3-day bus tour aims to launch startups in Tennessee

What happens when you take 20 designers, coders, entrepreneurs and marketing folks, stick them on a bus, send them on a three-day trip from Nashville to San Antonio and tell them to start businesses along the way?

Good things, CrunchFire Ventures managing partner Steve Repetti swears. Buspreneurs.

Tennessee is sending a bus to the annual StartupBus competition and pitch in San Antonio for the first time this year. The program was founded in 2010 and now draws hundreds of entrepreneurs from all over the United States.

Bus riders will leave from Nashville, introduce themselves, pitch business ideas and then break into four or five teams to work on those ideas throughout the trip. The bus will stop in several cities on the way to San Antonio, and at each city, the teams will pitch their ideas to local experts and investors. The trip culminates in a pitch to investors in San Antonio.

Tennessee's StartupBus will roll into Chattanooga at 10:30 a.m. Sunday for the first stop of the trip, just a couple of hours after the bus riders meet each other for the first time. Anyone in the South could have applied for a seat on the bus, said Repetti, "conductor" of the bus.

He's been involved with StartupBus since the beginning. He said the trip is about strengthening the South's network of entrepreneurs. While there's no guaranteed prize up for grabs in San Antonio, the trip provides entrepreneurs with valuable exposure.

"A typical startup weekend might have a regional view, this has a global view," he said. "You have a lot of folks and investors and public relations that are really focused on this effort."

As an investor, he enjoys the unique environment on a StartupBus.

"It's an interesting filter for talent and being able to see firsthand people working under pressure but in a very creative environment," he said.

No one from the Chattanooga area is riding the bus this year, but the bus's stop in Chattanooga is a good sign for the city, said Co.Lab communications director Tia Capps.

"It highlights Chattanooga's growing leadership as a driver of startup activity in Tennessee," she said. "Our inclusion in this tour speaks to the strong environment we're cultivating for entrepreneurs in our area."

Buspreneurs from the South will compete against six other buses from San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Kansas, Guadalajara and Mexico City.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

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