and then I was director in 2014. This gave me some experience working with the organization and helping out at various levels and I also had some experience at that point from Twilio both for sponsoring and organizing events. So I teamed up with Andrew Pinzler – kind of an operations mastermind. We had two big goals for that year. One was to have a more process oriented approach to dealing with sponsors and conductors.

Our first season [at MLH] we had five events and now we have 75 every six months. We do about 150 events a year and it all started by just a random idea thrown around by a couple of people.

We  systematized communication and made the event sustainable from a financial standpoint. We made sure the conductors, the regional organizers, could focus on making their buses an awesome experience and recruiting the best people rather than worrying about logistical bullshit that could be more easily organized at a national level. So we enacted change there. Before that each conductor was responsible for their own sponsorship, operations, hotels. We centralized a lot of that to take it off their shoulders in order to change the focus for conductors to the culture on the bus.

Where did MLH come from? What was it like getting it off the ground?

MLH has a weird long history. I actually registered the domain name majorleaguehacking.com in 2011, a week after I got back from StartupBus. I talked to John Britton who also worked for Twilio and was on my team Lemonade Stand on the bus. We were kind of discussing the idea of making like a league for professional hackers – there were a lot of hackathons at that point – but nothing ever came of it. A couple years later, Swift, my co-founder and I, agreed to quit our jobs to work on something together but we didn’t really know what we were gonna work on.
Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.17.34 PM

The time came to quit our jobs and he decided to quit and I didn’t. I said I would stay for another six months. So Swift left his job and he was talking to people like Dave Fontenot and Tess Rinearson. He pitched this idea of ranking all the student hackathons, which were starting to grow in number and frequency.

We all kind of started to talk about the idea of Major League Hacking. Dave had started a list to rank them. So Swift reached out to me and said, “Hey can I use these domain names? I want to move forward with this thing.” And people were really into it, and it started to get a ton of traction.

Each year 50,000 students participate in our events. We do them in North America: US, Canada, Mexico and Europe: U.K., Spain, Romania, Germany and it’s growing really fast in Europe.

After six months, I quit my job and joined Swift and that was about almost two years ago. And it’s been going great ever since. Our first season we had five events and now we have 75 every six months. We do about 150 events a year and it all started by just a random idea thrown around by a couple of people.

How big is MLH and where is it represented?

Each year 50,000 students participate in our events. We do them in North America: US, Canada, Mexico and Europe: U.K., Spain, Romania, Germany and it’s growing really fast in Europe. We have still have a lot of work to do but it’s a big movement. One of the fun carry-overs that I’ve got to experience with both StartupBus and MLH was booking coach buses. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences with buses working both StatupBus and MLH.

One of the fun carry-overs that I’ve got to experience with both StartupBus and MLH was booking coach buses. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences with buses working both StatupBus and MLH.

One year on StartupBus got stuck in a freak ice storm and was on the side of the road for six hours and a woman came up and knocked on the door to use the bathroom. At MLH we had a bus full of students in Georgia near Atlanta that broke down halfway to an event and when we called the bus company to get a replacement bus the company told us they were going bankrupt and that we were shit outta luck. We had to find another way to get the kids off the side of the road. We ended up renting a ton of cargo vans and loaded them up. It was a weird thing. Coach buses are interesting to deal with.

What experience from StartupBus has helped you with MLH?

StartupBus is based on community and there are a lot of things I learned there about how to build a tight-knit group of people and I utilize that skill at MLH.

A million different things. I gained a lot of experience dealing with large scale operations and sponsorship – all of those things carried over to MLH. Also building a community. StartupBus is based on community and there are a lot of things I learned there about how to build a tight-knit group of people and I utilize that skill at MLH.

Check out Hack the Planet by MLH

The new season of MLH kicks off in September check out the events at mlh.io

Eugenia Brini, StartupBus Italia 2015

0 View_over_the_Italian_city_of_Verona_-2012

Eugenia BriniI’m Eugenia Brini, a graphic designer, Teacher of natural cooking and startupper!

Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus Italia?

Apply today


Tell us about your history with StartupBus. What regions have you participated with. What did you build when you were a buspreneur?

I’m totally in love with Startupbus! In 2013, the first Italian edition, I was a buspreneur and this changed my life. On the bus we created a startup that would improve the method of learning and teaching to children, through edutainment. We were finalists in the Pioneers festival in Vienna.

