All aboard the SXSW startup bus!

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

Bus rides are usually spent catching up on your tweets and reading trashy magazines. That is, unless you’re on the Startup Bus.

That's right, the Startup Bus.

During a drinking session with his friends, Elias Bizannes vowed to ride the bus all the way from San Francisco to Austin for the SXSW festival… And to start a business by the time he got off the bus.

An entrepreneur straight from the land down under, Elias Bizannes moved to California to pursue success in the heartland of startups: Silicon Valley.

What originally started as a fun way to travel with his friends to SXSW eventually turned into a lucrative website, a frenetic Twitter feed, and a goal of raising $5,000 to fund the project. 

"My inbox just exploded," Bizannes explained.

"All I had was an image on a website, but by the end of the week, I had $30,000 in sponsorships and 50 applications for 25 seats."

So Bizannes chartered a bus, rigged it with WiFi and looked for people willing to ride the bus from San Francisco to Austin.

He asked everyone from hardcore coders, marketing people, business dev folks and brilliant geek minds to join the road trip.

And it’s not just a leisurely bus ride - it’s a competition.

Since the very first trip, Bizannes helped organize a half a dozen Startup Buses from various hubs around the country from the Bay Area to Miami, New York, Chicago and even... Cleveland. Before you scoff, just remember Cleveland is fast becoming a hub for startups - and has even managed to capture the name "Silicon Belt."

Before reaching Austin, each bus was tasked with creating "a functional product that's available online." That means the teams had to design the software, put together a web store and make a short video pitching the product.

The bus actually bred two semi-successful startups that turned into short-lived companies. DormDorm and DateBrowsr both saw some money in funding and have since sizzled, but Bizannes says the point is not to create a viable business.

"This is about building a throwaway startup," he says. "What's really going to come out of the bus is successful people.The secret of Silicon Valley is alumni networks.... People stay in contact for the rest of their careers."

What began as an experiment of sorts has progressed into a prominent organization which receives 500 applications a year from people willing to pay a cool $200 to ride the bus.

What’s next for Bizannes? Startup House. Think of it like an entrepreneur’s version of The Real World.

(Via Mercury News