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Eugenia Brini, StartupBus Italia 2015

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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

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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?

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

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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

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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!

A Startupbus tale: The day I learned how to code & enjoy country

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I’m not a techie girl. I love gadgets, I love facebook, I know how to use illustrator and photoshop, I feel a little handicap whenever I don’t have access to a wifi connection, and I’m an apple lover, but overall I’m not a tech savvy GIRL. I’m a designer. Actually I’m not a designer either, but thats a whole different story. Design is what I do and it is what i love. 

But this is not a story about design. This is a story about experimenting.This is a story about exploring and joining a community, this is a story about meeting people, this is a startup story, this is a story where worlds collide and make love like 2 horny drunk 20 somethings in a third date.

To begin, it would be nice for me to explain that I recently joined a group of crazy hackers. I’m not sure why or how, but I recently followed my heart, packed my stuff and left my pretty beautiful apartment and lovely office to move to a new city. Working online with my office and working in the evening with a group of amazing people whom in a few weeks went from being  “nice geeky guys”  to the most awesome team i could ever find; crazy smart hackers, lovely friends, silly stupid boys who tell bad jokes, overprotective boys, and all of those nice things one should find in a group of people you spend most of your day with. I work with a hacker school, and since I’m one of them now I can say I joined the most awesome, amazing, magical hacker school in the world.

Anyway… Every story has a facilitator. You know, that guy that enables the main character with maybe a magic weapon or secret and shares his wisdom. I have one of my own. Lets call him M. He is funny and a lil explosive, but he is awesome. He is the one that introduced me into this fascinating world of tech startups. And as crazy as it is, he is the one to convince me to pay a bunch of dollars in order to ride a bus with 30 strangers for 72 hours while working on a project i had no idea about and launch it. All of this while in a dirty bus, with no internet, no sleep and ugly food. This is The StartupBus. This is what our story is about.

StartupBus is like a hackaton (my first hackaton in fact), except its a super extreme hackaton. You take a bunch of great designers, business people and hackers and you dare them to launch a company as fast as they can. For me this is hard. As a strategy designer I’m used to the “fail fast, fail cheap, fail often” approach, but actually people give me money  in order to find user needs, doing research and finding a lot of insights before designing and launching a Minimum Viable Product and it’s  business model. In the StartupBus all of my research process went right out the window. We took an amazing Idea (Thanks Mau 😉 ) , created a team, and trusted our design-hustling-hacking instinct and started building a business. We just started working, and falling in love with our project.

So the first step to go on the StartupBus is applying. You have to fill in a standard application form. You put in your basics, your strengths and list the reasons why you should be on the StartupBus… My reasons? I never say no to a trip, M convinced me, and I like to think I’m a rather good strategy designer. So far so good. I applied. Then one day i got a call from this Benjamin guy who said he wanted to Skype to interview me for the StartupBus. And so we did. It was a nice call. He asked a bunch of questions, I answered. Everything was very normal until he said… “You’re in, but you have to fulfill a challenge.”  Turns out my challenge was to learn how to code in less than a week. This is when the StartupBus really started challenging my life. As I already told you I never say no to a trip, and it turns out my week, due to my traveling plans became a day. I convinced some hackers to “teach me” . Obviously I didn’t actually LEARN how to code but I did learn how to fake it and how to tell my computer to show me the stuff i wanted. Even with this little bit I felt way  too accomplished. I was ready for the StartupBus. I didn’t really knew what was going to happen, I just knew I had to buy a ticket back home and be in the meeting point at exactly 7 am the morning we were leaving.

The day we met it was all sunshine and happiness, except I felt like it was my first day at a new school. A mix of being very very nervous and super super excited. Everyone introduced themselves and pitched an idea. In just a few minutes the Mexican bus had 5 teams: an education platform, a choosing app, a tracking api, a game for kids, and my personal favorite ( cause it was my team 😛 ) a job swapping platform for creatives.

So the trip started. We jumped on the bus, and opened our computers. Thats when the internet died. Luckily we didn’t need it that much at the moment and our awesome hacker had all he needed right in his computer. Our first stop was Monterrey. El cowork was our first hosting space, and since we had to enjoy the internet we stayed up all night. This first night was very easy so we worked a lot and started building the platform. In the morning we headed towards Austin.