I learned to solve problems quickly, to work in teams with new people, and learn to control stress. These three characteristics are very useful in everyday life and in my experience as an organizer are really valuable.

What made you decide to become an organizer for StartupBus Europe?

I decided to become an organizer because I believe in challenges’ importance: to improve myself but also the world in which I live. I think it’s a great project that has the potential to create the entrepreneurs of the future, open and curious, capable of overcoming problems and find solutions, and not afraid to get their hands dirty!

Give us an idea about the Italian StartupBus. What are some unique challenges that startups face in Italy? What makes Italy ideal for startups?

Italy. I think this word evokes so many ideas: design, foods, culture, art, history, cars, fashion … The real problem is the mentality. I do not want to open a criticism, I believe that this country has all the credentials to become a nation for startups, since we are a land of entrepreneurs, if we could simplify a little ‘our bureaucracy and our way of thinking … even if that makes us unique in the world anyway!

In my opinion Sb Italy, brings a breath of enthusiasm and ideas really new. A different point of view, perhaps the desire for change that young people feel strongly in a nation in crisis. Then we bring creativity and skills, desire to communicate and to improve the everyday’ lives.

From Munich to Cologne via StartupBus DE, Lucas Wagner, Conductor Germany

0 Munich
Lucas Wagner

Lucas Wagner, Conductor from Germany

Meet Lucas Wagner, conductor for  StartupBus Germany 2015. Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus Germany?

Apply today


Tell us about yourself

I’m the Product Manager of a young SaaS startup founded by Project A Ventures in Berlin.

Last year I participated for the first time in StartupBus Europe. Actually I just came in last-minute on the German bus after a friend told me about his life-changing experience with being both a buspreneur and conductor (thanks Ben!). We built Never Eat Alone, an app to connect employees with which we placed 2nd in the competition.

In Germany we have many talented people and there is lots of money. On the other hand, we have strict laws and many Germans are quite risk-averse. I really like Fuck Up Nights where people talk about their failures.

I gained a network full of incredibly smart and motivated people. I learned to recognize and focus on what’s important. And I learned that everything is possible, if you just push yourself to the limit.

What made you decide to become a conductor/producer?

That was an easy decision. Right after StartupBus 2014, I knew I would want to conduct a bus and teach the next generation of buspreneurs to help them make the same experiences that I had on the bus.

In Germany we have many talented people and there is lots of money. On the other hand, we have strict laws and many Germans are quite risk-averse. I really like Fuck Up Nights where people talk about their failures.

What does Germany bring to the global StartupBus community?

Maybe another 2nd place this time? 😉 And of course, 30 kick-ass buspreneurs hungry for success!

Benvenuto Italia, Evandro Pollono: 2015 Conductor from Italy

0 View_over_the_Italian_city_of_Verona_-2012
EVANDRO POLLONO

EVANDRO POLLONO, Italian Conductor StartupBus 2015

Meet Evandro Pollono, conductor for  StartupBus Italia 2015. Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus Italia?

Apply today


Who are you and what do you do when you’re not doing StartupBus?

Do you know The Machinist? I’m him. I’m managing director at Hinterhuber & Partners, an Austrian consulting company, in short I am a pricing consultant and I optimize product prices and focus on improving profitability for my customers, which, believe it or not, is a very entrepreneurial skill and useful in a startup environment where founders are struggling to find a reliable revenue model.

I believe that StartupBus opens many doors and I want to enable as many people as possible to be part of it! Bonus: it’s hella fun!

During the weekend, I’m one of the three co-founders of Sandeva, a company producing all-in-one 3D printers. During the night, I organize StartupBus: here the connection to being The Machinist.

Tell us about your history with StartupBus. What regions have you participated with. What did you build when you were a buspreneur?

I took part in the Italian 2013 edition which was the first one there. Since then I followed the bus around in 2014 as external visitor and planned to take part in the 2015 edition on a foreign bus, but I was chosen as Conductor so my plans got screwed up 😀

What were 3 great things that you gained from the StartupBus experience? How do you hope to use this experience as a conductor/producer?

As in many non-anglosaxon countries you are brainwashed into believing that you are too young, not experienced enough, not good enough in whatever you do and you should wait for your turn. … we take the advice and kindly return it to the sender

I discovered the power of having a plan and getting down to it: now I see what General George Smith Patton Jr. meant with “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”.

