We arrived in Colorado a little later than everyone else because of some minor transportation issues so I wish now I would have paid more attention to the scenery. The other buses arrived earlier and were able to stop and take pictures of mountain formations but were not able to stop because of our minor bus malfunctions. Tech Stars would be taking place on Thursday evening during Boulder Startup Week in Boulder the same week. This was an amazing time to be in town.
We were all excited to pitch early in the morning to Ray and head over to Shine in downtown Boulder and pitch on stage. We were one of the first teams to pitch to our mentors in the morning to our mentor and bus conductor Ray. Just outside on the curb by the bus, Ray sat with several other groups of folks milling around the hotel. Ian started to pitch and a man who was clearly high and homeless started weaving in and out of our group started and blurting out loud things then finally sat down next to Ray.
We actually thought this was part of the strategy to distract us and maybe he was judging us in the end. He ended up saying some pretty hateful things so that strategy was probably out and Ray actually stopped our pitch. I noticed he a knife tucked in his belt. Bob stepped in front of him to close the circle which just made him angrier. I took the mom approach and walked over to him and asked him if he would come with me, be the audience with me and be my friend. He said yes and walked over and sat with me away from the crowd on the curb. I asked him all kinds of questions, like his name. He said it was Nathan. He kept talking about Jewish people and was so angry. I finally asked him if he wanted me to pray for him. He said yes so I just prayed for him silently but I told him that Nathan was a biblical name – and it meant ‘gift giver’. I held his hand and he started crying. He starting telling me about how people stole from him.I told him that it is wrong that people steal from him and I told him that I was sorry that those things happened to him.
I asked him if hiked in the mountains and he said of course he hiked in the mountains and he showed me the snake bites and wolf bites he had to show for it. He then told me his name was something else Charles and he worked on boilers. But then he switched back to be being grateful and he said, ‘thank you for holding my hand. thank you for praying for me.’ I told him that I was a mom and that’s what mom’s do best. They know when people need hugs, and a hand to be held and when someone needs a prayer.
I told him all about the competition and that me and my friends really needed to do well. I asked him if he would be nice. He shook his head yes and then threw his shoe off and said – “those are angel feet”. He peeled off one of his bracelets to give to me and I said – ‘Oh no, I can’t take that from you. You keep it,’ but he insisted. And then I said, ‘Oh…you are a gift giver! That’s right. Thank you Nathan!’ He walked up to one of the guys really close, sized him up an down but walked away.
I missed our pitch to our mentors but they were glad that he was gone. The guys thanked me and were like oh man, did you know he had a knife? I went right to the bathroom in the hotel and cried. I prayed for him some more. I understand when people are not in their right minds and are under the influence of something beyond their control but my heart goes out to all those mama’s, sister’s and grandma’s who have Nathan’s or Charles -whatever his name is – who can be clear for a moment who can reach out and understand compassion from a mom. Sometimes it just takes someone to hold your hand or say your sorry for something that you didn’t do or say a prayer for someone who is afraid, hurt or wronged. That was more of a gift to me. I know the inherent risks of being around crazy people with weapons and I knew exactly where his was but let me tell you – that there was something about just simple compassion that was in it for me. When I came out of the bathroom there were three police officers and an EMT taking him out the hotel. I hope he gets the help he needs.
We went on Shine our venue for the afternoon and evening. Our pitch went well with the exception of having to use my computer at the last minute because it had to be a Mac ( and Mac’s rule.) End of story. We ended up having to take a different spot in line later because the other team also had an issue with their power point. I wish we would have practiced on stage because of the very large and tall nature of everyone else in our group. Both Matt and I ended up in the behind Bob who is almost 7 feet tall when he began answering questions. At one point Matt tried to move us away from Bob so that we didn’t fall off the stage but we did not anticipate being on such a small stage behind such a tall guy!
We received excellent feedback from our peers, the cheers were great, the judges asked to see the VR example right away. We felt excited about it until they announced the results which did include us in the next round! We were floored.
Elia Bizannes, the founder of Startup Bus came back after the results were given and graciously talked to us for quite a while. He showed us his scores which were high for us to go to the next round. He encouraged us to keep going because we already had a team in place and the VR and Augmented reality space is hot right now. He shared the story of one of the Mexican teams who created an app that made it to the final round for an app that he thought was really silly but the the execution was wonderful. It was an application that was pretty simple and consisted of taking pictures of clouds and users would draw on them. He felt the team was successful not because it was necessarily an innovative idea but their pitch was hilarious, creative and great execution. He said they had over 1000 users, they were hilarious in their pitch, had a memorable presentation and in the end Rackspace ended up buying them. He said, “A pitch is a story, a story is a vision, and the product brought traction.” He encouraged us to now go and make traction with Spacecraft.
It was encouraging to hear from him that we are in the right moving technology space and he warned us that if we don’t pursue it, someone else will quickly take over where we won’t – that was just as exciting to hear. It helped us solidify the rest of our weekend we had planned in meeting up with key people in Silicon Valley.
We were excited to hear our fellow buspreneurs in Dashpilot had made it to the finals as well as Poppins Parenting and Lo-Key.
Akron Maker Bus Sponsors included: MorganBurton D Morgan Foundation, Knight Foundation, University of Akron EX[L] Center, and the University of Akron Research Foundation as well as Wastebits, Cover My Meds, Balsamiq, Hotcards, Coffee and Code, Boxcast, LaunchNet, Cleveland Whisky, and Think[Box]. Thank you wonderful sponsors to Akron’s Startup Bus, as well as my GoFund me Sponsors, Ed’s Equipment and the EX[L] Center for making my trip possible.