Why I Drove 18 Hours to Tampa…and Why It Was Worth It!

Posted By Trav
Tampa Sunst

Believe it or not, this was not the reason I originally drove to Tampa…although it certainly was a perk!

(if you just want to see the video, click here or scroll about halfway down)

5:05 pm, Thursday night.

I had just finished up work for the day and was planning an easy night.

Work out, eat dinner with the family, probably watch a little Thursday Night Football.

Fortunately, I decided to check my email one last time.


A new email from Randy Petersen, the guru of frequent flyer miles and creator of Boarding Area, Milepoint, and the Launchpoint Competition.

Travis, welcome to Launchpoint and we all look forward to your presentation on Saturday…

Saturday, as in 31 hours from right now.

…. in Tampa

Tampa, a whole 1,056 miles away from my home in Philadelphia.

I’d say I had a decision to make, but in reality, there was no decision.

I was going to Tampa, no matter what.

I was not going to miss my chance to participate in Launchpoint, a competition that offered travel startup companies a chance to compete for $50,000 of no-strings-attached funding.

You see, I’ve had the idea for Bolt for 2 years now.

A crowdsourced app that allows people to find GOOD wifi, wherever they are, through the reviews of users.

Think Yelp, but for rating wifi.

It’s simple, practical, and a necessity for many people who are constantly traveling and needing to stay connected.

And while I’ve sat down with a designer and storyboarded the app,  figuring out how it will work and function, that’s where I’ve stopped.


Two reason:

  1. I don’t have the funding to build the actual app.
  2. I knew I truly believed in it and felt it could revolutionize the way travelers work, but I wasn’t sure if others felt the same way.

The solution to both of these was Launchpoint.

$50,000 was enough to take Bolt from an idea and a dream to an actual functioning app that people could have on their phone in less than a year.

In less than a year, people’s frustrations of not being able to quickly find good wifi would be gone.  

They’d have Bolt!

And just as importantly, I’d be presenting to a group of 500 businesspeople, travelers, and location independent professionals.

It was the perfect focus group to see if Bolt had validity.

Only two small problems:

  1. I had to get my ass to Tampa.
  2. I had to create a presentation that would blow them away.

No problem, right?

I still had exactly 41 hours until I’d be taking the stage.

The Presentation

Because of my background as a teacher, putting together a PowerPoint presentation would have been the easy, and obvious, choice.

But everyone who has sat through more than one PowerPoint presentation knows how lame they are, even when done well.

I wasn’t risking my chance at $50,000 on a PowerPoint presentation!

I grabbed Heather and my iPhone and headed downtown.  

We had 2 hours of daylight left, and we were going to shoot a video.

I storyboarded the video in my mind on the way in to town (not the last time I’d be working in the car) and we got to work.

About 100 quizzical looks, 40 takes, and 1 confused barista later, we had the footage needed.

And because I’ll never be confused with Brad Pitt, the filming took longer than it should have.

Daylight was gone, and the hours were ticking down.

It was 8:30 pm, and all I had was a bunch of 10-15 second crude clips on an iPhone.

Next up was getting a logo.

Luckily, my cousin’s fiance ticks all the right boxes:

  • a graphic design master
  • someone who understands how crazy I am
  • and a helluva nice guy

So when I called him and asked:

“Can you please put a logo together for me tonight, preferably in the next hour?  I’ll explain later”

His answer of “sure, let’s do it!” wasn’t that surprising.

I drove over to his place, we talked out some ideas, and voila, two hours later, I had myself an awesome logo.

BOLT wifi

But it was 10:30 pm, and I still had no real presentation.

Welcome to crunch time.

I locked myself in my office, and for the next two hours, spliced together the clips, added voiceovers, and breathed a sigh of relief.

12:30 am, Friday morning and I was ready for bed.

I played the video back one last time…


What was supposed to be less boring than a PowerPoint was, in fact, more boring!

2 minutes of voiced over video clips?


And this is where I started to have a panic attack.

My normally calm and laid back demeanor was ripped away in one fell swoop.

I wasFREAKING out!

Enter my better half.

Heather came up to the room and in one minute, offered two suggestions that transformed the presentation.

  1. Add music in the background.
  2. Cut out 75% of the talking and use text to convey the message.

Hmmm…two of the most basic elements of making a good video that I had completely disregarded.

A lifesaver…and a genius!

While Heather packed my bags (she’s a really do-it all-type girl), I started over from scratch.

Two and a half hours later, I had finally put together a video I could be proud of.

