South by Southwest is known as the techies’ spring break, where exclusive parties are thrown and startups come to Austin to launch their products. Flying in a private jet isn’t the only way to get there.
Some 300 hackers have paid $299 for a ticket on Startupbus for a chance to spend three days crammed on a bus, hacking on their way to Austin. (Some students got discounts.)
This year, 10 buses will be filled with 30 hackers. The buses will leave from major tech hubs including New York, San Francisco, and several other cities.
The bus road trip idea actually began as a joke over some beers. But according to Eoin McMillan, the director of operations, somebody posted a splash page and TechCrunch picked it up as a story.
Elias Bizannes, who came up with the idea, felt pressure to make it actually happen, so he raised enough money in two weeks and sent a bus from San Francisco to SXSW in 2010.
Brandon Leonardo, who played a major role in building the first Startupbus web site, told us, “when I first rode the bus I had wanted to do a startup my whole life, but never did it. Then I was exposed to all these amazing people that were living my dreams. It was a catalyst that pushed me into moving on. It also jump started my network, which is super important considering my background was working for a bunch of small companies.”
In preparation for the 2012 trip next moth, Leonardo set up a group chat using Tokbox’s service and invited us to join. We got to meet about 20 Startupbus alumni during the chat, and they were a warm and welcoming bunch. The idea of cramming on a bus with these hackers didn’t seem so bad after all. Leonardo told us he plans to integrate the group chat into the website.
Even if you’re not going on the trip, you can watch the “buspreneurs” hack on Startupbus.com from March 6 to 9.
“We have a live stock market game, which will allow home audiences to trade shares in the startups and compete to get the largest portfolio,” McMillan explained.