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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
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.
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?
Francis is co-founder, organiser, and fundraiser at StartupBus Africa
Francis Chiwunda – co-founder, organiser, and fundraiser at StartupBus Africa; focuses more on the practical side of the project. “And of course adds some smiles during tough times”, he jokes. After being introduced to StartupBus by Magnus Petersen-Paaske and Christopher Pruijsen, Francis “considered it no harm to have such a trip in the region” so StartupBus Africa was born and Francis became the Zimbabwean part of our very international team! Francis explains that StartupBus Africa is not just a road trip as it does well to bring together people from different parts of the globe who would not have met otherwise.
Francis is, in true StartupBus Africa spirit, a multi-tasker explaining that he “finds himself having to balance between his studies and his passion for entrepreneurship”. Francis’ passion for entrepreneurship has seen him being the co-founder of ecosfera, a young start-up which produces eco-bricks (environmentally friendly building bricks). This start-up has as one of its main goals to address global warming and climate change. Francis has been involved with various entrepreneurship projects; most notably, the Kairos Society. He is the Founder of the African Chapter of the society and has supported the building of the society in 5 different African countries. But this was not enough and so Francis has gotten involved as a delegate at various youth forums such as One Young World and the South American Business Forum (SABF). He is also on a Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (CFA) scholarship to complete his prestigious CFA Level 1 examinations.
Amongst all this Francis, as someone passionate about the African continent, is concerned with the social impact that the StartupBus Africa’s buspreneurs’ innovations in mobile technology, energy, and healthcare will have on the day to day lives of African people. Francis says of a StartupBus Africa success, “Bringing together 30 carefully selected and innovative minds and asking them to prototype on something that adds value to the end consumer – is just more than satisfying”.
Magnus Petersen-Paaske is StartupBus Africa’s leader, co-founder, facilitator and an inspired team member
Magnus Petersen-Paaske, like most of the StartupBus Africa team, is a true multi-tasker. His day job sees him being the Booster Pack Manager for Venture Cup. Venture Cup, a McKinsey initiative founded in 2000, is a business plan competition for university students. He is also, apart from his many roles on the StartupBus Africa team, the co-founder of social enterprise Mahila mobile which has been recognised by the likes of Bill Clinton. Mahila Mobile aims to bring smart phone technology to the 6 billion people yet to be exposed to it. Magnus is a web developer by trade but his unicyclying training saw him win the unicyclying world championships in 2012.
It was also in 2012 that he was a buspreneur in Boston, then a conductor on the Copenhagen leg of StartupBus, and finally the co-founder of StartupBus Africa alongside Christopher Pruijsen and Francis Chiwunda. Magnus says that he got involved with StartupBus Africa because “This is the best opportunity to learn about the African market and society, since like ever, and it is a place that truly fascinates me”.
And who better to hold so many roles on the StartupBus Africa team than someone who is vastly involved in the start-up space. Magnus has organised Startup Live Copenhagen, taught the Hackademy coding class in Copenhagen, participated in Global Entrepreneurship Summer School in Munich, been a delegate at World Business Dialogue in Cologne, held the position of regional president and founder of Kairos Society in the Nordics, and (as already mentioned) is deeply immersed in the various StartupBus tours.
And for Magnus, StartupBus Africa will have been successful when, “The buspreneurs look back and see this as a life changing event, we can see that the businesses they built are still more than viable, and the connections made on the bus have turned into proper friendships that help them get ahead in their careers and their businesses and help them create the next generation of African enterprises”.
Pruijsen fills the role of co-producer on the StartupBus Africa team
When Christopher Pruijsen is not fulfilling his role of StartupBus Africa co-producer, he is the Lead Growth Strategist at Raising IT which uses a unique and proprietary platform to help charities improve their digital efforts for events, appeals, ecommerce, and more. An evident and successful multi-tasker, Pruijsen was the youngest-ever President of Oxford Entrepreneurs at the University of Oxford, from which he matriculated at age 17. And just a few months ago, he organised the two-day Startup Launchpad conference for NACUE which was hosted in London with over 435 attendees and 75 speakers.
Pruijsen, as with StartupBus Africa, has helped start several youth enterprise programmes but has also expanded others and gained a number of fellowships as a result, including the prestigious “Global Shaper” award from the World Economic Forum. For example, his work with the Kairos Society landed him a seat on their Global Advisory Board. This part of his work has seen him negotiating partnerships between corporates, start-ups, nonprofits, government bodies and various high level organisations. On the StartupBus Africa side, Pruijsen has arranged several of the larger partnerships; the likes of which include BBC, Bloomberg TV, UN Foundation, and Mozilla.
