mentor in Silicon Valley. “When Zucker-
berg first brought out Facebook, everyone
said, ‘Who cares?’ And look what hap-
pened when two guys from Stanford
decided they had a better idea for search.”
There are about 80 people in the ball-
room, and they all seem to be nodding.
There’s Ed Carapezza, a former
construction manager who dreams of
building a skateboard company.
There’s Magdy Francis Ibrahim, a
local restaurateur who wants to create
better business-management software.
There’s Tisa Cawthon, a paratriathlete
and interior designer who wants to
relaunch Cockroach Crunch, the failed
iPhone game she developed in 2009.
There’s Basile Michardiere, a 21-year-old Frenchman building a social
network for families.
There’s Cesar Lerma,
who says he’s working on
a “worldwide equation
that anyone could use to become
There’s David Steinberg, a 28-year-
old software engineer who wants to
build an advertising network that would
reward people for real-life activities.
There’s Eddie Aguilar, a business
student who wants to build Moocher,
an app that will ping users when retailers
are giving away free stuff.
There’s Rick Brandley, a self-described
“supersenior” in his fifth year of college,
who wants to build Wan2Learn, a website
on which instructors can offer their services. (“Like Craigslist,” he says. “Only
without sh--ty design.”)
They’ve all paid $50 to $100 to come
to Startup Weekend, the part-business-
part-cultural-phenomenon. In six years,
there have been more than 1,000
Startup Weekends just like this in 450
cities in 104 countries. This very week-
end, in fact, there are 10 other Startup
Weekends happening all around the
world. More than 100,000 people have
done it. It is, in short, the world’s most
popular start-up event, inspired by a
simple, exhilarating promise:
“No Talk, All Action. Launch a Startup
in 54 Hours.”
Erickson pauses and inhales.
Thirty-two participants queue to stage left.
One by one, microphone in hand, they
explain their business idea and whom
they need to help them build it. (The
like a true leaDer, he’s brought
roCkstar energy Drinks for
the team. he CraCks one open.
it smells like
other attendees don’t have business ideas;
they have come to Startup Weekend to
attach themselves to a cool project.)
When the pitch session is over, the unaffiliated participants are given 20 minutes
to roam about the ballroom, looking for a
team to join. It’s like speed dating for
start-ups. Pitches without much traction
are discarded, and their founders decide
to join another team or leave. By 9 p.m.,
10 teams have formed. In less than 48
hours, after hacking together a minimum
viable product—all weekend, people will
be talking about their MVP—they will
present to a panel of judges. Winners will
get free business services and the confidence to continue pursuing their dream.
I sit down next to Eddie Aguilar,
the founder of Moocher. Aguilar is
dressed casually in jeans, a black
T-shirt, and a black coat. He’s only 21,
but he’s commanding his team of seven
workers like a seasoned CEO. Winning
this event is important to him.
“Have any of you worked at a start-
up company before? It’s incredibly hard.”
“Developers: What do you need
“Let’s define our value proposition.”
Aguilar grew up in a modest Los
Angeles suburb and now studies entre-
preneurship at CSUMB. After college,
“People,” he says, “It’s OK to think big
but act small.”
Day two: this CoulD work!
Basile Michardiere, the French founder
of Bubblio.com, is one of the first to
arrive at the University Center.
It’s 8 a.m., and participants are slowly,
somewhat groggily, trickling in. Forty-seven people remain. Today’s goal, as
outlined by the Startup Weekend road
map, is straightforward: Research, build,
research, build. Teams are expected to
make a good start on a product, research
its market potential, start creating a prototype, receive customer validation, and
design marketing copy and logos.