Getting to Tampa

I write a blog about how to travel for cheap, so this should be the easy part, right?

Well, believe it or not, sometimes there only so much you can do, and booking plane tickets 12 hours before you need to leave gives you limited options.

As soon as I got the email from Randy, I began looking for any possible way to get down to Tampa using miles…


After an hour, I decided that I’d just swallow my pride and buy tickets on Southwest for Friday morning from Philly to Tampa.

One way was $370.


Luckily, we had the SW Companion Pass, so that was $370 for both Heather and I, but still.

That’s highway robbery for someone used to flying for free!

And, we still had to find tickets back from Tampa at some point.

Regardless, I fell asleep Friday morning at 3:00 am with the plan to catch a Southwest flight from PHL at 8:30 am.

3 hours later, we woke up, got ready, grabbed our bags, and headed to the airport.

As someone who is not accustomed to being awake that early, I was amazed that there was so much traffic.

At 7:40, we approached the exits for I-95.

North would take us to the airport.

South would take us to…Tampa.

I sat in the middle lane for as long as possible, and at the last moment, jerked the wheel right.

We were driving to Tampa!

I called up Southwest, cancelled my fully refundable tickets (an amazing perk of Southwest, by the way), and filled up with gas.

This was going to be an adventure!

And it was, for the first 12 hours or so.

We sang at the top of our lungs to music…

chatted on speakerphone with some old friends…

booked a hotel in Tampa on my iPhone…

and even stopped off at CVS to buy some Vanilla Reload cards!

During the drive, I also realized that the voiceovers I recorded the night before had been recorded through my computers mic, and not through my professional mic I use for podcasts.


Guess I had never turned the mic to on.

Hunched over in my seat, computer on my lap, trying to block out the noises of the highway, I even re-recorded the voiceovers while Heather drove.

And it worked!

Spirits were high!

And then, it started to get dark.

And we were still in Georgia.

After a brutal 5 hours of fighting off sleep and nerves, we rolled in to the Suburban Extended Stay Tampa (only 6,000 Choice points!) at 12:30 am, Saturday morning.

18 hours on the road, straight.

We were bushed.

And yet, I still couldn’t sleep.

I was too nervous.

So I sat up for an extra hour, re-recording a 3rd set of voiceovers!

Finally, after knowing I had done everything I possibly could to be prepared for the competition, I fell asleep exhausted.

It had been 32 hours since I had learned that I was presenting.  

I had shot a video, edited it together twice, had a logo created, recorded the voiceovers three times, and driven to Tampa.

Why It Was Worth It

I woke up 6 hours later and headed over to the Hyatt, where the competition was being held.

I practiced up on stage with no one in the room.

I paced.

I practiced up on stage with a few people trickling in.

I paced some more.

I went to the bathroom 5x times in half an hour.

And then, finally, I went on stage and presented.

At 11:00 am, 42 hours after I first received the email.

And….I WON!

Happiness, and to a larger degree, relief, rolled over me.

I went to the pool.

Tampa Hyatt Pool

And drank a margarita…or two!


What’s Next

Now that I’ve won this round of Launchpoint, I’ve earned a place in the Launchpoint finals.  

I’ll be going up against the 1st place and runner up finishers from April’s competition and the runner up from this competition.

The Launchpoint finals will be run online, and will be open voting for anyone who wishes to support an idea.

The tentative date for the finals is sometime in early to mid January, and will run for a month.

Whoever gets the most votes, will win the $50,000.

Of course, I’ll be giving you more details as they become available, but I’d love your support for Bolt.

I’ll be going up against much bigger competitors.

Some have fancy websites.

Some already have a product.

And some already have angel investors.

I have an idea, a dream, and the drive to make it come true.

It will be a true David vs. Goliath…but we all know how that turned out!

Out of the four ideas, I believe Bolt will appeal to the most people and is the easiest to implement.

$50,000 would be enough to take an idea and actually have the app built.

It would be enough for each and every one of you reading this post to have the Bolt app on your phone in less than a year.

And it’ll be enough to make the app available FOR FREE!

Let me just close by saying thank you to everyone who has supported both myself and Extra Pack of Peanuts over the last two years.

EPoP has been my first foray in to entrepreneurship and working for myself, and it’s taught me that there is no better feeling than

  • building a community of like-minded people
  • helping others do something they never thought possible
  • and chasing my own dreams


Bolt fits all three of those criteria, and thanks to you all, I’m going after that dream!








