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Major League Hacking, Jon Gottfried on MLH Origins and StartupBus

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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

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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

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

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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

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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?

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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

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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?

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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

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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?

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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!

Announcing the winner of StartupBus Europe 2014

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The winner of the StartupBus Europe 2014 competition is Zumo!

Zumo pitching on stage at Pioneers Festival

Zumo was founded on the Greek bus and provides on-demand interactions using modern technologies like WebRTC. The typical use-case would be online retail shops like Zalando or Travelplanet24 having an “ask” or “help” button. Clicking the button would instantly open a video-chat or a chatroom with someone from the shop without the customer having to switch context and thus improving the customer experience.

Congratulations Zumo!

And now without further ado, the new European directors 2014!

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We are excited to announce the European directors for the next year. Whilst the discussions are ongoing for other community leaders (expect more news!), the following three amazing people will lead our entire operation in Europe with the focus being our annual competition in late 2014. They have proved themselves in our organisation for the last couple of years and we can talk on for hours about them but maybe best to just do a show and tell..

Hans van Gent Hans van Gent Hans was a Viking Buspreneur in 2012, a conductor of the Benelux bus in 2013 (delivering the number one and two in last years Europe competition), and is now going to be one of our directors for Europe. With a focus on “experience” — he is to ensure ‘customer happiness’  to the buspreneurs participating and sponsors who subsidise the experience.

When not creating the best experience ever for everybody involved, he works in (digital) advertising as a Senior Account for DigitasLBi. If that isn’t enough he helps form founders and ideas into problem solvers and pain killers at Evolv Weekend throughout Europe.

Hans van Gent on LinkedIn – Hans van Gent on Twitter

Rose Jeantet

Rose JeantetRose was a buspreneur in the German bus in 2012, then became conductor for The French bus in 2013, and co-hosted StartupBusTV for North America 2014. She is now our first female director of Europe, and second ever.

With a focus on “people”, Rose will oversee the entire recruitment process and ensuring only the very best European hustlers, hackers and hipsters get on board.

When not casting talent around Europe, Rose dedicates her time for the sister company of StartupBus, “StartupHouse” which is an incubator in San Francisco and travels between the US and Europe.

Rose Jeantet on LinkedIn – Rose Jeantet on Twitter

Marko Müller

Marko Müller Marko was a conductor of the German bus in 2012 due to his previous experience on a related event and a European director in 2013 running European operations, with in 2014 having a focus on “revenue” — he will drive our fundraising and cash management; moreover, he’ll concentrate on long-term customer relations.

When not raising and counting money, Marko – a Design Thinking enthusiast – currently works as consultant (still at Accenture) and will move forward as Business Inspirator.

Marko Müller on LinkedIn – Marko Müller on Twitter

So that’s them, give them a warm welcome whenever you see them around and if you are interested to help them out with the competition of 2014 by wanting to organise a bus be sure to contact them!

Two months in, how is our winner Aiden doing?

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Almost two months ago we set our little adventure in Europe. For the first time we had the amazing number of 6 buses driving, lots and lots of teams on board all buses and all filled with amazing people. But at the end of our journey, there could off course be only one winner. Just before Christmas I decided to have a meetup with the team that one and see how they are doing right now.

Visiting Team Aiden in their weekend office in Belgium

Visiting Team Aiden in their weekend office in Belgium

What I immediately noticed that the team got expanded and they got one extra hand on board in the form of another Dutch buspreneur, Menno. Menno is an amazing mobile application developer and since Aiden is off course mainly a mobile app I could see the fit straight away. Apparently the match was almost already made straight after the bus so talking about efficiency 🙂

This actually was the second time the entire team came together after the bus, being the first time only two weeks after the event. Since they all live in different countries communication is key so everyday from 19.00 till 20.00 they have a sort of open Skype call. Everybody who can join of the team is joining and this way they are still able to see each other everyday.
When asking about the biggest issue they encountered after the bus, it seems the exact seem feeling which I had last year as a buspreneur: Keeping the momentum. “When you are on the bus and or maybe just finished one StartupBus ride, you are in such a rush” is Bram telling to me. “After you all depart to your hometown and you look back on what you just did, you get amazed that you as an individual can achieve so much in so little time. I will take this with me for the rest of my life” adds Kristina to the conversation we are having. But when you get back home the best thing to do is let it go for a short time, take a step back and than decide what you will be going to do with the idea which got into shape on the bus.

They showed me a complete working native app on IOS. They told me they completely rebuilt and focused on other questions within the app based on early talks to different psychiatrist but they where still a bit struggling getting the everything scientifically correct. The charts which are normally used are protected by patents so that was not really an option if you are working on a shoestring budget. Also the business model was not quite clear yet so time for a speed course on customer development! I hope they learned a lot from wrapping up some basics of customer development in only an hour and continue on a path to success.

Aiden Screen

So good to see the entire team still being together and each focusing on a different aspect of what is needed to get the entire application of the ground. Current focus will be mainly doing more customer development and getting to define their business model. It will be a challenging experience for them after the rush in the bus, but I’m convinced they have the correct motivation and team on board to turn this into a success. We will sure be following them around on their way to their first release and wishing them all the wisdom and best in this new year!

Shot Division: press release

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Shot Division is out now, offering an exclusive fashion brand: t-shirts with shocking designs and also Socially Connected, since they are provided with NFC technology and based in a Shot Division mobile app.

Once you put on the t-shirt, the app is activated by promixity between the mobile in your pocket and the Shot Division t-shirt. Now you are on the air, so you can get notifications every time that some other user with common interests –or also looking for a match- is near you.

Shot Division t-shirts are not available for pre-orders now on www.shotdivision.com.

 

Web link: www.shotdivision.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SHYPERLINK “https://www.facebook.com/ShotDivision”hotDivision

Twitter: @ShotDivision

Promotional video: https://vimeo.com/78000528