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A STARTUPBUS RITUAL

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StartupBus isn’t just about putting people on a bus and having them launch businesses: that’s the excuse. The real driver behind the concept was to get people working together so they can form an alumni network and develop some raw experience together, that in turn makes them more likely to succeed with their future entrepreneurial ventures. (Here’s a video of me futher explaining this to the 2010 buspreneur class.)

Something we do to further that goal, is to get the people before they get put into teams, to work on the StartupBus platform. The reason is because when on the bus, everyone breaks up into teams and they don’t interact with others due to the frantic rush to push a product out. In 2011, this problem is compouned by the fact we have people from multiple cities involved in the event, which will create silo’s in the community.

The pre-bus work program is designed to have people build relationships and collaborate together as a group. This not only gives a stronger ownership over StartupBus the concept as an organic community-driven effort (this entire event is run by alumni on a volunteer basis), but it further strengthens the network that gets developed as part of the experience.

Starting from this weekend, the alumni and I will release our plans to get the incoming 150 170+ buspreneurs working together which will include hackathons, virtual collaboration with sister bus cities, and a frantic week of creating nothing into something. The work includes pushing the limits with location awareness technology, a game for the StartupBus audience to engage with, content management systems for the teams to announce their work, a virtual file system to be put on each bus, organising the launch parties and even the booking of accomodation for the group on the way and at Austin.

And while the work developed is intended as a way to get people working together, they also will be building some very valuable things that will help them work more efficiently on the bus and create more exposure of StartupBus. The value of the latter is so when they launch their startups they can benefit from the collective work under a unified brand that links them together.

So if you’ve been accepted to be a 2011 buspreneur, get ready because the fun starts now!

SPONSORS WHO ARE PUTTING BUSPRENEURS ON THE ROAD

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StartupBus is a community-led effort and sponsors are a big part of it. They are engines that help us put buses on the road and ensure minimal cost to buspreneurs. So far – we’ve been amazed by the excitement and willingness to help from our sponsors. Here are some pioneers who are leading the way:

  • Xero.com – they make cloud-based accounting software that boot-strappy entrepreneurs can rely on.
  • Box.net – a super easy way to share files and collaborate on the cloud. They’ll make sure buspreneurs are effectively sharing and managing their files on the go.
  • Twilio.com – they make it easy to build killer apps that communicate via SMS and voice. They’ll whip up some cool apps that will help you (the audience) participate in the voting process.

We are also getting some help from these awesome companies:

  • WePay.com – helps groups collect and manage payments. They will help us collect participant fees quickly and cheaply.
  • HollrBack.com – makes a mobile app that allows you to do what business card can’t do – by providing context around your connections.

We’re thrilled to have these supporters onboard!

As more sponsors get onboard – you’ll find them all here. If you want to help StartupBus or know somebody who would like to sponsor StartupBus – contact us sponsorship @ startupbus.com We are especially happy to connect with sponsors that can provide any of the following:

  • Wifi for the buses
  • Host launch events in each city and meetups enroute to Austin, TX.
  • Energy bars, energy drinks or just food for mere humans.
  • Anything else that we left out and you think would help buspreneurs to get to the destination

THE ROUGHEST DETAILS

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We’ve been asked multiple times what the final dates and times are for the buses. The truth is that we’re ironing the details out, but I can tell you this:

  • Most buses will be leaving on the morning of March 8th. A launch party is planned the night before in each departure city.
  • They will arrive in Austin by the evening of March 10th. There will be a welcoming party/startup crawl that night. Fun!
  • The official party (an official SxSW event) — which will be one team representing each region– will be on Monday night, March 14th. You don’t want to miss this one.

YOU’RE EITHER ON THE BUS, OR OFF THE BUS.

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Hacker News seems to really love linking to us. Today’s link though had a cool comment that we had to share:

This is a really fascinating example of a cultural phenomenon that seems to be brewing. It seems like the same kind of smart and imaginative young people who in 1965 would have been starting rock bands are now trying to create startups. Maybe in a few years from now the time will be right for Codestock Nation.

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was about a bus from San Francisco that launched a new movement. Just sayin’.

THE BUS CONDUCTORS

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One of the rules I set after the first StartupBus, is that all future buses need to be run by alumni of the ‘buspreneur’ community. We call these people “Bus Conductors”. They play a huge role in the process leading up to the event but also in the way the event is executed like how I did it last year on my own. This year, we will have six buses run by six different people.

