OTC News Archive

Startup buses revving up for South By Southwest

Christopher Calnan, ABJ Entrepreneur
March 4, 2011

An innovative idea—on wheels no less—to connect national entrepreneurs with Austin’s startup community during South By Southwest Interactive has taken a giant leap forward.

The Startup Bus, which last year carried 26 technology entrepreneurs from San Francisco to Austin so they could brainstorm business plans on the way, is expanding this year with six startup buses. They’ll start from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Miami, organizers said.

The riders on last year’s Startup Bus generated six Internet-based companies during the trip to Austin. This year, organizers are expecting about 160 participants who will leave their prospective cities on March 8 and arrive in Austin in time for a so-called Startup Crawl that will feature a tour of 15 local startups.

The two events are expected to generate interest and connect entrepreneurs with like-minded members of the technology community.

“It’s really just about selling Austin to all the people coming to South By Southwest,” said Startup Crawl organizer Joshua Baer, the CEO of Austin-based OtherInbox Inc. The event, which is being billed to feature “hot tech and cold beer,” is being sponsored by The Capital Factory, a local tech startup incubator, of which Baer is a managing director.

The annual South By Southwest festival, which will be operating March 11-20, includes the technology-focused South By Southwest Interactive March 11-15. Last year, an estimated 35,000 people attended the overall event that also includes a film festival and a music festival.

The Startup Crawl is scheduled for 4-10 p.m. March 10. Baer expects about 500 participants, including the 160 Startup Bus riders.

Elias Bizannes, an Australian national living in San Francisco, launched the Startup Bus last year in an effort to connect Australian entrepreneurs with Austin entrepreneurs. Although only eight of the riders were from Australia, the rest being passionate Bay Area entrepreneurs eager for an intense startup experience, the results were more than Bizannes ever imagined. “My life basically changed at that point,” he said. “It really gave me insight into that this isn’t just a job; it’s something special here.”

The riders produced Web-based companies such as DormDorm, which enables colleges and universities to list available dormitory rooms for summer travelers.

The Startup Bus costs Bizannes about $1,000 per person, but sponsors such as the technology blog TechCrunch enable him to charge $200 per rider. He expects to grow the event. “I still think it’s small,” he said. “This year is a test for one next year. What we’re ultimately trying to do is create a community.”

[ SXSW ]