How would you spend three days on a bus with strangers? If reading, watching movies or sleeping are among your top choices, then the
is not for you.
The destination is the South By Southwest (SXSW) technology conference in Austin, Texas, but that's almost beside the point. Startup Bus is all about the journey -- three days on the road, brainstorming and launching new companies with fellow hackers (programmers), hipsters (designers) and hustlers (entrepreneurs). What started as a lark in 2010 is now a growing movement that's spread from San Francisco to other American cities, and even Europe.
“It's not about the companies that come out,” says Greg Svitak of Hyland Software, who rode the Cleveland Startup Bus last year and is serving as the “conductor” of this year's Ohio trip, which leaves from Columbus on March 6. It's really about the relationships that emerge as the 30 bus riders pitch their ideas, then coalesce into small teams around the best few. Svitak knows of three startups in the works in Cleveland right now that resulted from friendships formed on last year's ride. And that's the larger goal, Svitak says -- building an international community of tech-savvy entrepreneurs, a few local connections at a time.
As conductor, Svitak chooses the riders, but based on their resumes, not their ideas. Even he won't know who's pitching what until the wheels are rolling. He'll then choose the two best startup ideas that emerge on the way to Texas. And at SXSW, the finalists from the 10 buses expected this year will present their concepts to venture capitalists. Last year, seven were offered funding, including Mom and Pop Co-ops
, which reduces costs for small retailers by combining their buying power. Two of its three founders are from Northeast Ohio.
To apply for this year's Ohio Startup Bus, register at the website. From March 6 through 9, you can follow the progress at StartupBus.tv.
Source: Greg Svitak
Writer: Frank Lewis