I was sitting in a Pizza Hut in Marietta, OH with close friend Zach Frankart. We had just arrived to shoot at a manufacturing plant the next day for OnScene Productions. Then I get a call from Eric Leslie (of OnScene) asking if I'd be available to shoot for a company in San Francisco as they take a bus trip to Austin for the South by Southwest Interactive festival. I couldn't say yes fast enough.
Fast forward and after making it to San Francisco and the StartupHouse, we were set to leave at 6 am. A bus full of entrepreneurs trying to conceive and launch a startup in 72 hours. Buses were also launching from Stanford, New York City, Mexico City, Boston, Cincinnati and more.
On the bus from San Francisco to Mountain View, CA was Robert Scoble, and for the brief ride he oozed knowledge and was an all-around great guy. He hopped over to the Stanford bus and rode the rest of the way to our stop in Los Angeles. Also on the bus was TechCrunch video producer John Murillo, another nice guy to have the opportunity to chat with in a few brief moments of down time.
I watched as the teams formed and ideas came and went. Eventually, they settled into five ideas (technically six, but one team, HipType, defected to the Stanford bus because it had more open seats). The companies were: Cerealize, Expensieve, Gaggle, Kinetic.ly, and Beeliner.
I watched as the developer for Expensieve had an iPhone app ready to launch in three days. Gaggle and Cerealize had impressive webapps up and running by the time we hit Austin. I know how little sleep I got during the trip, so I can only imagine how hard these busepreneurs were working.
It was inspiring to see these ideas come to fruition in such a short period of time. I can relate to some degree, when developing an idea for a short film or video, and to see what they could do under the circumstances (long stretches of no WiFi, and the bus from Mexico City didn't even have power on the bus) was impressive to say the least.
I saw a lot of great sunrises and sunsets along the way - we were up by 6am every day and rode the bus until 9 or 10pm.
Santa Monica, California
From the Santa Monica Pier
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Flight from Austin to Dallas on my trip back home
Things I took away from the trip:
It's actually not that bad riding a bus for 15 hours a day. Most of the time.
Sunrise is the best time of day.
It's insane to launch a product in 72 hours, but with the right team, it can be done.
Content is king. The apps with the most concrete set of deliverables all rose to the top.
Be prepared to sleep - A LOT - at the end of a trip like this.
In the end, there's one thing I'll remember from the trip more than anything else. One of the budding entrepreneurs was talking to me about my video work and what it was like to come up with a video, shooting and editing on a bus over the course of three days. Not unlike their companies, my project required a lot of fast thinking and long days. He made a comment to me that as great as the trip was, he didn't get to take any of it in. The people, the places. His head was always down in a computer, hard at work. While the experience was rewarding, he missed a lot of the small moments, the memories.
And it hit me. That's where my job lives. I live in that singular moment. I have to capture and produce it to share with others. So the ones on the bus, for the ones that weren't there, or couldn't be there, or may want to be there one day can experience it. A single moment in time like a sunrise or a good conversation will pass quickly, and it's my job to make sure it lives on forever.
The team that ended up winning the competition at SXSW was Cerealize from the Silicon Valley Bus. The final competition was judged by Dave McClure (500 Startups), Christine Herron (Intel Capital), Naval Ravikant (AngelList), David Cohen and Katie Rae (TechStars).
And that's it! In a week, by bus or by plane I traveled: Columbus, OH -> Dallas, TX -> San Francisco, CA -> Mountain View, CA -> Santa Monica, CA -> Indio, CA -> Phoenix, AZ -> Las Cruces, NM -> San Antonio, TX -> Austin, TX -> Dallas, TX -> Columbus, OH.
It's good to be home.