If you’re from the area and have never heard the word “buspreneur” before, that’s probably because 2016 marks the first year that a StartupBus is departing from Akron, Ohio. With a mission to “empower people to disrupt the status quo and create a better life for us all”, StartupBus is an annual competition designed to challenge top tier talent to hop on a bus and conceive, build and launch a startup in 72 hours. Startupbus isn’t limited to Akron, however. This year’s competition includes teams from across the country, with other competing buses coming from Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Tampa. After a few days, all buses will meet in Boulder, Colorado for the final competition, where teams will pitch for Techstars as part of Boulder Startup Week.
Teams on the Akron bus will be working on businesses targeting the Internet of Things and the Maker movement. Unlike other buses, the Akron bus will have lots of hardware hacking and building of actual physical prototypes. Riders of the Akron StartupBus include Ray Lewis who is serving as a conductor this year. Living proof that StartupBus really works to create scalable startups, Ray co-founded Akron-based Wastebits, a company with over 30 employees that was founded on the 2012 StartupBus out of Las Vegas. Other members, mentors, and conductors include representatives from the University of Akron EX[L] Center, the University of Akron Research Foundation, and a wide variety of makers, hackers, and techies from the NE Ohio Community and extending to members who traveled from out-of-state just to participate on the Akron-bus.
On Saturday, the Akron Bus was given a warm send-off at the StartupBus Launch Party, held at Wastebits and heavily supported from the local startup community. The evening included a meet-and-greet for riders and supporters as well as a panel discussion with previous riders and local entrepreneurs to give words of advice before the departure. Launch League board members Ken Burns of Tiny Circuits and Courtney Gras of Design Flux Technologies were included on the panel discussion, as well as Gaurav “G” Saxena, the co-founder of local MarkerSpace, synHAK.
The Akron StartupBus was supported by the Burton D Morgan Foundation, Knight Foundation, The EX[L] Center, and the University of Akron Research Foundation, as well as Wastebits, Cover My Meds, Balsamiq, Hotcards, Coffee and Code, Boxcast, LaunchNet, Cleveland Whisky, and Think[Box].