While backpacking in South America three years ago, I fell in love with bus travel but experienced firsthand the difficulties of booking bus tickets in a foreign country. This led me to start Busbud, an online booking platform for bus travel worldwide. It’s been a challenging adventure growing the company, and I’m happy to say that three years later, we offer routes in 89 countries and 10,000 cities for more than 1,500 bus operators. We’ve recently raised a $9M Series A funding round to continue making life easier for bus travelers.
In the past 18 months, we’ve gone from a handful of team members working from my apartment basement and living room in Montreal to over 30 employees in an office located in the heart of the Mile End, one of the city’s startup hubs. And while we’ve worked hard to become an international travel platform, we’ve always been proud of our roots. We’re proudly built in Montreal, and proudly Canadian.
How to invest in your local startup community
Much of our success has come through our presence in our local startup community. We’ve received both received and invested in our community to inspire the next generation entrepreneurs. If you're interested in giving back to your local community, here are a few great ways we're found to get involved:
1. Become a mentor
While growing Busbud, I received valuable tips from advisors who acted as mentors for my team. Since becoming a mentor myself for other entrepreneurs at accelerator programs such as Founder Fuel, Founder Institute, Next 36, Startup Weekend, I’ve realized that mentoring is a vital part of giving back to the community. New founders can learn from our failures, mistakes and our successes. And in return, we can learn from them. Together, we create an encouraging and supportive environment to tackle even he most daunting challenges.
This past year, I was proud to receive the Quebec entrepreneur-mentor of the year award at the Startup Canada Awards, and was a runner-up at the national event. While it can be challenging initially to balance mentorship roles with running a startup, it actually helps me do a better job; constraints can make you more creative and focused.
2. Host events that connect talented people together
Planning and attending events creates an interactive platform where entrepreneurs can get together, hash out ideas and meet other great minds in a laid back atmosphere.
This year, Busbud has hosted a number of community events in its office such as Innovation in e-Commerce, Ladies Learning Code and Creative Mornings. Through these events, I’ve been able to meet with fellow entrepreneurs and connect to other great talent in Montreal.
Innovation in e-Commerce event at Busbud office, March 2014, Photo credit: MTL New Tech
I’ve also co-founded and organized a few new events that I thought could be useful for the community. The Startup Open House allowed 1,500 participants to visit the offices of 40+ Montreal startups in one single evening. The event was a resounding success and we are hoping to bring the open house to more cities in Canada this year. I’ve also co-founded Entrepreneurs Anonymous, a peer group of Montreal-based founders that has grown from 10 to 400 in the past 2 years or so. The group features a steady monthly meetup that attracts 30-50 participants (active founders only!) to exchange on common challenges. Finally, I’m especially excited for this summer’s La Tournée des Entrepreneurs, in which we hope to bring entrepreneurial inspiration to more regional parts of Quebec in order to share our experiences and learn from local entrepreneurs. These weekend trips are matched with the music festivals in Charlevoix, Gaspesie, Megantic and Abitibi.
3. Consider angel investments
Finally, there’s no better way to show commitment than by putting your money where your mouth is. I was recently a judge and investor in the Montreal International Startup Festival 100k prize where the jury of angels made an investment in Next 36 fashion startup Blynk. And, although I generally prefer to invest in smaller groups of angels, I've also invested withAnges Québec, a group of 100+ angel investors in the province.
I’m very excited about the homegrown Canadian talent we have here, especially startups like food startup Provender who have the potential to make a big positive impact in the world. I'd love to get involved in more angel and seed round deals across Canada this year.
How the C100 taught me to give back
It’s been great to have an organization like the C100 to open doors, facilitate connections and support me as I made mistakes and learned along our journey.
While building Busbud, I had the chance to travel and meet fellow Canadian entrepreneurs. Our participation in 48 Hours in the Valley in December 2013 was a great way to get connected with future advisors and investors. It’s during this event that we first met Jonathan Ehrlich, fellow Canadian and Partner at Foundation Capital, who became an early angel investor in Busbud.
This experience also made me realize the importance of contributing back to upcoming entrepreneurs so that the Canadian startup scene can grow.
Second, we also had the chance to connect with the C100 UK after winning the Global Adventure Competition organized by the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in July 2013. This networking provided valuable local contacts that resulted in Busbud signing a major partnership with UK intercity transport leader National Express a few months later.
Boarding pass for UKTI Global Adventure Competition supported by the C100, July 2013
We've also had the chance to participate in the Accelerate MTL series twice. The first time around in June 2013, we were selected as one of 10 hot startups in Montreal to pitch at Accelerate MTL to a room full of local advisors and investors. This was definitely great exposure for us early on.
It also made me realize how important it was to have a strong presence in the local community. Hopefully it will inspire others to start companies in Canada with a worldwide reach. By choosing to keep the Busbud headquarters in Montreal and staying in Canada, we’re contributing to a larger network of people who not only want to work here, but are committed to investing in its future.
LP Maurice is the CEO & co-founder of Busbud, a venture-backed e-commerce startup focused on intercity bus travel. Previously, LP worked in Silicon Valley at Yahoo and LinkedIn and holds an MBA from Harvard University. LP is also an active angel investor and mentor. He is a 2014 NYC Venture Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @lpmo