The one thing you don’t know is that Startupbus Mexico includes the “migration experience”.  In Nuevo Laredo border we had to come off the bus and basically pitch our startups and the Startupbus brand to the migration officers in order to convince them we  were actually going to a competition in Nashville. Some of them thought we were a little crazy doing this. Anyway, after 3 hours waiting at the border and 3 hours on the road we got to Austin Tx. The people at Tech Ranch Austin welcomed us with open arms and helped with everything, from hearing our bad first pitches to questioning the weak spots in our business models. To be honest by 3 am in Austin we were just about to die. We were way too tired and fell asleep for 3 or 4 hours.In the morning we washed our faces in the restroom and started our 13 hour trip to finally be in Nashville Tennessee. On the way we stopped for  “authentic tacos & quesadillas” in TacoBell (fun choice for a bus full of Mexicans), met a woman who got very angry about being called a “stranger”, found out that our conductor is one of those who buy all the weird stuff that gas stations sell, and figured out that the best beer comes in humongous golden cans.

StartupBus North America 2015

When we got to Nashville all of our fellow buspreneurs were waiting. It was amazing. The first real approach to our new community felt like getting home after years being away. We found our rooms at the hotel and started prepping our final pitching practice before the big day. The first day of competition arrived, and after meeting with a real shower we jumped in another bus and got to ground zero. That’s where everything was going to happen. Team after team was called into a “secret” room and pitched their startups. The semifinalist were announced, and luckily 2 of the Mexican teams were called back to semifinals (not mine though 🙁 ). As tradition states now all of us in the bus should lend our hands to help the called back teams to stand out. After an afternoon of Startupbus hysteria we headed towards downtown Nashville. There I discovered a type of music were hips are not needed: Country. At first we were not very into it, but eventually we mixed in with the crowd at Tootsies and danced the night away with an awesome rock and roll  band.

The day of the finals came and our new task was to help the team that was in. With an amazing hangover I headed to the venue, dusted off my graphic designer abilities and started helping. Excitement was at it’s highest point. All of the finalist were in a rush of nervousness, redbull, happiness, anxiety, angst… you know, all of those weird feelings entrepreneurs have all the time. Before the winner was discovered we got inspired by amazing talks and after a while the winner was announced. Pizzafy was this year champion and even thought there were a lot of mixed opinions that was one awesome pitch (congratulations guys :)!).  Night came and Tootsies again was the witness of all mixing and mingling of Startupbus North America. I felt like i was back in kindergarten, there were so many amazing human beings to talk with that I didn’t know where to look or what to do with the little time i had to party with this people. I met awesome buspreneurs. A lot of new friends, and in some weird way i felt like I found my kind.

The StartupBus experience began as a bunch of strangers pitching ideas and it ended as a family with inner weird jokes, thanksgiving worthy fighting, underage drinking and absolutely a bunch of people in the same family who didn’t choose to be together but now kind of love each other. 🙂

StartupBus Americas 2015 Blog Post Round up

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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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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

StartupBus

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.

Read More

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

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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.

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Bridgefy, Alumni Company with World-Changing Potential

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Jorge Rios from Bridgefy will be joining alumni and buspreneurs for Accelerate: Nashville on June 8th.

Bridgefy was born on StartupBus North America 2014, where the team went on to place 2nd overall. The founders, Jorge, Diego, and Roberto, went on to raise enough pre-seed capital to quit their jobs, move to San Francisco, and work full-time on Bridgefy. In early May 2015, they released the Bridgefy app for both Android and iPhone, the fruits of their 12-month work after having raised seed capital in November 2014 and built a team of 7. Bridgefy is based in San Francisco, with development going on in Mexico City.

We established the core founding team, we got validation for our idea, and we met people who have helped us a lot throughout the company’s lifetime.

I got on the Bus looking for a new project and team,  but I never thought I’d be working on something with so much world-changing potential. Don’t be afraid to be great. Just jump.

Before the bus, I thought it was this legendary contest where only hand-picked people participated and competed. After, I thought the exact same thing except that it’s not so far-fetched to think a Mexican team could win it someday soon.

I got on the Bus looking for a new project and team,  but I never thought I’d be working on something with so much world-changing potential.

Don’t be afraid to be great. Just jump.

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