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.
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. 🙂