There are many ways to SxSW, the annual music, film and interactive festival in Austin, Texas, and while most choose to make their way to the Lone Star State by air, a (growing) group of individuals have chosen to make that trip by bus instead, coming from as far away as New York City and San Francisco. This isn’t any ordinary road trip, however, and participants are expected to hatch, develop, market, and launch a product by the end of their three-day trip to Austin.
Hello, StartUpBus, the brainchild of Australian Elias Bizannes who first thought of the concept as a half-joke with friends. The first StartupBus took off from San Francisco to Austin in 2010, and since then, it has grown to have a presence in more than six cities (including from Mexico City, Mexico!)
As far as a “buspreneur” goes, I probably come as one of the more unlikely candidates – a marketing professional at an ad agency and a freelance journalist. Startups have always fascinated me, both as a tech enthusiast and writer, but I’ve never actively been involved in one (I’ll help out here and there but nothing from start to finish). What better way to do it then to go on a bus for three days with a group of complete strangers? 🙂
And so, what have I learned:
- Team formation is everything and defining roles early will help make sure you hit all key milestones, especially in such a short period of time
- Culture drives strategy – in business, the strategy is often the first thing that’s defined and what often dictates larger companies. But especially in such a finite time, you’ll discover that your aspirations and the values your team stands for can really drive you strategy and approach
- Messaging and pitching are two different things. Messaging should guide all communications, pitches are written to be delivered, and at the end of the day — even if you’re selling a technical product, it should be a story. Features and technical usability keep a user, but a story should always be the hook that draws them in.
- Hackathons shouldn’t just be for developers – the opportunity to refine, iterate, and improve your skills in such a short period of time is invaluable
- And above all else, have fun and learn 🙂
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