From Sunday on, everything went incredibly fast in the Viking Bus. The teams were working at a crazy pace, sleep deprived and practically running on energy drinks. The goal was to finalize their prototypes, refine their pitching, and prove that their idea had already gotten traction. Everything had to be perfect for the next two competitions in Cologne and, for the ones who would make it into Le Web, in Paris.
The semi-finals revealed the great job that the German and Viking buspreneurs had done during the past 72 hours. The teams made an impression but only three would make it to the final showdown. After the semi-final event at Clusterhaus, Cologne, Vikings and Germans jumped in one bus for a seven-hour ride to Paris. The jury’s verdict, which was announced while rolling to France sent two Viking teams -Amordomus and Plinq- and one German team, Haystack, to Microsoft’s podium in Paris. Rolling on the German highway the announcement of the results electrified the crowd and fired up a frenzied celebration with loud music, frivolous dance and a high beer consumption all the way to Paris.
In the early hours of Monday morning, we finally arrived at our destination. Our meeting point, where five Startup and Founders Buses completed their four-day journey across Europe. After a couple of hours rest, the morning found us train hopping in the Parisian subway to reach the ESCP campus, our Wildcard competition venue. Teams from all the buses that didn’t make it past the semi-finals had one more chance to convince the jury that they deserved to be among the finalists. The jury was composed of the five buses coordinators and the founder of Startup Bus, Elias Bizzanes, who would give one team the ticket to the finals.
Early in the afternoon we were at Microsoft’s campus for the final showdown: eight teams on stage, a six-member jury and let the pitches begin… The 8 finalists included:
-Amordomus and Plinq from the Viking Bus. See description here.
-From the Spanish bus, the BESTDJ.is, an all inclusive platform designed to provide exposure to Dj’s from all around the world to reach their fans and potential clients.
-Beat Goliath – the Wildcard competition winner – a platform that allows people to protest and fight for their rights via Twitter.
-Bench an application developed by a French team that helps you discover the city in a fun and interactive way.
-Time Squared an app that aims to solve the problem of wasted time. The app is a calendar which aggregates data from all your other calendars (Facebook, Gmail, etc.) and suggests fun and useful things for you to do in your free time.
-Spinning Jennie also from the British bus presented a platform that connects independent designers with their most engaged followers by bringing crowdfunding to high end fashion.
-Finally, Haystack from Germany, a dating application that uses social media to turn friends into match-makers and promises to make dating fun again.
Despite the exhaustion most teams were in an excellent form and determined to win the jury’s attention with great visual presentations and enthusiastic speeches. The jury consisted of the renowned entrepreneurs Michael Schneider [CEO of Mobile Roadie], Tim Park [Tech Evangelist at Microsoft], Om Malik [GigaOm], David Hornik [investor and partner at August Capital] and Olivier Mathiot [co-founder of Prime Minister], and named Haystack winner of the Buspreneurs competition. With the announcement the winners and the rest of us exploded in loud cheers. We had a lot to be thrilled about and we were planning to celebrate appropriately: champagne in our hands, a short stop to the Eiffel Tower to give a proper Parisian touch to our celebration and then to the bars of Paris.
This journey is an experience that I am certain I won’t forget. 19 people, most of them meeting for the first time, jumped in a bus for a four-day adventure creating, learning, sharing, and of course partying. The experience was so intense that it felt like we were travelling for weeks, like we were living in a parallel universe for 96 hours, where time and space were almost irrelevant. I travelled with 19 exceptional people, not only skilled, but also friendly, talented, imaginative, hard-working, eager to learn and share. No wonder I left feeling like I’d known all of them for months. These Vikings made this journey not only a great learning experience, but also a hell of a lot of fun. In this trip, the competition and time pressure is the most blessed thing it can happen to you. It has nothing to do with winning per se, it’s about becoming the best you can be; it’s all about understanding your own and your teammate’s strengths and faults.
Getting in my train to Amsterdam on Tuesday morning I became a bit nostalgic recollecting pieces of the events and all the people involved. Thank you all for this great journey. It wouldn’t have happened without you. Good luck with your further pursuits and hopefully we will meet again for a new adventure!