Secondly I found out that “Impossible is nothing” is not a catchy slogan of a garment company, but an absolutely true statement, or at least as long as you don’t want to defy the laws of physics: in that case you are not an optimistic person with a go-get-it attitude, you are a magician! If you do stuff looking for solutions to any problem, instead of the other way around, you can accomplish 100 times more things than you deemed possible, even in a limited amount of time – for example: even in 72 hours 😉

Thirdly I discovered the power of networking: being surrounded by like-minded persons both on the bus as participant, and as an alumnus after the event, really boosts your chances of meeting your next cofounder or finding the right people to complement your entrepreneurial project!

What made you decide to become a conductor/producer?

I really wanted to pay forward: I believe that StartupBus opens many doors and I want to enable as many people as possible to be part of it! Bonus: it’s hella fun!

being surrounded by like-minded persons both on the bus as participant, and as an alumnus after the event, really boosts your chances of meeting your next cofounder

Give us an idea about the region you’re conducting/producing for. What are some unique challenges that startups face in your country or region? What makes your region/country ideal for startups?

As in many non-anglosaxon countries you are brainwashed into believing that you are too young, not experienced enough, not good enough in whatever you do and you should wait for your turn. Luckily we are Hackers, Hustlers and Hipsters, so we take the advice and kindly return it to the sender 😉

What does your country/region bring to the global StartupBus community?

We bring the flamboyant attitude, extreme fun and unparalleled creativity that has distinguished Italians for centuries: limitless brain-power within the physical boundaries of a bus. The Italians are coming: it’s gonna be fun!

Keit Kollo, StartupBus UK Conductor

0 London
Keit Kollo StartupBus UK

Keit Kollo: @keitk

We caught up with Keit Kollo, one of two conductors of the UK StartupBus 2015. Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus UK?

Apply today

Who are you and what do you do when you’re not doing StartupBus?

I design, hack and write.

Tell us about your history with StartupBus. What regions have you participated with. What did you build when you were a buspreneur?

I took part of Startupbus Europe 2014, we built an app called Covervideo (previously SeeVee) that took us to the finals. After Startupbus we went onto an accelerator and are now grown into a startup.

What were 3 great things that you gained from the StartupBus experience? How do you hope to use this experience as a conductor/producer?

3 things I learned:

  1. Fuck it, ship it.
  2. An hour of sleep is better than no sleep.
  3. Fuck it, ship it.

I hope to help to push the participants to the next level in terms of creating great demos and polished pitches.

What made you decide to become a conductor/producer?

I go to hackathons at least once a month and I love the community here in the UK. Startupbus is a great way to get to meet other hackers and entrepreneurs from all over Europe.

Give us an idea about the region you’re conducting/producing for. What are some unique challenges that startups face in your country or region? What makes your region/country ideal for startups?

London is the heart of Europe’s tech community, no better place to start the epic journey that Startupbus is.

What does your country/region bring to the global StartupBus community?

Based on last years finals, I’d say UK shows excellent development standards and great entrepreneurial skills!

StartupBus Europe Set to Roll August 29th

0 CGqbHeiVIAEtkod

Applications for StartupBus Europe are underway. Do you have what it takes to join the world’s most intense hackathon? Apply for origin regions: Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Estonia or U.K. today!

We’ve gone Pirate

StartupBus Europe is a partner of Pirate Summit in Cologne, Germany. Participants on the bus will be guests of honor at the Pirate’s Summit and automatically entered into the Walk the Plank competition.

Spread the word

Join our ThunderClap to spread the word about StartupBus Europe.

Building a Robot Cofounder

0

photo by Ben Husmann

In the beginning there is never enough time and never enough people to do everything that your startup needs done. The dev team could always use an extra hand, the nontechnical cofounder always hogs the summer intern, you enjoy the spike in traffic a new blog post brings but wish you could figure out a way to write it in your sleep.

Worst of all are the critical tasks that need to be done on a regular basis over time in order to be effective. Nothing kills your entrepreneurial stamina like monotony.

That’s why I started building a robot cofounder for Exversion almost a year ago.

My robot cofounder is really a collection of scripts and APIs that automate our most basic regular tasks. Most of these tasks are biz dev or social media related, but you can just as easily build automation into boring and awful technical tasks if you wanted. I cannot overstate the power of smart automation. Anyone can write a script that runs regularly, but the robot cofounder project was about making sure the output of those scripts didn’t seem like it was generated automatically. People love robots, but no one wants to feel like they are talking to one.