  1. Jerry Mandel says:

    1. What is BOLT? 2. Please make it accessible on desktops. I don’t do aps.

    1. Trav says:

      1. It’s an app that allows you to find user rated wifi wherever you are.

      2. It will probably be a website as well, but the problem with that is that in order to get on a website, you need wifi. And if you are looking for wifi, it means you probably don’t have it at the moment.

  2. Angelina says:

    I loved this post! Congrats on your big win. Your determination and hard work is definitely an inspiration!!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Angelina- Thanks so much. Really appreciate it!

  3. Ken says:

    Congrats Trav! You’re the only person I know crazy enough to pull something like this off. You’ve got my vote.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- Crazy does fit, that’s for sure! Thanks for the support!

  4. Congratulations!!! Great story. Wow! And great idea for an app…..I’d use it!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Everyday Ryan- Yep, the idea was borne out of my own frustrations of never being able to find good wifi when I was somewhere new. The more people I talk to, the more I realize that we are all in the same boat…and we don’t have to be. BOLT!

  5. Jay K says:

    Hey Trav!
    Congrats on the app. Looking forward to using it on my phone..umm..soon?! :D

    1. Trav says:

      @Jay K- Soon is the plan! If I win the competition and funding, it will be sooner than if I don’t, that’s for sure!

  6. Joey says:

    How did you get back to Philly?

    1. Trav says:

      @Joey- Drove…but not all in one shot, thankfully! Stopped in Savannah for what was supposed to be one night and turned in to two when we found buy one get one free margaritas (a little celebrating never hurt anyone), then stopped to see my brother in Chapel Hill for a night, stopped in Richmond to pick up a dog, and then pulled in to Philly Wednesday evening.

      The trip back is a story in its own right!

  7. phill gold says:

    love stories like these!!
    Best of luck!

    1. Trav says:

      @phill gold- Thanks, I really appreciate it!

  8. Grant says:

    Good work Travis! Glad you won. Good luck in the finals!

  9. Congrats on the win and a great story. Also, great times relaxing and chatting out at that pool. :)

    1. Trav says:

      @Wandering Aramean- Thanks for all your help and advice. Nothing like talking “business” while soaking up the rays. Isn’t that how it should always be done?

  10. sushiguy says:

    Awesome, love reading stuff like this. Good luck on the later rounds.

    1. Trav says:

      @sushiguy- Thanks! Keeping my fingers crossed.

  11. travelisfree says:

    Dude Trav,
    Not only am I glad to hear you won/are on the final level… But I’m glad to hear about this product. When I was voting at FTU DC I was like… “well, I don’t really need/want any of these things.” But when I watched your video, I was like “what the heck! THIS IS EVERYDAY OF MY LIFE!”

    It’s the first point of a great business, you have a product that meets my pain. Right? Other products are like “this would make great profit margins” (That’s what I heard). But I was getting pissed just watching your video because I need wifi so bad lol.

    I’d love to hear more about this app. If it were a map and you can look and see all the free wifi plus the rating? Or you look up a coffee shop or something? Even a hotel?

    Also, one thing you might be able to build into the app is a signal finder. Like you turn on the app, go to the signal finder and walk in your hotel room or lobby and watch the signal get stronger or weaker. Then you know the best place to sit. Just an idea.

    Oh, and just an idea but this could make the rating objective. You make the speed show up and it automatically have it post it’s rating or success. Idk? Like it it’s between 7-15 mbps it’s a 8 star, etc… I mean, there are things that tell me how fast it is going, but things that tell me how fast the place I’m going is. I’m passionate about wifi! :-p Even in hotels. But this is a product that is needed man!

    Anyways. Congrats. If you need any help let us know. Carrie is an artist and does what little graphic design I have on my site. :-p

    1. Trav says:

      @Drew- Couldn’t agree with you more. It was borne out of my own frustrations of never being able to find wifi, and I know many, many others have been in the same situation time and time again.

      I love your suggestions, some of which I’ve already thought about and am toying around with. At this point, I’m open to any and all advice and criticism, so keep it coming. I don’t profess to know everything, and I want to build something that works best for the most people, so I’m all ears!

      Thanks for the comments, it keeps me motivated and fueled to push through the obstacles that at this point are standing in the way. Bolt will be built, one way or another!

  12. Robb says:

    Trav, this is awesome. I was at FTU in April so I know how competitive these things are. Lots of good ideas out there, which makes your win that much more impressive! And this is certainly something I would want to use as a traveler. Back in April I voted for the Walla.by card, which is something I’d love to use, but there really hasn’t been any movement that I can see on the product, and I worry that it isn’t so much about money, and more about negotiating with the big guns to work with them, something that giving them more money isn’t necessarily going to solve. I can’t wait for the final details to come out and see your final presentation! Good luck!

