A Mexican team finished in third place after qualifying for the final of StartupBus 2017, an international entrepreneurship competition described as equal parts hackathon, road trip and global community that concluded yesterday in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Buses left July 31 from seven North American cities, including Mexico City, to start the journey towards the final destination of New Orleans. On board, groups of aspiring entrepreneurs, including developers and designers, formed teams to complete daily challenges related to an innovative business idea.
Each team had to build a prototype, develop marketing and business strategies and practice their pitch to potential investors.
Along the way the buses stopped at business incubators and accelerators in different cities so that participants could receive mentorship.
During the four days spent traveling from Mexico City, a team called Del Campo al Mercado (From the Field to the Market) created a startup company of the same name.
The team developed an online marketplace designed to link farmers directly with consumers, effectively cutting out any intermediaries, who they claim end up making the largest profits from agricultural transactions and often leave the producer with almost nothing.
The website the team developed currently lists sheep, chickens and turkeys for sale as well as honey, corn and cheese.
The project was the brainchild of Luis Enrique Vázquez Escobar, a young man from a farming family in Atlacomulco in the state of México who decided to pursue his passion for technology.
Shortly after the bus departed Mexico City, Vázquez and three other participants formed a team and began to develop the idea. By the time their bus reached New Orleans they had already made their first sales and along with nine other teams they made it through to the semi-final.
Two other Mexican teams also qualified. One called Money Expert developed a digital product to help young people make financial decisions and better manage their money while the other team, Lemo, developed an online platform to facilitate the learning of foreign languages.
But only Del Campo al Mercado made it through to the event’s grand finale to pitch their startup to an audience that included judges and potential investors, where they were awarded third place in the field of more than 20 teams.
Vázquez’ combination of agricultural knowledge and contacts and technology skills was seen as crucial to the team’s success.
The overall winner was a New York team called Daisy, which developed a web application to simplify funeral planning, while a team called DropIn Pedals from Tampa, Florida, placed second.
While the StartupBus project is a challenge, reaching New Orleans was a feat in itself. Competitors endured cramped conditions during the journey, slept on the floor of the bus, battled sketchy wifi and were unable to shower for three days.