Microsoft Windows Replaces Computers For StartupBus Southeast Theft Victims At SXSW

StartupBus Southeast participants lost thousands of dollars worth of electronics to thieves early Sunday morning in Austin, TX before going on to use donated computers to create apps that competed for top recognition.
After arriving home from the StartupBus SXSW party around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, March 9th, the team discovered a break-in at their rented home and missing equipment. Around 5:30 a.m., StartupBus global director Mitch Neff wrote on Twitter, "#StartupBus Florida house got robbed tonight of tens of thousands of laptops/electronics. That's #sxwproblems.''

Within hours of Neff's tweet, Microsoft Windows marketing team responded with an offer of new laptops and tablets to replace the ones that were stolen.

The StartupBus Southeast team was "ecstatic'' upon hearing the news that Microsoft had responded to Neff's tweet.
"They literally jumped out of their seats in the living room,'' Neff says. "Most of the people in the house were college students or young entrepreneurs just starting out. Losing data is bad enough, but having to shell out for hardware on top of that would really be a challenge.''

Neff notes that along with donating Dell and HP laptops that run on Windows 8.1, Windows gifted the StartupBus Southeast crew with limited edition sneakers from Creative Recreation, Herschel backpacks and new Surface tablets for everyone in the house.

"When Windows showed up it briefly looked like Christmas, honestly,'' Neff shares. "The smiles were a mixture of relief, gratitude, and geeky thoughts of pending 'unboxings.' The difference in the tension and mood was amazing.''
House and apartment rental service AirBnB, which the team used to reserve their rental house about a mile and a half south of Austin, TX, also "stepped up and decided to payout a stolen items claim quickly on the replacement value of the items stolen,'' Neff says. "So that's two awesome companies making a bad thing a lot better.''

#SXSWproblems Become #SXSWsolutions

The donation by the Microsoft Windows marketing team was likely the result of a marketing campaign the company has been promoting on Twitter, which is centered around the #SXSWproblems hashtag. South by Southwest is an interactive music, film, and tech conference held annually in Austin.

Before Sunday's events, StartupBus Southeast members had been competing in a "hackathon'' and pitch competition that takes place each March. The StartupBus Southeast team, which consisted largely of college students and young entrepreneurs from the Tampa Bay area, left Tampa on a bus for Austin TX, on March 2, 2014. Along the way, Web and mobile developers, designers, and business developers form teams and create new startup companies from scratch.

This year, the Florida team worked from a closed truck stop Taco Bell on one night of their trip to Texas and at one point, lost heat during a blizzard.

Despite the roadblocks, "the quality of the work of these teams was incredible. They all created publicly usable apps in three days,'' Neff says. "Ashley Mooney and Justin Davis's team, Bellelush, was amazing.''

At The Intersection of Technology And Business
Three of five teams from Tampa, including Bellelush, a makeup discovery app, advanced to the semi-finals in this year's competition.

"I'm incredibly impressed with Tampa in terms of the quality of this class of Buspreneurs. We had more developers on this year's bus than ever before, and more than some other up-and-coming regions,'' says Neff. "To me, that's a big sign that Tampa is leading some of its peer cities in terms of bringing together the technical and business elements of the startup community.''

Neff explains, "What these teams accomplish in three days is astounding. That they do it on a bus is mind-blowing. Florida did an amazing job this year.''

Justine Benstead is a writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting, and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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