    1. Trav says:

      @Robb- Thanks a ton. Yeah, this is a little different than other products because the money will help build it from the ground up and there is a very clear plan of what the money will do: develop the actual app.

      Really appreciate the support, and can’t wait until the competition!

  13. jerri arlan says:


    1. Trav says:

      @jerri arlan- Thanks!

  14. Todd says:

    Congratulations! EPoP was introduced to me by an off-topic forum and really got me interested, and now I think “addicted” is the better description, in points and miles. Being interested in points and miles has also completely altered how I use – and respect – credit. So, I am delighted to hear your hard work has paid off to this point and best of luck in January. Please keep us posted so we can vote, and encourage others to do so on your behalf. David wasn’t lucky, he was determined and had a plan.


    1. Trav says:

      @Todd- Couldn’t have said it better myself! I will 100% make sure everyone knows when the competition starts and exactly how to vote, and I will be counting on every single person out there to help support me. I really, really appreciate it!

      And yes, it becomes quite “addicting”. At least the end goal of travel is an admirable one!

  15. Amanda says:

    Wow! What an adventure! I was in that audience and I was actually one of the people who was ‘trickling in’ and got to see you practicing. I remember telling my husband that I thought it was awesome you were practicing up there. Your presentation was the most attention grabbing and easy to understand. And after watching a half day of powerpoints by that time, it was great to have a video! Its fun to read what went into it! I had no idea who you were at that point and actually didn’t know you wrote a blog. A friend sent me a link to one of your posts last week and I saw your photo and said ‘hey it’s the Bolt guy!’ Good luck in the next round!

    1. Trav says:

      @Amanda- Oh man, so you were the one who got to see me at my most nervous? Well, all that practicing really helped me out, and I’m glad you loved the presentation. Surprising backstory for a 2 minute video, huh?

      “The Bolt Guy”….that’s got a nice ring to it!

      Thanks for all your support and kind words!

  16. Matt says:

    Great story, and brilliant idea. My big question is, why the heck did you only get notified 31 hours in advance. That’s not very cool.

    1. Trav says:

      @Matt- Thanks, it was an adventure. I believe getting notified so late was a combination of things. One, I think they thought I was going to the conference already, which I wasn’t. Also, I know that one of the guys who heads up the competition couldn’t come for personal reasons, and I think that put things in a tailspin.

      Regardless, makes a much more interesting story! Alls well that ends well!

  17. Mark D. says:

    Not sure how I missed this story when it came out, but I had to chime in. First of all, great story. Really shows how unpredictable trying to start or run your own business can be and is a great example of seizing an opportunity when one arises.

    Second, this product is both fantastic and practical. If it doesn’t win at Launchpoint, I better see you on Shark Tank or something. Don’t let this idea die.

    Third, had know idea you are in the Philly area. If you do anything local, I would love to introduce myself sometime. I am in the suburbs (Doylestown area) and while I have no specific question or anything, it would be fun to just chat sometime with a mile-nerd.

    1. Trav says:

      @Mark D- Thanks, it certainly was pretty crazy. And you’re right, I can’t let it die. Gotta get back pushing it as we speak!

      I’ll be sure to let you know when I do something local. As I said, I’ve been trying to get together some more meet ups in the area, and really reach out to readers just to hang out. Thanks for spurring me on!

  18. Someone who ACTUALLY knows about tech says:

    This is definitely up there with some of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever seen for an app. I’m shocked you won the first round but i wouldn’t expect to go much farther. From the looks of the competition you’re up against REAL apps who have people who actually know how to build them.

    1. Trav says:

      @Someone- It’s no Flappy Birds, that’s for sure! I’m open to any and all constructive criticism, and since you already know the tech stuff, I’d love to hear your take on the plausibility. Feel free to shoot me an email at any time to discuss.

  19. Steve says:

    This idea has been done before time and time again:


    Plus all the hotspot information provided by companies as well. Not to mention, almost any fast food location or airport has WiFi.

    Perhaps you should come up with a unique idea instead of wasting everyone’s time?

    1. Trav says:

      @Steve- Thanks for providing those links. Those apps look decent, but not really what I’m going after with Bolt. Thanks for the help though.

  20. Charlie says:

    Hey, Trav! Whatever happened in the finals?

    1. Trav says:

      @Charlie- Nothing. They never had them. Quite a bit of a bummer. But I still got a great story out of it!

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