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StartupBus NA Summer 2017


It’s that time of year again; summer sun, outdoor concerts, boating, bonfires and vaycay. It’s the time of year when ya’ll should escape the monotony of the day-to-day and set out on a new adventure.

Well brace yourselves, because this year we have the answer for you! StartupBus is an entrepreneur-accelerator on wheels in which entrepreneurs from regions across the globe come together to develop new skillsets and join an amazing network of like-minded individuals. It’s a great opportunity to find some stimulation that could generate new ideas for you or your company! Not to mention you get to road trip across the country This year, there are seven buses from across North America are traveling for three days to the pitch competition in New Orleans! Beautiful scenery, awesome startup ecosystem, and a whole lot of Shrimp Gumbo.

You should know that StartupBus isn’t for the faint of heart. Yes it’s fun, exciting, wild and totally different than anything you’ve ever done before; it is a lot of work. I mean you didn’t get to be the entrepreneur you are now by sitting around; same concept goes for the Bus! Those who put in the sweat equity will get out the most from the experience.

Riding the bus is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to become part of a lasting international network. Members of the community are elite entrepreneurs represented in each of the biggest tech ecosystems across the world. So come aboard, represent your city, and be a part of the action.

Apply Today!

Building Moving Experiences with Uber and SoundHound


Back in May 2016 we had the StartupBus North America 2016 competition driving from all over North America to Boulder Startup Week in Colorado.

The San Francisco bus was sponsored by Uber and had some dev evangelists onboard to help the new startups build awesome products using the Uber APIs. Check out the below 20 minute video with a walk-through through the APIs of both Uber and SoundHound (the latter showcasing some cool speech APIs!).

The video was cut from this one hour panel about disrupting transportation at Uber HQ in San Francisco.
StartupBus San Francisco 2016 kick-off panel at Uber HQ

StartupBus believes entrepreneurship cannot be taught but it can be learned. We do this through experiences such as our annual StartupBus competitions. In the past seven years we’ve built a global network of around 1500 tested tech entrepreneurs.

If you want to become part of our global family, our next competition is StartupBus Europe 2016, happening from 2-7 September 2016 with demo day at Corda INCubator in Hasselt (Belgium) and finals at Pirate Summit in Cologne (Germany). Apply now at!

StartupBus 2016: North America Heads to Boulder


Any buspreneur will tell you, mediocrity is a disease and StartupBus is the antidote. That’s why we’re excited to not only announce our 2016 North American Competition, but share some epic changes to this year’s event.

StartupBus North America 2016

On May 15-19th, 7 buses brimming with North America’s top tech talent will push themselves to 70 mph, as they dart across 3 countries towards Boulder, Colorado to compete on the Techstars Stage at Boulder Startup Week. Continue reading →

StartupBus Americas 2015 Blog Post Round up


NO RULES: A StartupBus Journey

by Jenn Spriggs

I’m a designer. I eat sleep and breathe building visual systems, whether that be a logo, a print, or a website. It’s something I love. When Jenn Shaw, one of this years conductor, called me up to interview me about a spot on the bus, she asked me the question and I immediately said, “Designer”. 

Well, I really said “Hipster,” but that feels really weird to actually say out loud. And there’s an unspoken rule in the hip community that you’re not really allowed to self-identify or you’re automatically a poser. 

Read more

StartupBus – A Memoir

by Mika Ichiki-Welches

Although some of the “buspreneurs” were specialists in their fields, and thus explicitly “hackers” (programmers), “hustlers” (business and marketing people), or “hipsters” (designers), some of us jumped into the experience because it was unlike anything we had ever done before. And we were all determined to make the maker world proud with the first ever hardware-centered bus – the Makerbus.

Read more

Thoughts from a StartupBus 2015 judge

By Eme Morato

As a witness inside of the Mexican bus, I’ve observed how something changes and shifts 180 degrees inside of the heads of the participants coming from the south of the border when they go through the experience of StartupBus. Something in their minds is irreversibly transformed and they start to believe that certain things they deemed impossible, aren’t really so.

