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VOL. 123 | NO. 46 | Thursday, March 06, 2008

Biz Startup Event Slated for Late May

By Rosalind Guy

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()
Eric Mathews

The possibilities are endless.

With a group of 100 people, experts in various fields and many different visions, there's no telling what ideas will come out of the weekend event that brings a whole room of people together for the purpose of coming up with an idea for a startup business.

In Washington, it led to the creation of HolaNeighbor, a social networking Web site for neighborhoods. In Boston, a group of entrepreneurs developed DeskHappy.com, a Web site for deskbound workers who might need a reminder to get up and stretch.

In May, 100 people will gather at the EmergeMemphis building off Tennessee Street to come up with an idea for a startup business.

Memphis will become the next city to host a Startup Weekend event May 30-31 and June 1. At the end of the 54-hour event, participants anticipate they will have come up with an idea for a profitable business.

"The primary benefit of the weekend is that it actually brings out the community," said Eric Mathews, managing member of Mercury Technology Labs and one of the people who helped bring the event to the city. "And it builds the community around entrepreneurship and technology development and things along those lines."


Hop on, let's go

Mathews and local entrepreneur Harry Brown contacted the founder of the event, Andrew Hyde, who is based in Boulder, Colo., after reading a newspaper article about the Washington event.

So far, about 30 people have signed up for the Memphis event. Eventually, Mathews hopes to get at least 50 more participants comprised of lawyers, marketing professionals, entrepreneurs,
Web developers and designers, among others. The more variety, Mathews said, the better.

"Diversity is extremely important for this type of venture," he said. "As they say, 'If everybody's thinking the same thing, that means somebody isn't thinking.' So you need that diversity of thought in order for things to succeed."

Startup Weekend began in July when Hyde was hanging out with friends.

"I was sitting at dinner with some great entrepreneur friends and realized that we would never get to work together on projects," Hyde said. "I suggested doing a 'hack-a-thon' or a small project, and it developed from there."


Rome built in a day

Since the first Startup Weekend was held last July, 15 others have followed.

Hyde said the first goal of the weekend events is to build community, as Mathews said he hoped the Memphis event would do.

"It has proven to be very successful at building community," Hyde said. "Three companies have received compelling acquisition offers for the products they have built."

Having so many people working in such a time frame toward a common goal is powerful, Mathews said.

"When you bring 100 people together and they work for 54 hours, that's a lot of manpower and it's kind of the equivalent of a few people working together to start a business for a year or two," Mathews said. "All that gets compressed down when you have 100 people working for a 54-hour period. It compresses down the time cycle to actually create a business."

A $40 registration fee will cover some of the costs incurred during the weekend, such as food and T-shirts.

Of the profits that come from the business, if it's successful, 50 percent of the ownership will go to event participants, 5 percent will go to the Startup Event founding company, Startup Weekend LLC, and the remainder of the profits will be reserved for things such as incentives for the management team that will actually help move the business
forward and other uses.

"Attendees are responsible for bringing the ideas, desire and passion to the project," Mathews said. "And they will walk out of the room with a brand-new business by Sunday."

To register for the event, visit
http://memphis.startupweekend.com.

After the Memphis event, the next Startup Weekend will be held in Ann Arbor, Mich., June 20-22.

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