What happens when more than 100 entrepreneurs embark on a 72-hour bus journey to concept, design and pitch the next big tech thing?

With the right flow, pretty much anything they can imagine.

StartupBus is one of the most unusual startup competitions around. In a nutshell, the competition invites the best “Hackers” (programmers and coders), “Hustlers” (business and marketing minds) and “Hipsters” (designers and other creatives) to board a bus and form teams to conceptualize and design a tech-focused prototype or app with all of their hard work culminating in epic pitches to StartupBus judges and investors.

And they only have 72 hours to do it.

Earlier this summer, five buses in North America were a flurry of activity as “Buspreneurs” neglected sleep, overcame motion sickness, and tapped into strong competitive spirits to embrace the intense collaborative energy needed to perfect their pitches. The buses, originating from five regions (Mexico, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and West Coast) headed to Nashville for Accelerate, the ultimate “unconference” where the Buspreneurs would make their pitches.

In the time-crunched, “A-game-only” environment that permeates the StartupBus experience, rapid interaction was the crucial element that drove the perfect storm of excitement, innovation and revolutionary thought. Considering conference rooms were a bit scarce among the five buses (and perhaps even from a Walmart in Punxsutawney?), the teams needed a solid virtual collaboration tool to organize the chaos of rapid-fire ideas, graphics, slides, and pics.

Intrigued by the entire concept of StartupBus, Cisco’s very own Mitch Neff went along for the ride, hunkering down on the Southeast bus that started its journey from Tampa.  We were fortunate (and frankly captivated) to be able to watch the teams incorporate Cisco Spark, using the app for supercharged team chats – but with a whole lot of other awesome features for getting work done.

CiscoSpark_Bus_miniinfographic_FB_Edits2Initially, Cisco Spark was used to get each Buspreneur into a single, large kickoff room to give them the rules of the road; following that, each bus leader created a working room for their own individual bus. From there it was all up to the newly formed teams to get to work, and they dove in headfirst.  The Buspreneurs proceeded to create their own Spark rooms, exchanging files, images, documents and video at rapid-fire pace. In a collaborative twist, teams even used Spark to communicate with other buses and meet their competitors.

What really went down in Cisco Spark during StartupBus?  Well, from 6 “seed” rooms with a single message per room on day 1, by the end of the competition, Buspreneurs:

  • Created 250 rooms
  • Shared nearly 10,000 messages and files
  • Coined “Spark me” as the new cool kid catchphrase

StartupBus has been around for five years but this was the first year that Cisco Spark was used to keep Buspreneurs connected in innovative ways that were simple to implement:

  • Anyone could be added to a room regardless of platform or device, using just an email address. This meant no headaches when inviting other Buspreneurs.
  • With all that was going on, the teams were juggling a lot of information. With Cisco Spark, Buspreneurs were able to stay on top of all their topics and projects in one streamlined UI.
  • Persistence usually pays off and it did in Cisco Spark rooms. People were able to review comments and files quickly and newly added folks were able to get caught up quickly and provide pitch-saving expertise. In one case, a UX expert from the Northeast region bus was able to help a team from a Southeast region bus when they advanced in the competition.
  • A central Cisco Spark room was used as a sort of “command center” for the entire group, allowing organizers to reach everyone with information about the trip, during the caravan to Nashville and even after the bus rides.

startupbus shot startupbus tweet

“In all the years we’ve held StartupBus competitions, we’ve never had collaboration among teams like this before,” said StartupBus founder Elias Bizannes. “It was super easy for teams to use and allowed for streamlined communication that was simply amazing.”

StartupBus 2015 was another epic adventure and we LOVED being part of it. Be sure to check out StartupBus and get involved if you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next Hacker, Hustler, or Hipster.

Where should we take Cisco Spark next?
Have you and your teams used Spark while literally on the go, like the StartupBus teams?
If you’re not yet using Cisco Spark, download it now and join in the fun


Jeff Marusak

Sr. Manager

Global Service Provider