After our mind changing trip to Oaxaca we almost immediately started a completely different adventure:
Creating a company in 72 hours on Startupbus
On the day we returned to Mexico City, with our thoughts still in Oaxaca, we found out we were selected for StartupBus. WHOOOHOOOT, how cool is that??? From March 5th till March 14th we are travelling from Mexico City to the worlds leading technology conference SXSW in Austin, Texas while participating in one of the most demanding competitions in entrepreneurship in the world: Startupbus! Many of our readers have indicated they had absolutely no clue what were doing at this bus and why it was so special to be part of it. And moreover: why would somebody put two Dutchies on a Mexican Startupbus? So let me explain briefly.
The idea behind Startupbus is that participants learn to transform their ideas into working products and companies in less than three days. On a bus. With people you never met before. With very little sleep (did I say we slept..?). This also means the goal is not to launch successful internet companies (although it sometimes happens) but to have participants experience the feeling of entrepreneurship and what you need to create a minimum viable product.
With our knowledge of business modeling, public speaking, service design, HTML/CSS, WordPress and business experience we were added as the final two participants (and the only non-Mexicans) on the Mexican Startupbus to give workshops, help people how to pitch in English (which is a big challenge for non-native speakers), provide coaching and of course create awesome companies.
The first foreign bus ever to compete in Startupbus, was a Mexican one. We competed against 11 other busses coming from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Boston, New York and other cities in the U.S. Our goal was to show that Mexican entrepreneurship is alive and kicking! And we did! Out of a total of 45 competing teams, two teams from the Mexican bus made it to the semi-finals and Stevens team even made it to the finals! He presented his company for an impressive audience of investors and press during SXSWi. On my way to the start this adventure, I got on the bus a little nervous and sweaty, to get out one week later, fascinated and confident.
What fascinated me most about the trip on the Startupbus s that entrepreneurs can be successful by listening to others, be creative, dare to take decisions, having the guts to push things through that seem impossible at first. Mexicans were thé underdogs in this competition: ‘No one thought something that would actually worked would come out of that bus’ according to Elias Bizanne (Founder of Startupbus) about the Mexican Startupbus during his opening speech at the finals.
But he and everybody else fairly underestimated the Mexicans! In a bus without electricity, without wifi and while ‘sleeping’ on gym floors we faced the Yale and Harvard educated Americans that were traveling in fully equipped busses and slept in high end hotels. We practiced pitching our freshly born ideas on the bus when our laptops ran out of batteries. We did very hostile McDonalds takeovers with 40 Mexicans to charge our computers and use the free wifi to up and download our precious ideas in progress. Every hour we are being challenged by Eoin (our bus conductor) and other coaches to think about: What can you improve, how can you be more creative, what do you need to be more successful?? In this way eight new Mexican companies are born and six eventually present a working product. And all of this in only 72 hours.
The difference between the Mexicans and the Americans is emphasized by many things but especially our bus is reason for debate and laughter: “That [bus] must be a joke, you tell me you changed buses around the corner before you arrived here right?” and “oh, I would refuse to work at anything if I had to travel in that [bus]. Later that night in San Antonio just across the Mexican border, an American bar tender refuses to serve beer to the Mexican customers ”You should not be here, go away“. The world at its smallest. With all this narrow minded thinking and difficult circumstances you might think that the Mexicans would be discouraged or, insecure or set back. On the contrary: with heads up high and chest forward they show entrepreneurial spirit: use what you DO have and work hard. Mexico has proven they are not only worthy participants but also also ASS KICKING FINALISTS!!
Steven wrote a very good and well received blog about our ten learnings from Startupbus that is definetly worth the read. Check the pictures we took here to get a better impression and visit the website of Stevens company that made it to he finals: Spott App.
Without your help we could not have participated on Startupbus. After a request on our blog for small donations many of you responded. Thanks to Bas van de Haterd, Jordy Hindriks, Lars Zwerink, Arja en Jan Vermeij, Judith Vis, Esther Vermue, Tim Wortman and Christiaan Elferink we were able to pay for the expensive stay in the US without having to touch our Digital Nomadz travel budget. You guys rock and we are soo thankful!