News & Analysis

All aboard! Unorthodox hackathon StartupBus arrives in Sydney

- August 14, 2014 3 MIN READ

Creativity can crop up in the most unusual circumstances – even at a Jack Johnson concert, as we’ve been told by Adam Theobald, Co-Founder of Beat The Q. Just as unlikely is for an idea to emerge while hurtling down a highway at 110 kilometres per hour. But that’s exactly what Elias Bizannes intends to incite when he boards 25 strangers onto a bus this August for a three-day road trip out of Sydney and back. 

It was at a Silicon Beach gathering back in 2010 when Bizannes came up with an idea for an unorthodox startup competition – albeit, with the help of a few beers in his system. At the time, he was about to relocate to San Francisco, and thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to get Aussies over to the US for the SxSW Conference to build their networks and rapport on a road trip?’ As a joke, he told his friends ‘we should launch a startup on arrival’. That’s how StartupBus came to life – the global hackathon which runs across the US, Europe, Africa and now Australia.

Fast forward five years, and StartupBus has had over 1,000 tech entrepreneurs from around the world build their startups from scratch on 44 buses. On the 29th of August, StartupBus arrives in Australia for the first time with Bizannes running a bus from Sydney and back in conjunction with SydStart, a tech startup conference founded by Pete Cooper. 

Bizannes told Startup Daily that the original inspiration for StartupBus spawned from a desire to help build Australia’s tech startup community, so there was no doubt that he would bring the competition to Australia – it was just a matter of time. He added, “This is the reason this bus is departing from Sydney and returning to Sydney, which is different from how we normally do it — because it plays on the fact that StartupBus is coming full circle.”

Though he’s been in San Francisco for the past five years, Bizannes was very involved in building our startup ecosystem as the initial bricks were being laid. “I was very much involved early on in building the community with the Silicon Beach brand which still stands as a drinks around Australia and a mailing list, not to mention the now-defunct podcast and political advocacy I did for the community. I’ve been in the US now for five years and want to bring a little something back,” he said.

Startup Daily asked Bizannes how he would define a startup, and he said “a temporary type of organisation searching for a business model until it reaches the point of generating cashflow that can sustain its operations.”

While this definition is less specific to that of #StartupAUS – the non-for-profit that characterises startups as innovative, tech-savvy and high scalable – it still means the StartupBus competition isn’t for everyone. Bizannes clarified that although everybody has the freedom to enter, StartupBus will only select the “best hackers (coders), hipsters (designers) and hustlers (marketers).” He added, “We like to fill the bus with 80 percent of people who can build a product.”

So what can Australians expect to get out of the StartupBus experience? The only thing we know for sure is that it will be a very intense 72 hours that will test people and push them to their limits.

“The entire point of StartupBus however is to build an invite-only community of buspreneurs; once you succeed in the competition, you will join this community is global — from San Francisco to New York to Berlin,” said Bizannes.

Perhaps, the most interesting philosophy Bizannes shares is that entrepreneurship can’t be taught, it can only be learned from practical experience.

“Don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of the three founders of Instacart were people that ran StartupBus. Instacart was formed in 2012 after the StartupBus competition and is now worth half a billion dollars,” said Bizannes. He makes a compelling point.

Those who are interested in the challenge can apply via www.startupbus.com.