NYC Startup Weekend

startup-weekend.jpg Various Spectrum folk will be blogging the NYC Startup weekend, hosted by Brooklyn Polytechnic University's BEST startup incubator, from now until Sunday. BEST (Brooklyn Enterprise in Science and Technology) director Bruce Niswander is a self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur" who understands the 101 ways 99.9% of startup businesses fail. Startup is the brainchild of Andrew Hyde, a 23-year-old Boulder, C.O. wunderkindwho tells me he is "great at the first 25 percent of starting a business, and terrible at the rest. I suck at day-to-day." He's here to inspire the 100 people from all over New York sitting here in the standard-issue linoleum-floor-and-fluorescent-lights university room where the event is kicking off with keynote speeches. (In his keynote address, Andrew mentions first that 15 people are going to be late.) Right now it's a little bit like Lord of the Flies; we're trying to get a sense of who will emerge as the leader, a process which can only happen organically in an impromptu setting like this one. Everyone is networking with each other and trying to funnel their ideas down to The One Big Idea, which will emerge gradually and finally pop into existence on Sunday night. The goal: A web-based business with a corporate identity ready for prime time, with a functioning web site, a business model, and willing investors. As of right now, the thing doesn't even exist. These 100 people have 48 hours to make all that happen.

It's going to be an intense weekend. They started tonight at around 6:45 (plagued by a particularly "old world" problem that feels like a museum artifact in this new-media-only environment: the delayed insurance certificate). They'll be here tonight until 11 pm, get back at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, be here until 11 p.m., back at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, and here again until 11 Sunday night. At 11 pm, in theory, you have a startup with 100 shareholders.

We're listening to everyone's 30-second pitches-- so far I've heard about user-generated fashion via geotagging, 11th hour reservations, Green Ads (where ad revenue gets funneled not to the host but to, say, Greenpeace), and a ratings systems for individual meals. ("Sometimes when I'm in Queens, I don't want the best restaurant-- I want the best chicken parm," says the idea's originator, a clean-cut looking blond guy in a striped polo shirt. He may have just figured out the company's tag line.)

Andrew knows how to whip a crowd into a froth. People are really excited. They're discussing their 30-second pitches in small groups, but the volume is rising steadily towards that cocktail party level right before the moment when everyone goes mysteriously silent just as you loudly say the word "...breast!"

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