That makes it sound like there’s some complicated machine learning AI magic built in, but really it’s more about applying small amounts of human processing in the right places.

Task One: Managing a Weekly Mailing List
It started with our mailing list. The mailing list always brought in tons of traffic, the problem was writing the content was a real pain in the ass. I knew we really weren’t utilizing this resource very well, but I also knew that most of the startup mailing lists I have been automatically subscribed to I also automatically delete every week. There didn’t seem to be much point to taking valuable time away from tasks I enjoyed to produce content many people would never even open.

That being said, there are a few weekly emails I do look forward to reading. And they all had one thing in common: they were news digests. Blogs posts and announcements on niche topics that interested me compiled and delivered weekly so that I didn’t have to troll the internet looking for them.

So I thought to myself: why don’t we do that with data? No one else is.

This is how Exversion’s weekly mailing list came to be. Every Tuesday night a cron job fires on Exversion’s server that runs a request to Algolia’s API. Algolia– if you are not aware– has built a search engine that indexes Hacker News. So robot cofounder sends a query to Algolia asking for all links posted to Hacker News in the last week have the keyword “data” in either their title or comments. We take only the first twenty links.

Then robot cofounder scrapes DataTau’s front page. DataTau is basically a data science specific Hacker News clone. It has much less traffic, but consequently articles that make it to the front page are much more technical and in-depth. There are no startup announcements, no general interest links. An article can stay on the front page for a full week.

Lastly robot cofounder assembles a list of new content on Exversion that we may want to promote. This includes blog posts, tutorials, interesting new datasets or new data requests.

Robot cofounder takes this large list of links and pushes them to MailChimp’s API which assembles the mailing using the right template and formatting and schedules it to be sent out to Exversion’s mailing list pending approval. Robot cofounder than triggers a test email which delivers the draft to my email.

Now all that remains for me to do is to trim the list of links down to the most interesting collection of news. I cut pretty aggressively, trying to get the right blend of data science, data infrastructure, open data news. The balance between content for beginners and content for experts is particularly important. We want there are be something for everyone at every skill level.

Once that’s done I create a title, regenerate the plain text version and click send. The whole process takes me around ten minutes.

Task 2: Manage Our Twitter Account
The mailing list worked out really well. We had a wave of unsubscribes as our emails went from once-every-six-months to once-every-week, but we were anticipating that. It had been so long since our last email surely most of our subscribers had forgotten they were subscribed! Over the next two months the bleeding stopped and slowly but surely we started gaining more users than we were losing. People were constantly coming up to me and telling me how much they loved the new mailing list and we got a nice spike in traffic every Wednesday.

It was time to expand robot cofounder’s responsibilities to our Twitter account.

The thing about sites like Hacker News and Reddit is that they are basically firehoses to content. No one can keep track of everything so there’s a real value in tapping into that content and helping people find the gems that will interest them. Our weekly digests were great, but they only grabbed the top matches for the week at that moment. It seemed like a smart idea to resuscitate our neglected Twitter account by having it distribute interesting data news daily.

And since the code for grabbing that news was already written, automating our Twitter account was just a matter of setting up a free Buffer account and hooking robot cofounder into their API.

Every morning when I open up Exversion’s admin dashboard, robot cofounder has prepared a list of links about data extracted from Hacker News the day before. I approve the ones I think are worth tweeting and robot cofounder assigns a time for them and sends them to Buffer. The whole process takes no more than five minutes.

Task 3: Harvest and Qualify Sales Leads
I have recently fallen in love with Contactually (FYI – signing up with that link will give you $10 off) which is a tool to automate and manage your relationships via email. You can import contacts from almost anywhere, sort them into buckets and build whole automated programs around the buckets that send specific emails at certain times based on certain triggers.

Most people use Contactually as a CRM, but robot cofounder uses it for so much more than sending dry sales email. Because they have a pretty robust API, I can create whole series of interactions with users and potential clients that seem organic and real but are actually generated and managed by Exversion’s server.

What Good is a Robot Cofounder?
Since I started building a robot cofounder, traffic to Exversion has grown by 275% Our twitter account has gone from hundreds of followers who were mostly fake to thousands of followers who are extremely real and influential in our field. Our mailing list open rate is a good 20% above the average for our industry. All this is starting to translate nicely into more users, more sales, more speaking engagements, more collaboration opportunities and most importantly more free time for me to write code!