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Startup compe­tition rolls into San Francisco

Step onto a bus in San Francisco with a bunch of strangers, and step off in Texas as the CEO of a tech company.

That’s the goal of a new competition called Startup Bus.

StartupBus is a tech industry challenge where 30 strangers a take 72-hour bus ride from eight different regions to Austin, Texas. Along the way they form into teams of three or four and try to put together a company selling an amazing product.

North America Director John Gottfried — a “buspreneur” who rode from New York in 2011 — told SFBay that StartupBus is unlike other hackathons:

“It’s one of the rare events I’ve found that creates a lasting connection between participants. It’s pretty rare to see people continue to collaborate after the event and at StartupBus we see that frequently. We see people leave their jobs and start companies together.”

Founded in 2010 by Elias Bizannes, StartupBus brings together computer developers, hackers, marketing specialists and business managers. The goal is to form a cohesive team working to develop a marketable product via an intense hackathon during a shared road trip experience.

The buses include experienced entrepreneurs on board, like conductor and StartupBus alumni Prateek Gupta, and co-conductor Marcello Schermer.

Prateek, who first rode the StartupBus from San Francisco in 2013, told SFBay he’s still in contact with the other passengers on his bus:

“It puts them in a high pressure environment where you have to do high quality work in a very short amount of time. You make incredibly strong bonds with people.”

After the buspreneurs finish their marathon road trip, they’re able to use their new network to build their business. Like the StartupBus alumni who founded Instacart, the smartphone-based online grocery delivery service.

This year StartupBuses will be leaving from nine North America locations including Toronto, Guadalajara, Kansas City, New York, Seattle, Florida and San Francisco. All buses will travel to Rackspace Headquarters in Austin.

From there, 10 to 15 teams from all nine buses will be chosen for the semi-finals. Those groups are whittled down to five or six for the finals, where industry experts will judge each entry based on innovation and usability.

Applications are still being accepted for the 2014 competition with tickets priced at $299. The bus will leave Spotify Headquarters on Market Street March 2 and a winner will be crowned March 6.

StartupBus alumni Cemre Gungor said he owes his current position at Branch, a link-sharing service, to his experience riding the StartupBus:

“There is no other life-changing opportunity that’s as fun and will create as many interesting experiences and memories for you. Especially if you feel like you have unrealized potential, StartupBus is a great way for you to explore that and level up in life.”

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