Think an elevator pitch is hard? Try selling your vision with a beer in each hand, balancing in the aisle of a train barreling north at 80 mph. That's exactly the challenge posed by Geeks on a Train, a veritable Nerd Express from Portland, Ore., to Vancouver, where passengers will "rethink business" among like-minded entrepreneurs and investors.
The destination was Dealmaker Media's GROW 2012 conference, a summit of startup rock stars and wannabe-rock stars raring to pitch, invest and innovate their hearts out in Vancouver.
Sprinkled among the travelers were some stand-out personalities that had ample opportunity to shine in the close quarters, including Silicon Valley super angel Dave McClure; Scott Kveton of Urban Airship; Rick Turoczy, curator of the Portland Incubator Experiment and lolcat king Ben Huh, CEO of I Can Haz Cheezburger.
The final headcount was a raucous, adventuresome 100+ founders, investors, entrepreneurs, bloggers, developers and designers.
In two packed Amtrak cars, the high-energy crowd buzzed with ideas, mingled in the aisles, donned fake mustaches, arm wrestled, pitched between cars, and told more than one joke at Klout's expense -- all while the train jostled north.
We tweeted it up (#GOAT), high spirits intact for the eight-hour ride, even when it was discovered that the train's beer supply had been sucked dry a mere two hours in.
We pulled into Seattle about four hours in to scoop up the city's GROW-bound passengers (and, mercifully, to restock its beer supply) before rolling on to the Canadian border.
One expertly executed planking (Ben Huh, naturally) and many, many trips to the bistro car later, the geeks were let loose in an unsuspecting Vancouver. For the next three days, they'll join up with hundreds more of GROW's attendees for talks, roundtables and networking events with speakers ranging from web commerce solution PayPal to Mountain View incubator 500 Startups, all aimed at making their companies leaner and meaner in order to survive a market that can turn on a dime. And since what happens on Amtrak stays on Instagram (and Twitter, and Facebook...), here's the evidence.
Stay tuned as we'll be judging GROW's sure-to-be-epic Startup Smackdown competition, in which a handful of fledgling startups speed-pitch on stage to a split group of investors and tech media, who in turn duke it out over which contenders are buzzworthy. We imagine it will be exactly like The Hunger Games, but with more venture capital at stake.