It's a bus whose seats are so coveted they've even inspired geeks to become rappers. It's a bus where a select group of hackers, artists and MBAs come up with wild ideas and turn them into real products. A bus that leaves San Francisco on March 3rd bound for South by Southwest in Austin -- where potential investors are waiting. Along the way almost nobody sleeps.
"It's a very intense experience, and that's on purpose," said Falon Fatemi.
Fatemi is the conductor of the startup-bus. It began in San Francisco three years ago. Now, it's spread to 10 other cities as the way to get to South By Southwest.
When asked if it would just be easier to hop on an airplane, Fatemi replied, "Umm, yeah. I think it would be a lot easier to hop on an airplane, but it wouldn't be half as much fun."
Within two hours after boarding, the entrepreneurs form teams and get to work. They stop along the way hear from experts and do market research. They're on a tight clock.
Fatemi said last year, "Four days and you're supposed to go to South by Southwest and market your new startup, that's insane." That was when her team produced "Cerealize" -- which won the grand prize.
"We had a full-fledged prototype where you could select the ingredients that you wanted in your cereal and you could actually see it in your cereal bowl," said Fatemi.
The StartupBus is one of a growing number of hackathons happening in unusual venues. Don't fancy the open road? Well how about designing a product on the open water?
"It's a hackathon on a yacht," said VentureBeat writer Christina Farr. She says "Unreasonable at Sea" and the StartupBus exist for one reason: "There's a talent shortage in Silicon Valley, so we have to come up with these really fun crazy ideas to actually get programmers wanting to get involved with hackathons and it begins with a bus and ends with a yacht."
The startup bus is half full and taking applications.