A startup incubator on wheels stopped in Charlotte this week

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StartupBus, a road trip entrepreneurship program, brings a bunch of strangers together for a 72-hour bus ride in which teams have one mission: build a startup company.

Buses depart from seven locations across North America, including NYC, San Francisco, and Tampa, but they all convene in one final destination: New Orleans. There, teams make their final pitches to potential investors.

Luckily enough, several StartupBus vehicles made a stop in Charlotte this week on their way to New Orleans. With half of their journey completed, “buspreneurs” stopped here to make practice pitches to a group of local entrepreneurs in hopes of receiving suggestions and feedback to improve both their product and presentation before the final pitch.

Buspreneurs prepare for their practice pitches to Charlotte entrepreneurs.

Madelena Mak, a StartupBus mentor and conductor, explained the creative process of entrepreneur teams on the StartupBus.

“The first day is focused on ideation and getting validation from advisors for their idea,” Mak said. “The second day is about deciding the features of the product you want to build, defining the minimum viable product, monetization strategy and business model. On the third day, teams must show they can build traction by gaining customers, securing investor interest, or peaking the media’s interest.”

It’s not uncommon for StartupBus participants to attract investor interest during the trip.

In previous years, teams have secured investors during the trip or have stuck together and raised money for their project after the trip. Even if they don’t follow through on the project they start on the bus, several teams that met on StartupBus stay together to work on a different product down the road, as did the founders of Instacart.

13 different teams each had 2 minutes to pitch their product to a group of Charlotte entrepreneurs.

StartupBus entrepreneurs pitch at Catawba Brewing Co.

These projects stuck out to me, though all of the teams had excellent startup ideas.

  • Rallybot is a Facebook chatbot created to help people make better group decisions. Oftentimes, the path to consensus feels like coercion, and many people end up agreeing to things they wouldn’t have otherwise because they’re under peer pressure. Rallybot uses AI to build intelligence about users so it can give recommendations that make everyone happy.
  • Daisy simplifies the chaotic funeral planning process during a difficult and emotional time. The web application guides users through the funeral-planning checklist step-by-step; it tells you what to do and how to do it. Daisy will help you create a budget, connect with caterers and venues, and create an event website with the ability to accept donations.
  • Titan harnesses energy from the elements to power your phone. The portable power source will have the ability to draw power from water, sun, and wind to keep people’s portable devices charged when they’re alone in the great outdoors.
  • SeaSearcher has created an underwater robot that can aid a rescue diver in the safe retrieval of a drowning victim. With a high definition camera and a microphone capable of picking up the sound of a human heartbeat, the robot, controlled by the rescue diver, would dive in first and find the victim. This way, the rescue diver would know the exact location of a victim before they dive in, allowing for a safer, faster rescue mission.

Team SeaSearcher prepares for their pitch.

Stay on the lookout. Some of these startup ideas might become a reality soon enough. We’ll give Charlotte the credit.

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