Entrepreneurs with Startupbus in Tampa had $30K worth of electronic gear stolen at SXSW in Austin

TAMPA BAY, Fla - Imagine this scenario:

You are in a strange city.

All you have are personal items, maybe a suitcase full of clothes and your beloved laptop and smartphone.

You are staying in a rental home.

Robbers break-in and take all your gear while you explore the city.

This was the dilemma facing a group of 11 Florida based entrepreneurs working with Tampa-based Startupbus .   A handful of those techies were USF St. Pete students.

The entrepreneurs packed on to a bus and were tasked with creating a fundable business startup within 72 hours.  All of it part of a competition.

It's when they arrived in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW tech convention and unpacked that their problems began.

"Found the house had just been ransacked," recalled Mitch Neff,  StartupBus director.  "I mean drawers emptied.  Stuff laying everywhere."

Their South Austin rental house targeted by robbers.

"It took all of 30 seconds for people to start frantically searching for their gear to find pretty much everybody's laptop was gone," Neff explained.

The robbers made off with $30,000 worth of gear including laptops, tablets, smartphones and other electronics.

"They lost multiple novels worth of code, this was years of work," said Will Mitchell, a Startupbus organizer.

More than 115,000 unused lines of code are now in a criminal's hands.

"There were people that their whole livelihood were in there, so those are the people that really lost big in this," Mitchell explained.

The group called Austin Police and filed a report.

Then, they took to Twitter, ultimately turning their troubles into a tech triumph.

"House full of hackers, hipsters and hustlers are now without all their machines, that is a SXSW problem," Neff said.
Microsoft executives were running a competition trying to find the worst problems at SXSW.  They took notice of the tweet as did hundreds of other hipsters.
"They made us a website , we had a hashtag going, #helpflorida," said Ashley Mooney, a Startupbus organizer.   "We were definitely trending on Twitter for a hot minute."
The website, helpflorid.co , told the story of the robbery and the predicament of the techies.
Within four hours, it seemed like everyone at the convention knew of the robbery.
"They built a whole campaign for us," Mitchell explained.
Then, Microsoft executives rolled up to the South Austin home, ultimately fulfilling the goal of the hashtag.
They gifted the group all new gear including laptops, tablets and smartphones.  They even brought them new backpacks to carry their gear in and some extra swag, a pair of shoes!
"You've never seen a room go from completely sullen to completely ecstatic so fast in your life," Neff said.
The group recorded receiving their gifts with two separate Vine videos .  They also posed outside of their rental home holding up their new gear much like a champion would hold up a trophy.
The online campaign also resulted in the rental home company, airbnb , kicking into high gear to help.
Company officials found the team a new place to stay and covered the cost of all the missing items.  They even replaced gift cards the team received at SXSW.
This Friday, the Startupbus team is gathering at Buddy Brew on Kennedy Boulevard.  They are slated to be guests of Commissioner Mark Sharpe who holds a weekly podcast series about technology in Tampa Bay.



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