A combined hackathon and road trip to South by Southwest, the StartupBus is in its third year and becoming a bit of a tradition — and this time, it won’t be limited to the United States.
That’s because, after doubling the number of buses, the organizers decided to choose participating cities a little differently this year. To make sure it wasn’t overlooking any cities with passionate startup communities, StartupBus organizers allowed people to vote for their favorite regions. And it turns out that Mexico City was one of the top vote getters, behind only Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.
Until now, the main StartupBus event — founded in 2010 by Elias Bizannes — has limited its departures to US cities. Still, there were signs that it was starting to attract an international following. Entrepreneurs have flown in from other countries to join the US buses, and there was a StartupBus bound for Le Web last December.
Eoin McMillan, who is both “conductor” (basically, the organizer) of the Mexico City bus and director of operations at Bizannes’ new StartupHouse venture, says the entrepreneurs who will actually ride the bus are still being selected. (For logistical reasons, the bus will leave from San Luis Potosi.) In the meantime, there are other obstacles.
The main one, not surprisingly, is money. Some of the costs will be covered by Tec De Monterrey Zona Norte, which McMillan describes as “the MIT of Mexico” and which is sponsoring the bus. In addition, StartupBus will probably be reducing or waiving its normal fee (needed to cover costs like gas and paying the driver). But there are still the basic travel costs associated with the road trip, like buying food and paying for nightly lodging, that could make the trip too expensive for some Mexican entrepreneurs, especially college students.
So McMillan is hoping for help — ideally, he’d like to find a big sponsor who can provide the funding to give each passenger a small travel stipend, but failing that, he’s interested in talking to anyone who might be willing to help. If that’s you, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McMillan can speak passionately about the life-changing aspects of riding the bus — after all, he took the trip himself last year, after traveling from Australia to San Francisco to pursue his dreams of entrepreneurship. Now, he admits to not just drinking the StartupBus Kool-Aid, but “mainlining it,” and he says, “The thought that someone amazing who wanted to get on the bus might not be able to because of finances pisses me off.”
He also argues that Mexico City’s involvement is symbolic of a larger trend toward international entrepreneurship.
“It’s no longer about, ‘Can Mexico City compete?'” McMillan says. “It’s about, ‘Can San Francisco compete against the rest of the world combined?'”