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Start Up From The Bottom (Now We’re Here) #Hustlers

By Sydney Campos

I can’t describe what just happened. I got on a bus with 30 strangers, we each pitched ideas for start up companies and somehow, less than a week later, we are like a big family bonded by our common survival (and voluntary commitment) of an intense, and at times traumatic, experience. I’ve never pushed myself to such extreme limits, and over multiple days, ever before in my entire life. I guess it was life-changing to see what I’m truly capable of when I’m focused on the end goal.

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There and Back Again: My Shar.Ed StartupBus Story

By Kathy Liu

Alums looked at us with excited and proud eyes. I didn’t know what specific stories they had, but the alums looked so happy I knew at that moment that I had joined something really good. It was going to be arduous and back-breaking, but if I gave it my all it was going to be amazing and I was going to have the time of my life.

Read more


By Greg Baugues

They weren’t sure the Maker Bus was going to work. I mean, you can imagine banging away on a laptop in the back of a bus for three days, but what are you going to do, bring a 3D printer on the bus?

Our riders brought boxes full of wires and buttons and tools. Sponsors donated Arduinos and Sparks and Raspberry Pis. We made overnight stops in TechShops in Detroit and Pittsburgh giving us access to every manner of fabrication tools available.

And it worked.

For the first time in StartupBus history, every single team from a bus — the Maker Bus — proceeded to the semi-finals. And the Chicago bus was the only bus to send two teams the finals this year.

Read more

A StartupBus 2015 Experience

By O. Liam Wright

I actually found the StartupBus environment easy – it was returning home that was hard, perhaps because I became semi-institutionalized to the high concentration of talent and demands. As an entrepreneur who focuses on product architecture and business operations for Fortune 500 Clients and Startups with my company True Interaction, I found myself boiling down all actions into micro-functions,in order to control return-on-investment, and to cover high-value terrain in the shortest, most effective way possible.

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StartupBus Culture and What You Can Learn From It

By Taylor Wallace

When I told people this year that I’d just completed my third ride on the StartupBus from Tampa, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee, most looked at me like I had five heads. They’d all just completed their first journey and were exhausted after careening across the country.

Are you just a bus junkie? many asked.

No, I’m addicted to being surrounded by inspired people who seek to push themselves beyond any reasonable expectation to get shit done.

Read More

Marianne Bellotti, Exversion Alumni Company Data Hacking for The UN

I came onto the StartupBus in 2013 not really taking the startup aspect of it very seriously. For me it was just an interesting and unusual roadtrip and nothing more, but suddenly Jacek [Grebski] was standing up in front talking about all these data problems he dealt with everyday and wouldn’t it be cool to actually fix them?

It’s really funny in retrospect, at the time I tended to lump marketers together with recruiters in my mental classification system of lame people who go to technical events for the wrong reasons.

Jacek and I had run into each other a few times before the bus– we were both working in developer evangelism at the time, which is a very small close knit community– but because his background was marketing I always kind of assumed we had no mutual interests. It’s really funny in retrospect, at the time I tended to lump marketers together with recruiters in my mental classification system of lame people who go to technical events for the wrong reasons. So when he tried to talk to me before the bus I was always very skeptical about his agenda. It literally never occurred to me that he might be talking to me because we were interested in the same things. I wouldn’t say I was rude to him, but there was definitely some nodding while not really listening to what he was saying.
But on the bus his pitch hit upon ideas that I had been playing around with for months. It caught me completely off guard and I started to get really excited. I had always wanted to do something like Exversion, but I had always assumed it would be years before I could. Suddenly I was thinking “Why can’t we do this now? Why can’t I just build it?”
So that was that. The company is now two years old. We do a lot of consulting work building those data infrastructure solutions for huge organizations like the United Nations and the City of New York. Then we take that work and either integrate it into Exversion’s web platform for everyone to use, or open source it.

