What could you do in 72 hours? My StartUpBus journey

So I just got back from spending a week building a startup, on a bus, with a team of people I’d just met. Doing the math of it, I’d say I had minus 2000 hours of sleep, consumed 782,939,993,535 calories (which were mainly pizza), reaching breaking point 4 times, and pitched terribly 90% of the time… Did I have a good time and enjoy it? Honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I would do it one hundred more times, well maybe not that many, but let’s just go with that.

Pirate Summit, Cologne

I spent a week with strangers, who became team members and friends. The crazy thing is, that after 72 hours, you know people well enough that a cuddle or a hug doesn’t feel weird, if that makes any sense. For anyone who doesn’t have time to read this post, there’s basically one thing to take away from my experience… The three W’s from StartUpBus… WiFi, water/wine (dependent on startup progress), and Worcester sauce flavored crisps.

People say that I sound crazy, and maybe I am, but I’m okay with that. I’ve met entrepreneurs and you hear stories from others who built a start up in a year, and how long and hard it was… But try squeezing that into 72 hours, on a bus where the toilet smells stronger than the WiFi connection.

In London, fueled by McDonald’s breakfast (thanks Bianca), you form teams (made up of Hustlers, designers and developers) based on a particular idea which you pitch in 2 minutes. On route to Paris, via the bus, ferry, then bus, you sit down with your team and get shit done. Now would be the time to name Andy McCormack and Melinda Dinh, two of the brightest and most patient sparks I have ever met. We eventually developed the idea to become Sqill (pronounced like “skill”), a web based application portal where users buddy up and exchange skills.

On the bus, we traveled from London to Paris > Luxembourg > Ghent > Hasselt > Cologne, the final stop. Over the 72 hours, not only are you building a startup, but you’re constantly pitching, pitching, pitching to the mentors on the bus. Donald, Bianca, Tina, Daniel, Paulina, and Gregory… I’m sorry for loosing my sh*t.

In between, we stayed in various hostels and hotels. Apart from building a startup, it’s cool to visit co-working spaces across Europe and meet so many different people with different ideas.

Dokwerkers, Ghent
Nyuko, Luxembourg

After the 72 hours, teams from buses across Europe met at Corda Campus for the #StartUpBus demo day. All teams pitched their #StartUpBus idea to a panel of judges in 3 minutes, timed, in front of everyone. And to almost everyone’s surprise, including my own, Team SQILL came in the top 10!

This brings us to the final day at Pirate Summit. Now, it’s hard to describe what exactly Pirate Summit is. From the outside, you just think it’s a scrap yard full of techies, drinking beer and pitching some crazy idea on very little sleep. Actually, that’s what Pirate Summit is…. A 2 day conference, where #StartUpBus finalists pitch to investors, VC’s swing on zip wires, and the SexTech industry becomes a hot topic of discussion.

Ten of the#StartUpBus teams pitch to a panel of investors, in a very hot room, with hot lights, with a 3-minute timer that everyone can see. Relaxing right?

Now, it’s absolutely no surprise that Trustful, an online voting system, UK team won the competition. The technology and genius behind it blows my mind, and everyone else’ for that matter. So to come third place in StartUpBus, to me, is amazing! This isn’t the end of the road (no bus joke pun intended) for Sqill so watch this space!

Pitches done and winners announced, it was time for the Pirate Summit party. A 50 ft wooden statue set alight with flame throwers, bottles of rum and vodka being passed around, a jazz band that threw in some hip hop bangers, a free bar, and startup mentors turned DJs, it was probably the most surreal conference party I’d been to. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Although, I’ve not seem to struggle, and thanks to anyone that’s stuck along this far down the blog, it’s hard to put StartUp bus into words really… The worst bit is that I work for a marketing agency that specialises in content writing, so I know that my blog is way too long.

I just want to take the time to say thank you to all the mentors, conductors, judges and buspreneurs. You put up with every question, tantrum and complaint and you are so patient and wonderful. Not only did I learn about turning a shit idea into a startup in 72 hours, I learn how actually bad I am at coding, I met some of the most sensational people, and made some real friends.

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