Ed - StartupBus


Driven to Success

by Rick McKnight, COO Mantle.

I Hitched a Ride on a One-Way Bus to the Next Big Thing.

Would you believe that groups of entrepreneurial thinkers and dreamers meet up annually in cities across the U.S. from San Francisco, to St. Louis, to New York - even hailing from Mexico - and they board a bus for a week-long journey to build the next big thing? Along the road from their cities of origin, they create, iterate, and pitch ideas for businesses, apps, products, and services all the way to New Orleans where they culminate in a weekend finale of business, tech savvy, and competition. 

Whether you have heard of it or not, StartupBus has been driving across the country (and other parts of the globe) for 8 years and are entering their 9th year. StartupBus is coming through Jackson, Mississippi  with a pitstop at Mantle. City Club for the second consecutive year, where we will try and recreate what some 2017 riders told me was "the best stop of the trip."

The StartupBus pitstop is hosted by Mantle., Mississippi Development Authority, and Innovate Mississippi.


Stop in to See and Meet the StartupBus and its Riders at Mantle.

Sunday, 1pm to 6pm | Members Free | Non-Members $5


I vividly remember last year... because I lived it.

By the time the St. Louis and San Fransisco buses unloaded in Jackson, ideas were already far into incubation. Strangers had been converted to cohesive teams, and ideas had already pivoted to address customer and investor concerns. They were, after all staring right down I-55 to their final destination.

Their ideas had to be close to polished. 

It’s not enough to just come up with a so-called brilliant idea. StartupBus is built on bringing together people whose goal is not only to succeed but to make a difference in their communities, cities, and the world - these entrepreneurs are hoping to create a better world through the creation of an idea and through the StartupBus’ platform turn that idea into a sustainable model of efficiency, function, and profitability. 

When StartupBus reached out to Mantle. last year, we didn’t fully know what to expect. We leaned into the experience though and hosted the two busses for the evening to hear the initial pitches. There was a DJ and tacos and craft beer. Their ideas were parsed by mentors and investors and stoppers-by. What they might not have expected was us putting an embedded Mantle. team member on the remainder of the trip.

That's when I boarded the bus to tag along down to NOLA. I wanted to get a taste of what the participants had experienced for the last five days!

The decision to hack StartupBus was worth every mile down to NOLA. Mile by mile, I spent time getting to know these business-minded, tech-savvy, idea generators. By the time we were crossing Lake Pontchartrain, I was sucked into the experience. I was in awe of these entrepreneurs' knowledge and passion for creating something others can use - a product or service with a single purpose to facilitate growth not only in the economy but in the lives of everyday people.

What kind of groups and ideas did I see on StartupBus in 2017? Well, to name a few...

Del Campo, (translated “from the farm”) a group out of Mexico came up with a digital platform to support local farmers in the distribution of profits and receive a better price for the products they produce daily. 

Daisy, a digital platform created by a group from the New York bus contains a checklist for helping people upon the death of a loved one plan the funeral arrangements with efficiency, cost effectiveness and reduced stress bringing together all necessary parties, products and services involved with death in one place; 

SeeSearcher, a submersible mobile device for first responders to save lives and time by leveraging high resolution cameras, sonar technology and natural light; 

Titan, a mobile device utilizing multiple sources of energy from wind, water and solar for purposes of navigation and exploring the globe

Crewbie, a decision making assistant catered towards local business to help people and potential customers make plans going out and harnessing the analytics and data of choices made by people and their respective social crews; 

Initiate Today created a solution through an applicant tracking system to deal with the Rule of 20’s and how an organization can most efficiently retain its employees starting at the beginning with the hiring process

Course Align started its pitch with audience engagement asking how many graduated from a university (lots of raised hands) followed by how many believed they had the skills they needed to get the job they wanted and make an impact (less hands raised). Course Align created a curriculum and connects it with skill based software in order to provide a more efficient form of higher education and learning at universities and produce a better workforce.


After the busses emptied for the last time and the smoke cleared from the competition, the winner of 2017 StartupBus turned out to be Daisy - a company who dealt with death. I thought of how appropriate it was for Daisy to win in the voodoo capital of the world, the home of the second line, and surrounded by a mausoleum jungle. Daisy's marketing and business strategy plus an incredible pitch awarded the group full access to StartupBus’ technology platform, global resources and networking to help launch Daisy from an idea in a competition to a business that could make a real impact in the world.

By the time that I caught the Amtrak back to Jackson, I had met a whole lot of new friends. My eyes were opened to the adrenaline rush that comes with creating something from nothing. Families were formed from teams that had not met only days before. I was struck by the quote that Apple made famous:

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I knew that those riders were indeed the crazy ones. They were the ones that would change the world.

I am so excited that they are back! I am expecting some familiar faces and to meet some new ones. Who knows? Maybe I will jump back on the bus and end up cruising next to the next big thing.


For any questions about how to get involved with StartupBus checkout their website or follow on Twitter.


Rick McKnight is the Chief Operations Officer of Mantle, a toolbox for the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently.