Start Up From The Bottom (Now We’re Here) #Hustlers

We assembled at an undisclosed Chinatown bodega at 5am really with no idea what was about to happen. I had heard of Startup Bus being “life changing” and “absolutely incredible” and definitely picked up on the vibe at the night-before departure party, but words can’t really describe the epic-ness. I’m sitting in the Nashville airport awaiting a delayed flight back to NYC, already having mega fomo that I’m not dancing up a storm all over Nash-Vegas (this is a real name) with my Startup Bus fam right now. Considering starting an Indiegogo to fund my flight cancellation but alas, part of me is also looking forward to heading home to sleep and take a real home-style shower. You know what I mean. I’ve collectively slept 3 hours on average the past few nights. Last night I plopped down on my hotel bed expecting to take a 2 hour nap, woke up 4 hours later and decided to call it an official night of rest. Thirteen hours later, I was ready to get back into it.

I can’t describe what just happened. I got on a bus with 30 strangers, we each pitched ideas for start up companies and somehow, less than a week later, we are like a big family bonded by our common survival (and voluntary commitment) of an intense, and at times traumatic, experience. I’ve never pushed myself to such extreme limits, and over multiple days, ever before in my entire life. I guess it was life-changing to see what I’m truly capable of when I’m focused on the end goal. The manic energy of the last few days materialized into an incredible team united under a shared dedication to winning the contest but what developed along the way was what surprised me most. At times I asked myself, do I really want to stay up till dawn writing this Indiegogo campaign content and shooting another pitch video? This is all a game, after all, right? But the truth is – it wasn’t just a game. What we created is real, the strategy and implementation plan is real. We really created something truly original, that stands to make a huge impact while addressing a real market inefficiency. Plus share.ed helps so many people by creating new educational and economic opportunities. Sure, we had fun ideating silly ways to get early Twitter traction but it was all underlying real passion and investment in making a memorable impact. We didn’t just create Tinder of camping or the Airbnb of restaurants like some of our earlier twitter ploys joked.

shar.ed

Of all the experiences of Startup Bus, I can’t really select just one as the most memorable. I learned so much about myself and what I can truly contribute to a team. I’m so glad I didn’t follow my flighty premonition a few weeks ago that doubted going on the bus at all because of my lacking hacker experience. I am a hustler, through and through, and Startup Bus was the perfect spot for me to own it to the fullest.

Now onto my favorite ramblings on the trip: 

  • Finally made it to Detroit rock city. Impressed by how beautiful it was amid total dilapidation and erie abandoned buildings in its downtown financial district. Had the most amazing brussel sprout salad with more bacon than I could handle. Slept 4 hours max. The next morning we checked out Tech Stars where we got to pitch and work on some more content development. In my case I was just happy to have an outlet, wifi and some coffee. I wrote our mission statement, set up the blog and wrote another value prop outline in what seemed like a flash of light. All I know is I can pump out the jams as long as the vision of what I need to communicate is clear. What a cool exercise to see what I’m really capable of and what it takes to get to that point.
  • I’ve never written so much in such a short period of time! I have over ten multiple paged notes filling up my computer, certainly enough to make a baller business plan. I have a pitch outline to die for – so on point, if only we had energy slash foresight to put it into a deck for our first round presentation. You know what, I’m okay with not progressing through the entire competition because ultimately I got to sleep and enjoy time with other cool hustlers on the scene. What is meant to be will be and maybe Startup Bus just wasn’t ready for shar.ed’s big vision this time around. It’s the farthest thing from failure actually. We won in so many other ways.
  • The day on the bus after Detroit felt the longest. Maybe it was the lacking sleep. Although I got very little sleep before our very first day, with the heightened pressure of executing a real vision added on to the exhaustion – everything was intensified. Each day I wasn’t sure where we would be headed. I’m not sure if that was intentional on the conductors parts or if maybe I just wasn’t paying attention because I was so hyper focused on getting work done. Regardless, our arrival on day two to Ohio’s coolest startup (Cover My Meds) was such a welcomed surprise. We had real food (bahn mi and sushi) plus actual office space with wifi and outlets – it felt like a dream! It’s amazing how only two days of being on a bus can make you feel like you’ve been gone from civilization for years. Maybe it’s a New York adjustment thing in particular but the difference was palpable.
  • Later that day we were back to the grind, working out our company vision, user flow, monetization strategy and pitching whenever possible to refine our delivery. I was on a high I haven’t ever experienced. I felt like I was in the zone. Like THE ZONE – the one pro athletes must refer to when they’re getting psyched to go into a game. I was so tired and uncomfortable at times but couldn’t stop grinding on the work ahead even if I wanted to.
  • We crashed super late in Durham (North Carolina, come on and raise up), which did you know has a mega thriving startup scene? Me either. We started the day off bright and early after another short sleep at American Underground – a Google enterprises sponsored co working spot home to some seriously cool companies. We got some great pointers on monetization and user acquisition and I rolled my ankle on a super hidden short step, bumping right into the CEO that had just presented to us in the process. Suave.
  • Day three got really real, and fast. Other teams on the bus already had working demos, prototypes and legit designed websites and social pages. I was impressed. What a talented crew! I think what I started to appreciate on this day was the incredible power of teams coming together to support each other, communicate exquisitely and frankly just rally to get shit done amid less than ideal circumstances. My team mate Ryan, for example, had terrible motion sickness (as did many others) but still managed to give me a much needed step by step refresh of setting up a Facebook ad campaign on power editor. I couldn’t believe how good he was at teaching. Then I remembered he’s an instructor at General Assembly and felt less surprised. Nevertheless, everyone was in it to win it. I felt proud from the get go of everyone’s sheer dedication and the universal sense of being all in. Sure it was a game but we didn’t play like it was. We were playing to win.
  • Our friends on the bus who launched what seemed at first to be a bit nebulous – a virtual reality experience providing a getaway from the everyday bustle of life – actually got investment even before the final pitches! They balled so hard they couldn’t even make their final pitch because of investor interest – but they thanked the judges for the opportunity and then mic dropped so hard it hurt. Suddenly it wasn’t just a game anymore, it’s a legit mechanism for getting noticed (slash getting paper).
  • The long night in Nashville was the most intense. I drank a Red Bull to stick to the grind and ended up staying awake till dawn. Hadn’t done that in awhile and certainly never because of writing and working on work-related anything. Reminded me of being in college and cramming before a big paper deadline but even then I wasn’t as passionate or invested in what I was working on. This was easier in that respect. The adrenaline of being so close to pitching, having survived a three day bus trip across the northeastern U.S. and having a legit, impactful, purposeful business plan to share fueled us to no end. I must have gotten two hours of sleep. Pitch day was next, our moment of truth and our chance to see how far we had all come since our first pitches on the bus leaving NYC. 

What’s there to say? The talent, creativity, vision, contagious energy, dedication, community and sheer hustle speaks for itself and then some. Startup Bus-preneurs are game changers. Even if our companies don’t get worked on after the competition, we’ve all come out stronger, smarter and more empowered than before. No one bailed out, every single person brought it 100 and helped prove what’s truly possible when people work together to create the future. I’m so excited about what we’ll do next! Whether it be in our startup bus companies, our jobs, our communities or simply in our relationships – we are going to bring a whole new light with us to inspire others and move them to reaching their full potential. At the very least we’ll move someone with our crazy insane stories of the most ridiculous adventure of all time. Will I do this again? Next year? Ask me in a week when I’ve gotten caught up on sleep. Part of me feels like this is the kind of thing everyone should experience at least once. Lastly, the theme song of the trip is officially dubbed Start Up From The Bottom Now We Here (the remix). 

Pre-launch party On the bus - brainstorming UX Launch Party in it to win it detroit tech stars typical real talk nashville reppin it typical nashville up all night to code accelerate nashville hacking it up always be pitchingtwinz studio 615 hackers shar.ed ladies NRA shar.ed team breakfast 11393199_10205816671550310_162881668807833843_n 11257236_10205816672230327_4458793589188526923_n 11350421_10205820770452780_6753849344493127924_n 11163765_10205820788533232_8101063107973037569_n

Here We Go: StartUp Bus 2015

BUSpreneurs 6.3.15It’s all happening! Tomorrow I depart on a bus from an undisclosed downtown NYC location at 5am with approx. 30 other peeps I don’t really know to co-create what could be the next big start up, app, world changing product, you name it – the possibilities are endless! Over the next couple days we’ll cruise to Nashville, hacking along the way to develop our dream companies and products all for a chance to win big at the pitch competition on Monday. Oh, and did I mention there’s 6 other buses leaving from different cities across the US (even Mexico City!)?Plus NYC is on a winning streak for two years in a row, so no pressure or anything.

How did I even find out about this? Pretty serendipitously. It all started with a chance meeting at the WIRED Business conference in May. A cool chic I met referred me to her company site, which led me down a rabbit hole of other similarly cool sites focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. I stumbled upon the StartUp Bus and thought, why not apply, not knowing much about it except that it looks like the adventure of a lifetime. Soon after applying, the WIRED #girlboss replied to my bus application saying she’s not only a bus alumni but also happens to be conducting this years NYC trip! Meant to be? Surely.

The more I learned about the bus and story behind it all the more I realized there’s nothing more perfect for me to be doing RIGHT NOW. Lately I’ve felt such a strong influx of creative energy, almost restless at times, pushing me to create and strategize everywhere I can – I’ve got to channel this energy somewhere! And how perfect is this – the bus is divided into entrepreneurial types:  hipsters (designers), hustlers (business savvy magic makers) and hackers (developers, programmer gurus)….Guess what I am?

I met my fellow bus-preneurs tonight as well as a few alumni from previous years – super fun and energizing to schmooze before our big getaway! I am super grateful for friends that came to send me off, for a dream job that supports me in following awesome dreams to experience unheard of adventures and for all my collective life experience that has prepared me super well to effing bring it. I can’t help but feel like something big is on the horizon, something truly groundbreaking. In the very least I’m excited to make awesome new friends, see just how much can get accomplished in just three days and what magic is truly possible wth a dedicated team committed to grinding our little hearts out towards a unifying goal. I promise I’ll have some wild stories to share after Monday! #WatchOut ❤💜

Por favor, stalk me all you want + follow our adventures via the Bus’ live stream😎💯🌷

Daily Dose: Truth + Travel

barcelona

Don’t downplay your abilities now, Libra. You’re on the brink of greatness, so act like it. Things should go quite well if you let them. Don’t clog up the works by thinking that you’re unworthy of the good luck that is sure to come your way. If things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to, take it as a sign that the situation wasn’t right for you anyway.

Sometimes it’s as simple as subscribing to daily horoscope updates to remind you of the truth.

I’m going to Barcelona in less than 2 weeks and it feels like a dream. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe and I’m finally making the trip! Truthfully for a long time I believed that there were many things preventing me from going – namely student loans, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, an inability to save consistently (for a long time), and my healthy budget for self care and entertainment (gotta be healthy and have fun, duh!). Somewhere along the line my old frame of mine shifted into a new plane wherein I am no longer waiting for something to swoop in and save me from student debt and expenses. Instead I simply started saving and took responsibility for making my dream happen – and it wasn’t even that hard!

I’ve found a few tools incredible helpful in the process – including Mint.com, regular check ins with my checking account, and using a CaptialOne 360 savings account to auto-save each week towards my goal. Oh and definitely Hipmunk for my flight alerts – always my go-to for finding great flight deals. It only took a few months and I’m off to an incredible adventure!

What Ever Happened to Field Trips?

I can’t remember the last time I went on a real field trip – maybe back in college? It seems like it all happened a long time ago. Back in the day at Hoover Middle School, me and 800 of my closest 8th grade friends were taken to the Exploratorium on the free day as our 8th grade graduation field trip. Classic SF middle school jam if I do say so myself. In high school I went on solo lead field trips to visit my friends at other schools down the block and sometimes as far away as Lowell, which was all the way across the city. Anything to get my Sunset snacks at Victor’s Bakery, Panda Express at Stonestown or UCSF on Parnassus. So many memories.

Just the other day the special place I get to show up at every day (Praytell) turned two! For a happy birthday adventure we all took an afternoon stroll up the block to our neighboring Brooklyn Museum. How lucky are we? I forget how peaceful and inspiring exploring the ins and outs of an epic museum can truly be – I want to do this more often. I took a few snaps, mostly of colorful paintings emulating the style and energy I’d be proud to hang in my own home. What can I say, I like what I like. I could have spent way more time in the Egypt exhibit – I even took a meditation break to take in some of the majestic history I sensed surrounding me.

