From the Video Vault: I Wanna Be on the StartUpBus

Four years ago today tommysTV premiered a video so groundbreaking that it caused a team of local entrepreneurs to quit their day jobs in favor of dreams of tech-buzzword-fueled rap superstardom.

Maybe not.

But tommysTV did drop a music video, called "I Wanna Be on the StartUpBus" and filmed in less than two days, which displayed our techniques, vision and process to many in the tech world and helped the business leaders who “commissioned” our work meet their goals – in this case, landing a StartUpBus for Baton Rouge.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The music video came to life when Terry Jones, who was running the Regional Innovation Organization (RIO) at the time, had an idea to convince the organizers of StartUpBus to bring a bus to Baton Rouge so local entrepreneurs could participate in the competition. StartUpBus is a competition that encourages "buspreneurs" to create a startup while on a bus on the way to SXSW in Austin. Terry had been on a bus with Jared Loftus in Miami the year before and they were convinced that if we could get the attention of Elias Bizannes, the head of StartUpBus, they would see that Baton Rouge entrepreneurs had the chops to do it.

This is where tommysTV comes into the story. We were a young company in Baton Rouge and Tommy received some attention for a music video called Purple/Gold that was released a few months before. We hoped a StartUpBus-themed music video would do the trick. At the time, the Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars song " Billionaire" was everywhere, and Jared took a stab at rewriting the song to fit our purposes.

Now, Jared Loftus is not a rapper. But he was immersed in the start-up community and understood marketing in a way that helped him conceive of verses that are jam packed with dreams of every hard-working entrepreneur. He and Caleb Michaelson paired together to perform the verses and Ian Von sang the rewritten Bruno Mars part, "I Wanna Be on the StartUpBus so freaking bad / Try all the ideas I’ve ever had."

Jared and Caleb rapped about Mark Zuckerberg and being on TechCrunch, which would prove to be a nice piece of foreshadowing for the video. (But more on that later.)

The entire video was completed in two shoots – an early 5 a.m. shoot with Ian, Jared and Caleb framed by a beautiful fog for the shots in Downtown, followed by another shoot with the rest of our entrepreneurs at the Entrepreneurs Headquarters (EHQ) in Perkins Rowe. Remember: we had next to no budget for this project, so everything we did was meant to conserve costs and maximize the potential for partnerships and exposure. We picked EHQ because natural light s treamed through the huge windows and the set wouldn’t need to be lit. Tommy recruited Baton Rouge entrepreneurs through posts on social media.

In the end, for the second set of scenes, we shot local entrepreneurs Jay Ducote, John Snow, Sean Simone, Manuel Valencia, Terry Jones, Josh Ford and Stafford Wood lip syncing the lyrics at the EHQ. The few scenes where Ian, Jared and Caleb are recording the song were actually shot in the producer’s bathroom, which had the best acoustics.

A quick edit later, we had a group of spunky entrepreneurs, a production crew and a catchy song. Generally pleased with the results, we hoped our work was enough to catch the attention of the StartUpBus.

What happened next still amazes us to this day.

We uploaded the video to YouTube and it started to make the rounds. In gained 10,000 views quickly and, bolstered by the lyrics, "everyday on Tech Crunch / got no laughs, just the munch," actually did end up on the front page of TechCrunch, a leading online publications that covers the tech community. To close the deal with StartUpBus, Terry Jones arranged to have "I Wanna Be on the StartUpBus" stream on the Beacon in Baton Rouge’s Town Square, which was a new video screen that had just been built in Downtown. The airing was timed to coincide with Terry bringing the CEO of the StartUpBus through Downtown to an event with entrepreneurs and, quite honestly, StartUpBus basically had to say yes to a Baton Rouge bus.

The rest is history, right? Wrong.

A group of Baton Rouge entrepreneurs (including Logan Leger and Curtis Heroman ) did spend 72 hours on the StartUpBus travelling to SXSW (mostly circling the state of Louisiana, as the trip to Austin from Baton Rouge is short). And while the Baton Rouge bus didn't win – it is harder to launch a website when you're driving down the interstate on a bus than you might think – the opportunity created partnerships and relationships for entrepreneurs in Baton Rouge and for tommysTV.

Months later, Stafford Wood, one of our video stars, jumped on a StartUpBus in Europe. Convinced that there were tons of stories to tell on these buses, Tommy Talley talked his way onto the bus (with some help from the StartUpBus CEO) to film what ultimately became a sizzle reel for a StartUpBus-themed reality show called "Highway Hackathon" that ended up airing on Relativity Media's Coin YouTube channel in 2013.

Four years later, "I Wanna Be on the StartUpBus" remains one of tommysTV's most recognizable projects and many of the entrepreneurs involved in the process own and operate successful ventures in the city. Up next: the cover of Inc. magazine.