Startupbus benelux — PHOTO: patrick cohen

StartupBus: Inside the mind of a buspreneur

How 72 hours can change your life

Put a team of strangers on a bus travelling at 100 kilometers per hour have 72 hours to conceive, build and launch a startup. This year, from Amsterdam to Pioneers Festival in Vienna via Antwerp, Cologne, Berlin, Prague, and Munich, the Netherlands Bus was about to set the new standard for just how much can be done on a bus.
This story gives in an insight in what kind of emotional rollercoaster the StartupBus can be and how it changed my mindset. (forever)


StartupBus is an annual competition, now in its third year, where European top tech communities compete against each other to launch a new technology business on the way to Vienna. StartupBus was founded by Elias Bizannes. The road trip idea actually began as a joke, but it got picked up as a real story. He felt pressure to make the bus ride actually happen, from San Francisco to SXSW in Texas.

The last few years of the StartupBus competition is far from a joke. Right now, it is the most intense startup hackathon in the world, where top entrepreneurs from all around the globe compete to build the next generation of technology companies over the course of a 3-day bus ride. Customer development takes place on the streets, in pubs, cafes, toilets, you name it.

Startup in hours by Julie Donders

My adventure with the StartupBus actually starts in 2012, where I joined the ‘Vikingbus’ from Copenhagen, Denmark to LeWeb in Paris. The happenings in that bus are quite the same in comparison with the bus ride from this year, the same emotional aspects apply.

Right from the moment I applied to be a buspreneur (this is your lifelong title when you’ve attended a StartupBus) I knew I would definitely act out of my comfort zone. The constrains like your working-space, working-time and sleeping-time has a tremendous effect on the body, mind and soul.

The first thing that happens on the bus is to pitch your idea and skill-set to your fellow buspreneurs. In an organic way you form a team around your idea or someone else’s idea. Then, in a windblow you start sharing your skills and vision to your brand new team-members that will later on become your BFF’s (Buspreneur Friends Forever). Your goal is to launch your startup and convince the jury with your amazing ideas and visions. If you’ve done a great job, you’ll end up to present your startup to the world, on the Pioneers Festival stage.

72 hours in a bus by Julie Donders

This all made me think about the psychological aspects of the StartupBus and why this can (drastically) change your life.
According to several researches you’re actually enveloped by bubbles of four different sizes, the intimate space, personal space, social space and public space.
The “intimate space,” extends outward from our bodies 18 inches in every direction, and only family, pets and one’s closest friends may enter. Others could give you the creeps if they are too near.

Diagram representation of personal space limits.
Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported | WebHamster

How did we actually managed to let ourselves intrusively be part of our intimate spaces? Also, sitting still for a few hours and travelling through Europe without the actual knowledge you’re driving is not your typical roadtrip. How did we buspreneurs actually survived these 72 hours?
The StartupBus is by fact not only a hackaton, but surely a social experiment at the same time. Can you cope with the different opinions, behaviours and limited space to actually get things done?
Are you able to survive with little or no internet? And can you survive the day with little or no sleep?

A lot of questions above I can’t really answer. But what I know of attending the bus twice, is that adrenaline and teamspirit will kill any logic in your body. You will definitely fight against any interruption in the path to salvation. (this means winning the competition or at least bring the best you can)
I’ve seen people cheer and cry and i’ve seen my teammates in their weakest and strongest moments. In my mind it’s like I know them for ages now, something amazing happened. Being part of a team with people that believe in the vision they are creating is something extraordinary.


One story that correlates to this, is the story of Kristina. It’s a story that really touched me and inspired me deeply. She got herself on the bus via a competition of Apphappening that granted a free seat in the StartupBus. She won and just got to know this one day before the departure of the bus. Her idea is to help herself of getting rid of all the paperwork that involves in tracking her mood for her therapist, this because she is actually suffering from depressions. And this should be solved via a mobile app.Together with her team they managed to win the StartupBus competition 2013.
I can imagine that this rollercoaster of emotions can’t be less touching than to someone that’s not suffering from anything at all.
This ride might have been her therapy, her confirmation, that things can work out pretty good if you believe in your goal. In getting better and win. Challenging yourself to tell your story to over hundreds of people and show them to be brave.
I know that her team helped her a lot to get her to the state of mind in where she is right now. She might not realize it now, or maybe she does. But I can definitely see that she overcame her fears. I sincerely hope that this is her new drive to erase the bad memories and get rid from her depressions.

So why did the StartupBus changed my life as well? Because I know a lot can happen in just 72 hours. I know why believing in a vision and setting a clear goal can get the best out of you. Getting into the mindset that anything’s possible. I got inspired by my team members and other buspreneurs. And also by observing how Kristina (and her team) managed to pull off things greatly.

Now that I attended the StartupBus for the second time, I definitely know I never got back into that comfort zone. It feels too awesome over here! And you know what, i’ve found a lot of new friends (BFF’s) over here as well. You might hear from us soon again, because we know anything’s possible, here’s where the magic happens!

The bus will go on. (inside joke for the Benelux buspreneurs)