StartupBus: Get Onto The Bus!

Last year I participated in what was, for me, a life altering experience: I got on The StartupBus, a hackathon and road trip from New York City to Austin, Texas, arriving in time for the South by Southwest Interactive conference. Along the way teams of strangers formed at the start of the trip conceived, built, and pitched a startup, entirely from scratch… on a moving bus.

It seemed like it would be a harrowing experience, to say the least. At the time I was working on projects of my own, I was extremely low on money, and I didn’t think I had the resources or wherewithal to take a trip like that. So when I first heard about StartupBus through my social network connections, I was intrigued, but I wasn’t sure it was for me right at that moment. Several people, including my mom, strongly encouraged me to apply; I had never been to SXSWi, or even to Texas before, so ultimately I figured “what have I got to lose?” and started working on fundraising from friends & family for my trip. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be… and that became my first step on the path to realizing the capabilities of the network I already had, and coming into my own as an entrepreneur.

This year, after working to prove to the national directors of StartupBus that I could organize locally and leverage my connections, I was selected to be the conductor of the New York StartupBus, boarding in just a couple of weeks, on March 6th. I’m currently interviewing applicants in person, trying to fill the 30 seats on our bus with the absolute best people I can find. This post will be one in a series over the next few weeks offering some advice to potential “buspreneurs” for this year’s event.

What To Bring With You On The StartupBus

  • “Carry-on” bag. A briefcase, messenger, or oversize laptop bag – you should be able to fit everything in it that you need to be able to get access to while riding the bus. I also think having lots of pockets is great, I’m all about having a really organized kit bag.
  • Smartphone. A smartphone is absolutely essential.  If you don’t own one, you really should get one before the trip; without one, you’re going to be extremely limited in your ability to get things done on the bus and in Austin. For one thing, the StartupBus national team will be releasing a mobile communications platform for all participants – you’ll be able to communicate directly with everyone on your bus, and with everyone on all the other buses converging towards Austin. You’ll also want to be able to record quality video for video pitches you’ll be making and for news footage that you’ll be able to upload to Startupbus.tv (our own media channel), so either rely on your phone if it can record well, or bring a digital camera.
  • A MiFi. Mobile wifi will be provided, but bringing your own backup MiFi can be a huge help, especially when there are multiple people on the bus with multiple carriers. I had brought my own last year, and it was a huge advantage for my team to have Internet connection when no one else did.
  • Extra batteries. Having extra juice for your phones, laptops, cameras, or other electronic devices – and don’t forget all the wires, plugs, and chargers. Make sure everything is in working order, and is fully charged before you leave! There’s nothing worse than a laptop battery that dies mid-trip. Backups!
  • Sleep aids. Whether it’s on the bus or in the hotel room, you’re going to spend a lot of time around other people in generally uncomfortable quarters – and when you get a chance to rest you’re going to need to take full advantage of it. It’ll help to have an eye mask to block light, ear plugs to block noise, and maybe a little melatonin if you use it… but don’t oversleep! The bus has got to keep moving!!
  • External storage. The utility of thumb drives and external hard drives cannot be overstated. When the cloud storage fails or the Internet connection is gone, you’re going to be very glad everyone can share files physically, quickly. And oh, by the way, BACKUPS.
  • Food items. All of the following are great to have handy: energy bars and trail mix (for snacks), gum (for fresh breath), crystallized ginger (for settling stomachs). Bonus environmental friendliness points for bringing your own insulated bottle for filling with water and other potables!
  • Medical items. In addition to whatever regular prescriptions, personal items, or medicinals you’ll need, you might consider the following over the counter items: Dramamine (for any possible motion sickness), Pepto bismol or antacid pills (should any gastrointestinal distress occur), tissues (always handy), and vitamins of any sorts – vitamin B for energy, C and D to ward off colds, or plain old multivitamins or those vitamin gummy bears?
  • Office supplies. It’s always good to have plenty of pencils and paper to draw on. Unlined paper, as well as graph paper, and maybe a ruler or two? Dry erase markers are also handy, as we’ll draw on the windows for our whiteboards!

The New York City bus will have some provisions and supplies on it; we’ll have water, drinks caffeinated and not, and a few different foodstuffs:  bread, peanut butter & jelly, fruits. We’ll also have plenty of other supplies for most other contingencies!

Stay tuned for more information, coming soon here, and on the StartupBus web site!

Many thanks to @ecspike and @pinzler for their additions to the article