Being on the StartupBus

On StartupBus, I learned to recognize how badly I need to reign in my judgmental side, which is a huge plus in every aspect of my life. And the StartupBus community is a massive cache of contacts and recommendations. But I think the biggest advantage during the StartupBus is your close proximity to other teams. It’s not like normal hackathons where some teams come in fully formed with a project they’ve been working on for months, everyone starts from scratch. So while you’re trying to figure stuff out, you’re surrounded by other people trying to figure stuff out and you do end up learning from each other quite a bit. I’m a super competitive person and it was really interesting to be in an environment where the competition is intense, but the feeling of camaraderie is much more intense. That was the first time I was introduced to the idea that competing doesn’t automatically mean you are competing AGAINST someone else, which turned out to be a super important lesson.
Marianne Bellotti

Marianne co-founded Exversion on the 2013 North America StartupBus

Infrastructure is not something people enjoy thinking about generally. So in my industry the biggest barrier to a sale is not a competitor having a better product, it’s the buyer thinking to themselves “Ehh… well our current setup is good enough isn’t it?” Nine times out of ten their current setup is an elaborate network of Excel spreadsheets, dumped from a database ten years out of date, distributed over multiple Dropbox accounts and they don’t understand why their new data scientist hire is crying in the corner all the time. But still it’s really hard to get the person actually making the buying decision excited about investing in their infrastructure. If I come in and bash Exversion’s competition, it doesn’t make Exversion look like the best solution it just makes the client more skeptical of any infrastructure improvements. In our space there ends up being a huge difference between the companies that understand that by working together we all make more money, and the companies that think competing in business means competing against everyone else. Right now we’re watching one company from the latter having its empire ripped apart by a network of companies in the former.

So the structure of the StartupBus competition was a really good introduction to the type of competitive attitude that will ultimately make you successful.

What Happens After the Bus?

I went on the StartupBus because going on the StartupBus had been a turning point for every developer I knew that had an awesome career. At the time I was not happy at my job. I liked what I was doing but as a developer evangelist I was on a pretty short leash. I wasn’t working for a big startup with a nice budget for evangelism, so in a sense I felt like I was missing out on a lot of fun with conferences and hackathons. I wanted to change the game.
Afterwards I realized why StartupBus has the effect on people’s careers that it does. Normally building out your network takes months, possibly years of small meetings and run-ins. You can’t just get introduced to someone and immediately ask for a favor and expect that to go well. It takes time to develop the trust and familiarity that makes a connection really valuable.
On the bus though, all of that is accelerated. You go through some crazy stuff. It’s really like the Tough Mudder of hackathons in that sense. Shit happens and you band together. You don’t come home with thirty new network connections, you come home with thirty new best friends.

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

Not at all. I expected to hack on something stupid for three days and abandon the project as soon as we got back. Two years later I’m still here.

I expected to hack on something stupid for three days and abandon the project as soon as we got back. Two years later I’m still here.

Many of the opportunities we’ve had came from reaching out to the StartupBus network: we’re invited out to SF by Y Combinator, Tech Crunch sent us to Berlin… Today I’m getting Request for Proposals for deals that are in the $1 million to $5 million range and it’s the StartupBus community that is helping me figure out how to grow to support that level of work.

StartupBus isn’t an event, it’s an investment. Two years, three years down the road you will still be reaping advantages. No matter what you decide to do with your startup once the competition is over.


Wastebits, An Alumni Success Story


On June 8th, Wastebits, founded on the 2012 StartupBus, will join alumni and current buspreneurs in Nashville for Accelerate: Nashville

First and foremost, Wastebits is about its people and culture. We were fortunate to start as a dream team with an almost unheard of mix of talent and experience that is perfectly overlapping. Frankly I attribute that to Scott’s talent assembling product teams. And while we’ve certainly had our share of tribulations, the emphasis and investments we’ve made focusing on our culture have proven to be our persevering strength. The funny thing about culture, though, is that its never ‘done’. The base might be pretty well established but its constantly evolving that, just like a romance, culture requires an on-going investment of time and resources to cultivate and ensure that the culture remains a critical foundational block that we can each depend on as we grow.

