Last week, 152 entrepreneurs boarded six buses in NYC and headed to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest, the annual music, film and interactive festival that helped launch such startups as Twitter and Foursquare to national prominence.
The buses don’t just serve as a leisurely way to travel to the festival, however: Over the course of five days, the entrepreneurs will form teams to pitch, develop, build and launch new startups with their fellow passengers.
While most passengers seem to be participating for the networking possibilities or the personal opportunities for growth (many referred to the Startup Bus as a bootcamp for entrepreneurs), there is the chance that one of the startups nurtured on the bus continues to thrive after South by Southwest, says Elance Chief Marketing Officer Rich Pearson. This is the second year that Elance will be sponsoring the hackathon.
Check out this year’s cast of ‘crazy’ entrepreneurs aboard the startup bus.
Greg Ross-Munro originally hails from South Africa, but he’s been living in the United States for the past 12 years. Now residing in Tampa, Florida, he works as the managing director for SourceTOAD, a custom software engineering firm, and is the CEO of a new startup called Teburu, which is an online restaurant ordering system for small to medium restaurants.
On the bus, Ross-Munro is working on front-end design for Nomscription, which will be a mobile app that sends users a message suggesting ordering options for lunch, seamlessly charging the order to the user’s credit card and delivering lunch to the office. “You don’t have to think about what you want for lunch,” says Ross-Munro, as the app suggests your meal choices for you.
“The startup bus is like a bootcamp or prison camp for tech entrepreneurs –like SEAL training hell week,” says Ross-Munro. “When you drop a bunch of people in a stressful situation with no Internet, little power, no food – and you put them with strangers, who each think they are cleverer than the others – it’s the dumbest think you could possibly do.”
Fernando Leon, originally from Colombia, has lived in the United States and Australia, but now resides in Finland, where he works with a communications house. This is Leon’s second time traveling to the United States for the Startup Bus experience.
A serial entrepreneur, Leon says, “I’m always trying to figure out what the problem is, or if there’s something that could be done better to make people’s lives easier.”
On the bus, Leon is working on a team to build Instalodger, which will help travelers looking for last-minute budget travel accommodations. Leon is helping to “refine the user experience and user flow by introducing empathy for the user’s real circumstances into the app.”
Curtis Kline first entered the Internet startup field in the early ‘90s; since then, he has worked for various tech companies and now manages his family’s manufacturing company, which makes equipment for the oil field industry.
“I get the same thing out of the Startup Bus that artists and musicians get out of creative work,” says Kline. “It’s the satisfaction of people appreciating your work – my original work is creating businesses.”
This year, Kline is working on RepCheck, which plans to offer solutions for managing B2B credit applications for businesses of various sizes.
David Cascino, a programmer with a background in computer science, is in the middle of launching his own company, called Thunderclap, which aims to bring a flashmob experience to Twitter and Facebook. When asked how he had the time to leave Thunderclap to board the bus, Cascino laughed, “That’s a good question – I don’t really have the time.”
His team’s project is called Yaank, which serves as a personal lifeline: If you yank your headphones out of your phone’s jack, the app will send an alert to your friends or family members, in the event you feel threatened when alone.
Cascino is returning to the bus because, “It shows you what’s possible in a short period of time with a ‘get it done’ attitude.” After riding the Silicon Valley Startup Bus in 2011, Cascino was so inspired that he quit his job a month later to start work on Thunderclap.
Favorite moment thus far? “Near some abandoned town in West Virginia, we went into a restaurant, and there was a character in a huge costume from a Domino’s Pizza commercial that aired in the ‘80s,” says Cascino. “It was a random, fun moment.”
Brian Fountain, an entrepreneur who specializes in creative storytelling and marketing for a company called Mister Face, first rode the Startup Bus in 2011. “I had a great time, knew I was going to South by Southwest, and thought the alum bus would be a great way to spend a few days,” he says.
“When you’re not in a situation [like the Startup Bus] it’s easy not to move forward with a plan because of perceived limitations. Here, you get in a situation where there are so many limitations, but it still gets done,” he says. “I try to remember that when I get off the bus.”
This year, Fountain is working on a project called CheckIt Financial, an app for people who are using fast-checking services, so they can do mobile banking without a checking account.
Last week, 152 entrepreneurs boarded six buses in cities across the United States and headed to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest, the annual music, film and interactive festival that helped launch such startups as Twitter and Foursquare to national prominence. Check out some of this year’s cast of ‘crazy’ entrepreneurs aboard the bus and find out what they are cooking for the festival.