I had no idea what to expect for the event, “Geeks on a Train” (or #GOAT) put on by DealMaker Media as a part of GROWConference. GOAT is a play off of the exclusive invite-only ‘Geeks on a Plane’ tour organized by 500 Start-ups. While not by invite only, there were a limited number of tickets and with an all-star guest list including the likes of Dave McClure, Ben Huh, Scott Kveton, Rick Turoczy, John Cook and more, it was no surprise that the ticket capacity of 60 quickly sold out.
Start-ups, entrepreneurs and geeks from San Diego to Calgary purchased train tickets in the hopes to connect, network and be a part of the buzz. I had no trouble spotting fellow geeks: uber cool, chicly dressed (often wearing a funky-name startup t-shirt), toting laptop cases and looking slightly lost. I thought I thought I was super speedy herding GOATS onto the train before it departed, yet compared to the speed of Macbooks opening, I was rather slow.
During the ride from Portland to Seattle people got connected in a big way. Conversations on a startup turned into the story behind the startup, which turned into real connections that hopefully will live well past the 10-hour train ride. People bonded over beers (and lack thereof), photo ops, card games, arm wrestling, t-shirts and more. The train was less of a formal networking event and more of a train-car-turned-geek-frat of startup brotherhood (and sisterhood).
The energy from Portland to Seattle was electrifying. Here we were: all on a similar path but at various stages: startups, founders, investors, dreamers. We pulled into Seattle to pick up an additional 30+ geeks. As they piled onboard, you could feel the energy pick up. People weren’t sitting down striking up conversation with the person next to them – they were moving, standing, joining. To move from one end of a car to another you had to engage.
Kawkfighter’s t-shirts created a plethora of conversations and offshoot one-liners (for obvious reasons). Cloudability made it interesting with arm wrestling for one of their coveted 15 t-shirts. Ben Huh planked in the overhead baggage compartment. Redg designated car 9 as the party car with tunes and lively games. The energy was unbeatable. Despite the near 10-hour train ride, people kept on through the night. As we pulled into Vancouver, it was almost sad to say goodnight to everyone. The train was so much more than geeks plugged in tweeting about spotting Dave McClure – they bonded over ten hours in three train cars and with enough beer Amtrak had to restock in Seattle. If you missed it, that sucks. Be sure to get your ticket early next year – it’s bound to be even better. If we took up three train cars this time, I can only imagine how many more we’ll take over in 2013.