Our team on the software side grew this year to over 20 incredibly talented and passionate folks and we’ll finish out the year with well over $1million in customer driven revenue.

Dan Collins, our CEO, really was the impetus with his visionary ideas to revolutionize the waste industry based on his intimate knowledge and relationships within the industry. The tech side of the team had been looking for an idea to rally around, something we could all apply our passions toward together; and making the world a better place by (re)defining the future of the waste industry sounded like a fun challenge. And Dan’s personal values aligned very very well with our own, so it was pretty much a perfect match.

Scott Meier co-founded Wastebits on the StartupBus in 2012

Scott Meier co-founded Wastebits on the StartupBus in 2012

Our team on the software side grew this year to over 20 incredibly talented and passionate folks and we’ll finish out the year with well over $1million in customer driven revenue. We also anticipate needing to double headcount again by 1st quarter 2016. While we’ve achieved a lot of successes together (and circumvented quite a few the ‘normal startup rules’ in doing so), we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and need to continue to grow to the team to help tackle the challenges.

Our size and growth are topics of on-going discussion for us. Immediately after our final pitch at StartupBus 2012, we collectively made the decision to be very intentional about our growth, ensuring to always get the right people on the bus first and to be very discerning on who are the ‘right’ people to be part of our team…of course employees and contractors, but also customers, investors and suppliers.

Immediately after our final pitch at StartupBus 2012, we collectively made the decision to be very intentional about our growth

Three big lessons from the StartupBus

  1. Getting the right people on the bus.
  2. Developing a trusted network.
  3. Focusing on what we need to do to drive value, and avoiding getting caught up in what everyone else says we should be doing.

From the Alum on our team, we had the impression StartupBus would pretty much be 4 intense, sleepless days figuring out how to build in 4 days what would normally take 6+ months.

And afterwards that seemed to be a pretty accurate depiction. Which was exactly why most of us resisted Scott’s prodding to get on the bus in the first place. Each of us was already pretty invested in our own endeavors. But then one by one, we had each found ourselves saying, ‘Well…if they’re in, I’m in’. And three years later here we are together still smiling (and still short on sleep!).

Ray often explains StartupBus as an immersive environment for cultivating entrepreneurial talent; likening it to a lightning MBA supported by a Community convinced they can accomplish just about anything together. Once you’re a part of the Community, its empowering and addictive!

“I’d rather see StartupBus on a resume than an MBA.” – Dave McClure, 500 Startups

After the Bus

We are each extremely driven individuals and had each been doing our own thing and supporting each other well before StartupBus. Coming together during StartupBus emphasized what was possible if we focused on the same vision together.

Funny enough though, early on on the bus each of us had considered joining other teams…but it came down to the fact that teaming together was just too compelling! And we’re all pretty happy with that decision now.

the StartupBus Community is chocked full of amazing individuals that really do care enough to work together to make the world a better place.

Advice to would be Buspreneurs:

Don’t get on a bus if you are happy to do what you are currently doing for the next 30 years of your life.

Getting on a bus will change your perception.

Red pill or blue pill…

Start a company not a startup.

Everything is connected, and everything matters.

People > Technology.

Its very apropos that our team came together and Wastebits was birthed at StartupBus.


Smart Host is Coming to Nashville


As part of Accelerate: Nashville, the StartupBus North America 2015 finals event conference, last year’s winners Smart Host will attend to offer advice to 2015 buspreneurs. Here Nick Persico from Smart Host gives advice to this year’s crop.

The trip begins with each person standing up in front of the bus to introduce themselves and pitch an idea. Since you’re a hustler, the group will naturally have a higher expectation for how you conduct yourself.

The introductions and pitches are the only data points you have to make a decision about which team you’re going to be on. I tried to market myself as outgoing, not afraid of public speaking, and someone who will get the job done.

Instead of waiting for people to come up to me, I did what every hustler should do naturally. I went up to people I found smart and interesting to show interest in their idea.


