1 Year. 25+ Coworking Spaces. Here's What I Learned.

    Mitch Neff | Start Up Bus

    Mitch Neff | Start Up Bus

    Mitch Neff is the Executive Director of Startup Bus. We were first introduced at the Tampa Bay WaVE.

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    He is focused on expanding Startup Bus around the world. He also works out of Tampa Bay WaVE.

    Not familiar with Startup Bus?

    Check out Startup Bus’s website.

    So what is it?

    “Are you crazy enough to jump on a bus, conceive, build, and launch a startup with a team of strangers in 72 hours?”

    If you are interested in finding your limits and going beyond them in a shorter amount of time than you thought possible, then Startup Bus is for you.

    How did he get started?

    Having grown up in Ohio in an entrepreneurial family, he was exposed to business planning and start up competitions at an early age. He knew he wanted to learn about entrepreneurship on a broad scale.

    Back in 2010, Mitch heard about Startup Bus and decided to apply. At the time, they’d only run one bus (with 15 alumni).F

    He said he immediately thought, “This is something special. The community was amazing. The people were absolutely the most talented I had ever met in my life. I wanted to stay close to them and in that network.”

    After being on the bus, he started helping out wherever he could. This involved running production and social media, and by March 2011, he was offered the opportunity to run and be the conductor of the Stanford Bus.

    Fast forward, and by 2015 he was asked to be the Executive Director of Startup Bus. There is something to be said about passion and where it can take you.

    By this time, Startup Bus had 2000 alumni on 4 continents – Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia.

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    It seems to attract the same level of talent and curiosity that drew me in in the beginning. It’s impressive when a community that is just under 2000 alumni generates 2 unicorn startups. A unicorn startup has received a valuation over a billion dollars. This also says something about the passion for the competition and the event that Startup Bus attracts. A lot of people think about it as an event but I like to think about it as a community.

    In order to really understand it, you need to go through the process.

    “We are really very particular to the way the community behaves and the members comport themselves,” Mitch says. “It is really important to what we do.”

    “If you are really interested in finding where your limits are and going far beyond them in a far shorter amount of time than you thought possible, then start up bus is for you.”

    He has no problem telling you if your mentality is wrong for the bus.

    It is exciting to see what he is doing with Startup Bus especially as he expands into new markets including Asia and South America while continuing to focus on having the Startup Bus service continue after the competition.

    It is an emotional experience.

    “A roller coaster.”

    Once you go through the experience together, you form a strong bond with the people you work with.

    Even though he is often traveling to promote and grow Startup Bus, Mitch’s main office is at the Tampa Bay WaVE.

    I, of course, asked him why he chose to work at the WaVE. This is his response.

    “The WaVE is the epicenter of talent in Tampa. If something is happening, it is happening here. This is why we are here. It is great to meet the talent in the community. A lot of the young talent who don’t know what they want to do. These are really ideal people to be involved, jump on the bus, and become a part of the community and grow who they are like I did.”

    He also says the WaVE does not have a monopoly on talent, however, its coworkers are connected to all the other networks of people in the community.

    Besides being around great talent, he says the WaVE also gives him a chance to give back, help out, and collaborate with other coworkers.

    Whether he is helping someone understand a topic he is an expert in or is learning something new from another coworker, the WaVE brings together a variety of people and talents.

    “There is always someone that can help with things,” Mitch says. “WaVe is a place for those ‘water cooler conversations’ that serve to form who you are and how your business runs.”

    I agree with Mitch. There is a different and special sense of community at WaVE. It isn’t just that I have met people I don’t mind coworking with, it’s that I have actually made friends there. And I mean close friends that I count as some of my best friends. That means a lot. Entrepreneurs are notoriously terrible at separating their personal and professional lives. To be able to have professional contacts or professional acquaintances that turn into friends and even extended family is special.

    When Mitch and I started chatting more about these friendships and how they came about, it became clear that he believed the WaVe team helped facilitate a positive culture. He also clarified that the culture is made up of the people that inhabit it.

    From the workshops held throughout the year to the Nerd Lunches held once a month, Mitch believes these types of events bring the group together and has helped make WaVE a special place.

    Listen to Mitch tell about a Home Page Throwdown, where he shares a light-hearted story of an event when a group got together, drank a few beers, destroyed a few home pages, and shared an experience watching a fellow coworker provide some audio support.

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    What a ridiculous night!

    Mitch is passionate about what he does and it shows when you speak with him about experiences at the WaVE and his time with Startup Bus. I am excited to watch their growth.

    By the end of our conversation, I was convinced. It is time for me to apply for a bus!

    If you want to apply too (I’m sure you do), check out the application pages for the North American Startup Bus, European Startup Bus, and Australian Startup Bus.