I only go to museums now, for the most part, when people come visit me. Then we’ll go to the Met or the MoMa, walk through Central Park or Prospect Park, or maybe take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. A long time ago when I first visited NYC I remember taking a day to myself while my friend had class at Columbia to walk all the way downtown from Harlem. I stopped inside the Museum of the City of New York and even ran into Julia Stiles in the entrance – such an NY moment. Reading about the city’s history and Robert Moses’ vision for development was electrifying. I knew I had to live here one day. And here I am, nearly a decade later, still seeking museum dates and long adventurous strolls across Manhattan with no particular destination in mind.

Below:

  1. Georgia O’Keeffe – Brooklyn Bridge
  2. Jarrell A. Wadsworth – Revolutionary
  3. Kehinde Wiley – Saint Remi (check out more of Kehinde’s work and upcoming exhibitions on Artsy)

IMG_8238 revolution

Kehinde Wiley Saint remi

Expect the Unexpected

A friend of mine sends out an email blast at the beginning of each week, sometimes missing weeks here and there. These aren’t just any old newsletter notes. He sends a collection of empowering, inspiring quotes and overarching positivity-laden reminders of everyday wonder. Unrelated to this but perhaps not at all is my bus ride last night. Waiting for the B67 to take me up Park Ave to Vanderbilt so I could quickly make some salad for dinner before heading to my friends house for our second DJ lesson felt pretty normal. I got on the bus, an ordinary situation filled with other passengers eager to get to their respective destinations. It was, after all, still cold out – where is spring these days anyway. I think I see it creeping up!

Suddenly a voice sounded over the bus intercom. At first I thought it was someone’s cell phone blasting YouTube or some kind of audio book turned all the way up. To my surprise it was the bus driver. He started telling a story about how his daughter called him last night, and at first he thought she was just calling to ask for something. She went on to explain that you never know when everything could just simply stop, in a flash, in a moment where everything ends. Boom. You’re gone. She called to say she loves him and she’s grateful for everything he does for their family.

Next we heard about his six year old grandson whose teacher called one day to say, “Excuse me Mr. Campbell but did you know your grandson was praying in the cafeteria at lunch? We don’t pray anymore in public school but he was praying,” as if to elicit some kind of Pauloconcern. The bus driver retorted, “That’s all fine and well, what were you doing while this was happening Miss?” “I was praying alongside him,” she replied.

I don’t know if this bus driver shares these kinds of messages on every bus or on every day he’s driving, who knows. Maybe he’s a preacher by day and driving the bus is just his side hustle. Or maybe driving to him is the same as preaching – in doing so he’s helping to spread the gospel of love and gratitude to people who need it most. Sometimes I can get caught up in the distracted and stressful energy of NYC life, wherein everyone is moving so fast you can hardly tell where they’re headed anymore. Sometimes the rate race can feel normal when really its not even a race, since races usually have destinations or end points.

The bus driver reminded me to stop and take a moment to be where I am. Suddenly I wasn’t on my way home to rush through dinner and get through my nightly activities. Instead I was making eye contact with those around me similarly amused by the surprising outburst from our transportation provider. I conversed with a fellow rider on how awesome it was to be sharing in such a fun experience. We smiled at one another as we parted ways. I thanked the bus driver so much for his kind words. Could everyday be like this? Could each bus ride emulate the camaraderie and positivity felt on the B67 that night? I want it to not be so hard to remember these simple truths.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It is within yourself that you will find strength. When we are broken wide open is when we are given the pivotal choice of tapping into our power.
– Odette Artime
“Getting it” means getting out of your own way.
– Chandra
“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
― Maya Angelou
Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
~E.B. White

Northside Fest Innovation 6.13

My Friday the 13th started out in Williamsburg’s McCarren Park where Northside Fest set up its home base for a week-long South By Southwest-style conference on innovation, film and music. Complete with after parties and concerts galore over the entire week, the festival is in its fourth year running much to the delight of musicians, innovators, digital media nerds, start up gurus, marketers and entrepreneurs alike.