Nick PersicoNick Persico was on the NorthEast StartupBus in 2014. His team, Smart Host won the 2014 North American competition. After winning, Smart Host is still in business having successfully completed the TechStars Accelerator program.

Meet Nick Persico and the Smart Host team in Nashville on June 8th. Accelerate: Nashville


A Hustler’s Guide To StartupBus


The 2015 edition of StartupBus North America kicks off on June 4th when a new class of “buspreneuers” make the journey down to Nashville, TN.

Congratulations to those who have been selected to join the craziness that is StartupBus. You’re days away from being a part of an amazing and diverse group of people that have all experienced the ride. The circumstances, perspectives, and stories about “the ride” are different for everyone, which is what makes the experience so special.

I participated in StartupBus North America 2014 on the New York City bus and helped build a company called Smart Host. The idea was to automate pricing for short-term rental hosts on Airbnb and HomeAway. Things went well for us, as we wound up winning the competition and decided to quit our jobs to build Smart Host full-time. But more importantly, it was the beginning of many of lifelong friendships that I’m lucky to have.

This post is an attempt to share my perspective of climbing aboard the StartupBus as a hustler. In my opinion, the “hustler” is the most misunderstood and under-appreciated role in comparison to “hackers” and “hipsters”, or engineers and designers, respectively.

To help guide this year’s StartupBus hustlers, below are some tips and tricks that can help put your team in a position to be successful.

Pick the team, not the idea.

The trip begins with each person standing up in front of the bus to introduce themselves and pitch an idea. Since you’re a hustler, the group will naturally have a higher expectation for how you conduct yourself.

The introductions and pitches are the only data points you have to make a decision about which team you’re going to be on. I tried to market myself as outgoing, not afraid of public speaking, and someone who will get the job done.

Instead of waiting for people to come up to me, I did what every hustler should do naturally. I went up to people I found smart and interesting to show interest in their idea.

For example, I wrote down the programming languages and frameworks each person mentioned when they were pitching. I heard a couple of folks mention Python, so I tried to convince each of them to work on the same team. I assumed that it would allow the team to get started quickly, and not have people trying to learn a new programming language in order to contribute.

Overall, I optimized to find a team with skills that complimented each other. I honestly didn’t care about the idea. The team mattered to me most.

Like it or not, you are the team’s caretaker.

As a hustler on StartupBus, you’ll often find yourself doing things that have little to do with strategy or building the product. There are lots of little situations that will distract your team from getting things done.

It’s your job to take over all of those distractions:

  • What’s the team going to eat?
  • Do our conductors or the competition need something from us?
  • Is anyone on the team being blocked from doing their job?
  • Are our hotel rooms handled?
  • Does each person on the team know where they need to be at a certain time?

Be the person that runs interference on any person or thing that will distract the team from focusing on advancing the business. Your team may not notice it at first, but they will thank you for it afterwards.

Focus on the pitch even if you’re not the one pitching.

It’s common for StartupBus teams to have the hustler be the person that handles the pitch by default. Over the course of the trip, it felt like we were asked to pitch every fifteen minutes.

In our case, I would of been the one pitching Smart Host to hundreds of people if we hadn’t made a crucial last minute decision to change presenters. In hindsight, the decision was a no-brainer.

Here’s the backstory:

I spent the majority of the trip pitching, running interference, building the deck, and crafting the story we were going to tell on stage. We all just assumed that I was going to pitch because I was the hustler and spent the most time on it.

We started to realize that I was doing an awful job at pitching Smart Host. I wasn’t confident. I was stumbling. I was exhausted. Things weren’t looking good.

On the morning of Day 3, we were in the lobby of our hotel in Little Rock, Arksansas practicing the pitch. Our conductors were worried about how bad our pitch was, and suggested that we record it to get feedback.

Here’s one of the embarrassing recordings.

Pretty bad, right?

Soon after that video was recorded, I knew that I either had to get better at pitching fast or give the job to someone else on our team. I felt terrible about it, and did not want to let the team down.

Towards the end of the video, my face says it all:

A day passed, and my pitch did not get any better.

