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Get on the bus

Last summer I saw an appeal from Steven to help him out organising StartupBus in Belgium. He needed someone to get shit done and even kick some ass if/whenever needed. He might have called it a “producer” though. Anyway, I really felt ready to pull some rabbits out of my top hat and signed up. Time was not on our side as we only had 2 months to get the first Belgian bus a reality.

StartupBus was not new to me, the last few years I heard Steven and Hans talk about this project. Multiple times. My eyes might even have glossed over at some point when the subject was broached for the umpteenth time. Too many mentions of the buzz word “startup” did that to me.

When was the last time you did something that frightened you?

One of the recruitment baselines was also the reason why I got involved. I had time on my hands and wanted to do something out of the ordinary (for me). The startup scene was unknown to me. I got involved (can’t remember now if this was completely voluntary) in the recruitment and had to persuade complete strangers in a language unbeknownst to mankind (yes I’m talking about webdevs) to enroll in the project. Not my regular pond as you can imagine.

Are you crazy enough?

The participants were registering for the adventure of their life. For different reasons:

  • wanted to experience if it was really as crazy as people said
  • wanted to get her project started
  • needed a ride
  • wanted to mentor young lions
  • the experience, THE EXPERIENCE

StartupBus Belgium 2015
StartupBus Belgium 2015

In a nutshell: we were organising a bootcamp for entrepreneurs, a hands-on workshop on how to start up your startup by putting complete strangers on a bus. Those with a brilliant idea got to pitch it and enthuse people to complete their team, make a business plan, get customer validation, build that MVP, make a prototype (yup, we were mostly focussing on apps) and get pitch perfect. Oh did I mention the bus? So, all of us were driving in 72 hours from coworking space to incubator to accelerator in the confined space of a bus. From Belgium to the Netherlands, to Germany, back to Belgium and then to our final destination: Pirate Summit in Cologne. The other competing buses were coming from UK, Italy, Estonia and Germany. Lots of work to do and not enough time – and by extension sleep, battery life nor Wi-Fi. Roaming, anyone?

Crazy tough but also crazy fun. I didn’t have to compete against all those odds but the vibe was felt in the whole group. And we got fantastic results: we were accompanied by journalists, a deputy minister and some random American along the way. Managed to get terrific press coverage in magazines, newspapers and even got our 5 minutes of fame on national TV. One team got in the semi-finals and 2 out of the 3 Belgian teams got invited to work in the Allianz Digital accelerator in Munich. Not bad for a first edition, not bad at all.

When you want stuff to happen, you’ve got to make it happen for yourself

So when I got off that bus, I decided to set up my own PR company. Alright, it would be a kitchen table affair at first (I’ve got a desk now but that’s another, long-winded, story) but I am really doing it! More on that later, I’ve still got some cocktail recipes to publish first.

Hey you!

Yes you! Doesn’t matter if you’re not a front end or back end developer as we need marketing wizards, people who mean business and design gurus as well. Want to enroll in StartupBus, the 2016 edition? Leave your address here and get notified when registrations are open. There are also North American, Australian and African editions if Europe is too small for you.

Or: you or your company wants to play a supporting role and sponsor the project? Or get one (or more) of your employees to participate as an incentive, steep learning curve or because they need to expiate some mischief? Contact me whilst I’m looking for my top hat.

Image Credits: Vincent Schroeven.

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