Led by Conductors Kevin Mircovich and Brent Henderson, a busload of techies and innovators will leave Tampa July 31 to travel more than 650 miles to New Orleans on the StartupBus.
Described as an entrepreneurial boot camp and hackathon on wheels, the StartupBus brings together marketers, developers and designers to launch startups in 72 hours.
“StartupBus offers a platform to launch your idea. It’s an opportunity to build a team around your concept and take it from idea to reality,” Mircovich explains. “You’ll validate your idea, build an MVP [minimum viable product] and get traction all in a week.”
What riders usually have in common is an interest in entrepreneurship, plus a desire to sharpen their skills and develop a network. “We get people from all kinds of careers and backgrounds. We get everything from successful business owners, to aspiring entrepreneurs, students, and retirees,” he says. “Generally participants have some kind of experience or background in tech, but we’ve of course had non tech-savvy riders that excel.”
The StartupBus offers prospective entrepreneurs an opportunity to build a business team -- or work on someone else’s. “This is a chance for people with a business idea to recruit a team, and the people without an idea to find a team or idea they are interested in working on,” he says.
Riders face a number of challenges, such as working in the limited space onboard the bus with sporadic wifi service. “Some of the best work you’ll get done is in hotel lobbies along the way. Most teams take advantage of that and will work all night in the lobby,” he advises.
Participants pay a $299 registration fee, plus reduced rates on lodging. They also must pay for food and transportation home.
The journey ends for the approximately 30 riders August 4 at StartupBus Finals in New Orleans, where they have a chance to pitch their new business projects to investors and industry experts -- along with teams from six other regions in North America.
Although there aren’t any cash prizes, Mircovich says the rewards are greater than cash. “You’ll learn a ton about starting a company (through experience), you’ll find that you’ve become a no-excuses / get things done kind of person, and you’ll build great relationships with people you may work with in the future,” he explains.
Mircovich, now a software engineer, knows firsthand. In 2014, he rode the bus to Austin, TX, as a rookie. “I jumped on the bus, not knowing what to expect, and in the 72 hours my team and I came up with an idea, developed a solution, created a brand, closed some sales, and pitched what we built on stage in front of hundreds of other entrepreneurs. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone and into entrepreneurship,” he recalls.
The experience led him to learn software development.
More than 2,000 have participated in StartupBus since it began in San Francisco in 2010. Hundreds of companies have formed on the bus or through the alumni network.
The first Tampa bus rolled in 2012 after a number of residents participated in the 2011 trek from Miami. If you'd like to apply for the 2017 ride, visit North America Startup Bus and use the invite code 83degreesmedia.