As co-producer, Pruijsen is also responsible for part of the StartupBus Africa marketing as well as the mentor programme. He has something to boast about when he explains, “Our social media has contributed a large part to making possible the success of our Thunderclap (140,000 people reached) and IndieGoGo (10,000 Euro raised) campaigns, as well as our applications (over 200 received for just 30 spots)”. On the mentor programme side, Pruijsen has secured 50 mentors for the StartupBus Africa buspreneurs.
His passion for the project is apparent and not surprising when one considers that Pruijsen and Magnus Petersen-Paaske had the initial idea for StartupBus Africa. Both men were previous organisers of FounderBus UK and StartupBus Vikings/Denmark and have used this experience to build the African version. They have worked alongside the experienced FounderBus co-founder and StartupBus Africa’s leader of the team Fabian Guhl and the amazing and dedicated local team members in Zimbabwe and South Africa to pull off this complex programme in Africa. While Pruijsen hopes that some of the ideas developed on the bus will be realised in reality, his emphasis is on StartupBus Africa’s main goal to create a global community that allows the coming together of diverse individuals to solve real African problems. Pruijsen synthesises what a StartupBus Africa success would look like by saying, “It’s about fun, it’s about bridging cultural and generational divides and it’s about solving real problems. To me, that is what StartupBus is about”.
StartupBus Africa’s leader of the pack
At 31, Fabian-Carlos Guhl is passionate about developing people and unmistakably obsessive about efficiency in all he and his team do.
Guhl was born and raised in Berlin, Germany where he completed his education. His university career, however, also took him to Paris and London. He has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Media and Communication and his Masters degree in International Business from ESCP Europe.
Fluent in three languages (German, English, French), it is no surprise that Guhl has travelled extensively for his work; having had a rich variety of exciting posts. From interning for the Vice President of the African Development Bank (ADB) in Tunisia to working in Maketing Communications for the United Nations (UN) in New York, Guhl is no stranger to the development sector. Nonetheless, he says “These organisations (the ADB & UN) move slow and I want to move things quickly”. So, Guhl moved into the digital world where he has been since 2009; working for startups, founding his own, working for a business angel, and doing online marketing sales.
This, coupled with his curiosity, landed Guhl the position of co-founder of FounderBus, what was to be Europe’s version of the American StartupBus. FounderBus was a new challenge for Guhl and soon it merged with StartupBus, as the organisations had incredibly similar goals. Soon after the merger Guhl thought, “I want to do Africa”; so, he joined Magnus Petersen-Paaske and Christopher Pruisjen who had already began building StartupBus Africa. The project has been on the go for approximately 5 months, with Guhl at the helm. He says of StartupBus Africa, “I have the feeling that I am doing something good with this project”.
Guhl explains that leading a team which is scattered all over the world, “is a challenge definitely but it is also a lot of fun”. He tells of his love for challenges and that he thinks he has worked out a good team.
It is this team that has 3 main goals, very clearly outlined by the Guhl: to stimulate networks, raise awareness of Africa’s potential and raise awareness for entrepreneurship in Africa, and ultimately to support the buspreneurs in creating startups that last. But Guhl is adamant that developing people and raising awareness are the most important StartupBus Africa objectives. And with Guhl as leader of the pack, StartupBus Africa is sure to go above and beyond its most pertinent objectives.
StartupBus Africa’s very own ‘Guy-on-the-ground-in-SA’
Stuart Minnaar is a 27 year old rising tech entrepreneur in the Cape Town entrepreneurship space. It was in November 2011 that he won the SAB Kickstart National Competition, a win which accelerated his rise within the South African entrepreneurship space. Minnaar currently runs Studentology (www.studentology.co.za), an online marketing and information company that connects businesses and brands to the student market and provides students with free online services. Studentology is leading the South African technology revolution with its application – Yappo (http://www.yappo.co.za/), a mobile payments application.
Minnaar is passionate about entrepreneurship, regardless of his engineering background, and this is evident in the many positions that he holds within the entrepreneurship space. He is an entrepreneurship lecturer as well as the South African partner for many international entrepreneurship projects. Minnaar is experienced in domesticating various international projects in South Africa and he says of the StartupBus Africa project, “The intention of doing it in South Africa is to position the South African technology entrepreneurship space on the African map”. Minnaar argues that South Africa is a “little behind the curve”.
And of what a successful StartupBus Africa project would look like; Minnaar makes one of Margaret Mead’s quotes, his own: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed entrepreneurs can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
To find out more details about Minnaar’s remarkable journey, take a look at his LinkedIn profile here: http://za.linkedin.com/in/mincestew