Northside Fest SwagThis year it literally felt like the East Coast hipster cousin of Austin’s SXSW had officially landed in Williamsburg. My friends over at Small Girls PR hooked me up with a badge to attend the Innovation portion of the program, where I hung out all day Friday. The panels were creatively situated nearby one another with main attractions at the Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn Brewery, Kinfolk Studios and the trade show at McCarren Park. Lucky for all attendees Mable’s Smokehouse served up a delicious complimentary BBQ lunch midday Friday. The BBQ never tasted so good but in hindsight might have been a precarious choice for conference-goers expected to pay attention and not immediately need a power nap.

The panel “Preparing to Pivot” showcased  inspiring entrepreneurs talking about their experiences with changing directions and sometimes starting over along their start-up quests. Many spoke to the fact that failure and making mistakes are just part of the start up game. If you really believe in something and are willing to put the effort into it, you don’t ever give up. On the flip side, they also spoke to the importance of knowing when its time to give up on a particular direction and change your strategy to stay afloat. Did you know AirBnB used Craigslist at one point as an early customer acquisition strategy?

Zappos’ presentation on “Throwing Out the Organizational Chart” provided an overview of holocracy. To better foster innovation, Zappos suggests that corporations will do well to model the information-sharing and communication styles offered by cities’ infrastructure. I almost understood the idea, but must admit I might never truly get it until I experience  holacracy first-hand. Talk about new age-y organizational style. We’ll see what Zappos rolls out with results-wise this year following a more full implementation of holacracy. Perhaps their case study will prove fruitful for pushing other companies to adopt new communication mechanisms and management (or lack there of) structures. What about hashtags in employee titles (i.e. #title) to symbolize the fluid-nature of each position’s description? Sign me up.

GE

My favorite panel of the day was a fireside chat (without a fire) with TechCrunch’s Anthony Ha and GE’s Executive Director of Global Brand Marketing, Linda Boff–“GE’s Secrets Revealed: Their Top 5 Marketing Innovations.” Did you know GE was the first brand on Vine? I appreciated Linda’s candid honesty about how she likes to be promiscuous with advertising and marketing agencies in search of the best storytellers. She made a nod to agencies focused on doing what they do really well, and not getting lost in the crowd of big agencies trying to do many things just-okay.

GE’s secrets turned out to not be so secret after all, but they did provoke some great insights. Be first, be human as a brand, tell a GREAT story, be helpful, and measure success by engagement. All good tips, especially the encouragement throughout to be uniquely useful and stay true to the brand’s integrity. I’m already excited for next year–expect the tech, entrepreneurship and innovation elements to be bigger than ever and attract tech stars from all over the map!

Why All The #Hashtags?

EarringsI can’t remember the first time I used a hash tag but I think at that moment I sensed my life would never be the same. Suddenly I felt like I was speaking the language I was always meant to speak. The world finally made sense, talking back to me one abbreviated thought at a time. Immediately, I was in love.

I was super late to the Twitter party because, quite frankly, I wanted to stick with what I felt good at (who ever thought you could be “good at” social media?). When Facebook enabled hashtagging, it was game over. I was off to the races. Armed with a penchant for penning all-too-lengthy mantras, I even started taking them out of posts and using them straight up in my text messages. Friends beware: a new era is upon us.

Somethings are just better communicated in short code. Like Twitter’s 140 characters, hashtags command a certain simplicity and straightforwardness that might otherwise get lost in, I don’t know, a complete sentence or narrative. Try tagging old vintage photos of people’s families or friends as little kids with things like #newswag, #thuglife, #stuntin, #hyphy and don’t even get me started on where that could really lead. At times it can get pretty #treal.

For all you late bloomers out there, don’t fret, there is help for optimizing your hashtagging! To become more seasoned in what will most certainly continue dominating social, get out there and practice. It’s meant to be fun. Get creative and try communicating with people in new ways. That’s what this is all about. Find new things that interest you using images and posts you’ve hashtagged in the past and see what other people are tagging similarly. You might be surprised at what you find and what new connections arise. What is your mantra? What are you known for? Claim your brand.  At the end of the day, social is all about building connections between the people and ideas that inspire us. Welcome to the party.