From the West Coast, Jonas Huckestein (video) and Brandon Leonardo (video) will run the Bay Area buses (one from San Francisco or “new” SilIcon Valley) and one from Palo Alto or “Old” Silicon Valley). From the mid-west, Anthony Broad-Crawford (video) will run the Cleveland bus and Karolis Karalevicius (video) will run the Chicago bus. And from the East coast, Justin Isaf (video) will run the New York City bus while Steve Repetti (video) will run the Miami bus. (And without leaving him out, Igor Dolgalev (video) is helping out with the design side of things and likely will be on the New York bus.)

The conductors are busy going through the hundreds of applications we have received and prioritising them. Confirmations for the next stage is happening gradually for people and over the coming days we hope to notify a lot more people.

So if you have a questions, reach out to the conducters (or all of us through team @ startupbus.com). Justin is making it a rule of meetingeveryone that he picks and Anthony is declaring on Twitter cafes he is working out of to meet people. Each of them has their own biases and the only agreed on rule by the group is that they pick kick-arse people. It’s just “kick-arse” means completely different things to each of the conducters.

— Elias Bizannes (video), the first bus conductor

THE PARTICIPATION FEE…AND HOW TO GET IT WAIVED.

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The StartupBus is largely driven by sponsorship from awesome companies like Xero.com who share our values and love seeing entrepreneurs flourish. But, as I’m sure most of you have noticed there is also a participation fee which ensures that those of us who help organize this don’t get stuck with the check when everyone else gets up from the table. That being said, we don’t think that just paying it on your credit card is very interesting. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you’re probably going to have to raise funds at some point, and you might as well start now.

So, we’re challenging you to raise your $200 fee not from your own pocket but in sponsorship from companies, friends, family, lemonade stand proceeds, your twitter network, your blog or anywhere else that you can get your wider community involved. And, because we want you to succeed, we’ve set up a Kickstarter campaign to help you raise the funds. Lets be honest, it’s sometimes a bit awkward asking to be sponsored – Kickstarter makes it a lot easier. Check the campaign out at http://kck.st/i9SEzc and start spreading the word.

If we hit out $10,000 goal, we’ll start refunding as much of the participation fees as we can.

Of course, if you want to go a route other than Kickstarter, we fully encourage it! These are a few ideas that we’ve seen floating around, and if you have others, leave them in the comments – bonus points for creative suggestions!

  • Get your company (or any company) to sponsor you to wear their t-shirt while you’re on the bus – just ask for more than one shirt so you can change it from time to time.
  • Ask your mother for cash – if your mother is anything like mine, she will be glued to the StartupBus website while you’re on the bus and would be happy to help.
  • Reach out to a company on Twitter and suggest that they sponsor the StartupBus.
  • Talk to the local chamber of commerce about helping to promote the tech scene in your city.

IS YOUR APPLICATION APPLICABLE?

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To be a part of the StartupBus, you need to be invited, write an application, get selected and pay the participation fee. So what about these applications?

Let me just say we are blown away by the quality of applicants, not to mention the originality and thoughtfulness of the applications we’ve received so far.  The sheer craziness of this event in combination with the invite system has proven to be an effective filter of potential applicants. We’ve seen poems, pictures, videos, bullet-point lists and life-stories, have been offered bribes and favors and received requests to bring a bus to the remotest areas of the country.

We’re currently reviewing all applications. Please make sure you have ticked the boxes about what locations you are willing to depart from and what skills you contribute. We are starting the process of notifying people this weekend of who is accepted, but unless you have those boxes ticked, you won’t be considered.

NEXT STEPS ONCE YOU’VE BEEN INVITED

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Two weeks ago we launched our website. By connecting to the website with your Facebook account, you register your interest in the event. To unlock the website where you can fill out an application, you need to be invited.

Now what?

If you’ve been invited, chances are you fit the mould of the person we’re looking for. There will still be some vetting of people through the applications, but this is more to ensure we have a good balance of people with skills in product development and business development – as well as background checks on people who may compromise the unique experience we’re trying to build.

The total participation fee has been set at $200. You need to pay this (or source this – see below) in order to be on the bus.

  • $100 of the participation fee is a non-refundable ticket that guarantees your seat
  • The additional $100 is a refundable contribution to ensure we can cover all the costs.

What we mean by the refundable $100 fee is that if we successfully raise enough money in sponsorship (ie, exceed our target), we will refund this amount to you when the buses roll.

Additionally, we understand some of you may be cash-strapped so we are giving people the opportunity to leverage their skills in securing sponsorship, where someone (like a friend or an advertiser) is willing to contribute to the cost for your participation through sponsoring.

Details will be sent out later this week as we send out a notice to those whose applications we’ve accepted.