As I write, I’m somewhere in the French countryside, on an autoroute between Zurich and Paris aboard StartupBus Europe, as our epic three-day journey comes to an end.
Five teams of developers, designers and marketers have been building startup ideas which they’ll pitch tonight in Paris. It’s undoubtedly been a hardcore endeavour. The teams have been up against the clock to conceive a solid product and business plan, and to build a working prototype while attending events in multiple cities and facing the ultimate threat to Web entrepreneurs on the go – gaps in 3G data coverage that have regularly left us without Internet connectivity.
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We’ve had a total of about seven hours sleep each since Sunday morning, thanks to an ambitious schedule taking in Copenhagen, Berlin and Zurich between Amsterdam and Paris. When I last updated you on our progress, we’d just left Copenhagen en route to the German capital. After crossing the Baltic in a surprisingly WiFi-enabled ferry to Rostock in northern Germany, we set off south to Berlin.
Over pizza in the Cucina Casalinga Popolare restaurant in Berlin’s startup quarter, we talked with the entrepreneurs behind established and still-to-launch services alike, and they gave feedback to our ‘buspreneurs’ on their pitches.
Then it was back on the road for the longest single stretch of travel for the whole journey – a 12-hour trek to Zurich. While undoubtedly hard-going from a travel point of view, the teams hit a number of significant milestones, and at least one app was finished off completely.
Sleepless in Zurich
4am is no time to arrive at your destination, especially when it leaves you with just three hours to sleep before breakfast at Google’s Swiss campus. Still, breakfast at Google’s Swiss campus is nothing to be sniffed at and we were soon enjoying the taste of the food and drink in the search giant’s spiral slide-equipped canteen. This was also a final chance for our teams to perfect their pitches in front of local entrepreneurs and Google staff.
Zurich is an often overlooked startup hotspot, being home to the likes of TNW-covered apps like Local Uncle (now headquartered in New York City but maintaing staff in Europe) and image recognition company Kooaba. Among the startups that dropped by to see us at Google HQ were a peer-to-peer media streaming service, a language-learning solution and a service to help individuals work effectively from anywhere in the world.
The StartupBus teams were put through their paces by the entrepreneurs and Googlers, helping identify potential problems with their ideas and prefect their business models.
Finally, we got a tour of Google’s fantastic campus – look out for a post about that later in the week.
Now we’re heading to Paris for an event that will decide the overall winner of the first ever StartupBus Europe. The bus will be based at the LeWeb, which starts tomorrow, until Friday. So, if you’re in the area – drop by and say hello to the teams, some members of whom will be based there for the rest of the week.