'Buspreneurs' win startup hackathon, move cities to join Techstars Austin

Jun 16, 2014
Austin Business Journal

Evan Hammer, Nick Persico and Dave Redding met on a three-day bus trip from New York City to San Antonio in March. Now, more than three months later, Hammer and his business partners have moved to Austin to take advantage of all that the three-month accelerator program Techstars Austin has to offer

After walking away winners from StartupBus North America – an annual startup hackathon in March – Hammer and his partners founded Smart Host Inc., a pricing tool that helps hosts price their vacation and short-term rentals whether they are renting out an apartment or a bedroom. Smart Host helps temporary landlords get maximum bookings and the best price for their rentals

"We are looking to help hosts on Airbnb, HomeAway and 9flats intelligently price their rental," said Hammer, who is CEO. Smart Host is also available as an Android app in the Google Play store

Wylie Conlon and Cesar Kuriyama, who also met Hammer at StartupBus and who worked with the team during the three-day bus hackathon to build their first prototype, have decided to stay on as advisers

StartupBus North America had seven buses with five to six teams each from all over North America convene in Rackspace's offices in San Antonio for three rounds of pitches. These entrepreneurs – or 'buspreneurs', as they termed themselves – had to divide themselves into teams based on the problem they wanted to solve with their products. Then they had to build a prototype and craft their product pitches

The teams were mentored by bus leaders who rotated between buses helping the entrepreneurs with their coding, design and pitch plans

"Soon after we won StartupBus North America, I met with Jason Seats, and before I knew it we had applied to Techstars Austin. After a month-long process meeting mentors, entrepreneurs and other Techstars alumni, we were selected for Techstars Austin," he said

For now, the team's focus is on marketing and product development and not on fundraising. Five days into Techstars Austin and the team is meeting with mentors, local entrepreneurs and working on building team dynamics

"We currently have specialists on board to help us analyze our pricing algorithm, which analyzes the local rental pricing trends so that we can tell hosts what they should charge for their short-term rentals," Hammer said. He said they also want to use any customer feedback that they receive for developing their strategic plan

After Techstars Austin, Hammer said he and his team could either stay in Austin or move back to New York or to some other city

Techstars Austin's summer program began June 9 and its current class of 11 startups, including Smart Host, will have their demo day on Sept. 3

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