About an hour before we were set to hit the stage in the first round, one of our conductors suggested that we change presenters. The team did not want to take it from me, but I knew it had to be done. So we decided to switch and have Evan do the pitch.

It was clearly the right decision. Evan made an impression in the first round and stole the show in the semifinals to get us into the final round.

Here’s Evan pitching in the finals.

Whatever it takes.

A hustler does whatever it takes. It’s really difficult for a hustler to “show off” their contributions to the team. You won’t write much code. You probably won’t make the logo. It may not even be your idea in the first place.

You need to be the invisible glue that holds everything together. Your contribution to the team is the final presentation that hits the stage on competition day.

The real prize is personal growth.

The beauty of StartupBus is that you’ll learn a lot about yourself. You will accomplish things in 72-hours that you never thought were possible. Things will break. Tensions will rise. The realization that you’re on a moving bus with three dozen strangers trying to build a company will have you asking “what the hell did I just sign up for?!”

In the end, the amazing experience and new friendships make it worth all the hustle.

The Smart Host team posing with Robert Scoble after him and Evan did an interview for Rackspace at SXSW in Austin.

Announcing StartupBus North America 2015


2015 is an important year for us – not just because it’s a milestone: it’s been five years on the dot since we announced ourselves to the world. Since then, we’ve added ~1200 people our community across four continents in StartupBus competitions.  It’s been a long, strange trip – and we’re ready to go bigger than we have before in the year ahead.  There will be several major announcements made in 2015 to mark this coming of age that started with the announcement of the community councils.  Today, we’re making a key announcement that shapes the rest of the year:

StartupBus North America 2015

StartupBus NashvilleAfter considering many locations, we discovered an opportunity in Music City USA. We’re excited to head to Nashville, TN June 4-8 for the 36/86 Conference in conjunction with LaunchTN.

Elias, myself and the North American Directors recommended to the North America community council that it was time to move the North American competition away from Austin and the SxSW conference – for many of reasons – chief among them was the timing and the disconnect between the value and the cost for everyone involved.

After considering many locations, we discovered an opportunity in Music City USA.  We’re excited to head to Nashville, TN June 4-8 for the 36/86 Conference in conjunction with LaunchTN. Nashville has welcomed StartupBus with open arms and cultivated a strong alumni network over the years. With recent news like Google Fiber coming to Nashville, you know there’s something brewing there. Nashville will play host in 2015 with the Grand Finals as part of the opening event of 36/86 – as well as new activities to be announced soon…

The most meaningful relationships that come out of StartupBus form by sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the crazy people who are part of this truly unique community. This year in Nashville, we look forward to  providing a new way for the alumni community and the general public to meet the newest members and be part of the activities that facilitate those relationships.

Applications will be opening soon – if you are not alumni, we don’t make it easy to get an invite – not impossible, just not easy.  The easiest way to get considered is to pre-apply now.  Once applications open, this option will be gone…  We will be announcing the opening of applications shortly as well.

2015 is going to be an incredible year – are you ready?

Lisnr, Founded on the Midwest StartupBus, Closes $3.5m in Funding


The Wall Street Journal reports:

Lisnr Inc. … just closed on a $3.5 million Series A round, the company’s founder and Chief Executive Rodney Williams told Venture Capital Dispatch.

LISNR is a comprehensive, mobile engagement platform that uses audio-beacon technology.

Lisnr embeds tones, which are inaudible to the human ear, into digital media, as well as into speakers at live events such as sporting games. Its technology is also incorporated into various mobile apps. 

Lisnr was founded on the Midwest StartupBus out of Cincinnati in 2012. The company is already generating revenue. From the WSJ:

The company expects to have between $1 million and $2 million in revenue this year, up from about $500,000 in 2013, Mr. Williams said. The company charges its customers based on how many different types of tones the customer wants, what content it wants to trigger–a simple text message or a video, for example–and for how long it wants to run its campaign.

Read More on The Wall Street Journal Blog

Photo Credit: fr4dd Creative Commons license (Photo has been cropped)