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NBC's Ron Mott watches companies rise in 54 hours

Editor's note: Ron Mott's report on Startup Weekend will air Sunday, July 27.For a lot of people, scratching a few items off their housekeeping list — be it cutting the lawn or vacuuming the guest bedroom — makes for a pretty productive weekend. But compared to what a small, yet growing number of Americans are accomplishing over those two days, the word slouching, comes to mind.More than 50 ul
/ Source: TODAY

Editor's note: Ron Mott's report on Startup Weekend will air Sunday, July 27.

For a lot of people, scratching a few items off their housekeeping list — be it cutting the lawn or vacuuming the guest bedroom — makes for a pretty productive weekend. But compared to what a small, yet growing number of Americans are accomplishing over those two days, the word slouching, comes to mind.

More than 50 ultra-type-A personalities filled an office to do in 54 hours what traditionally takes months or years — create a business. It’s part of a new concept called Startup Weekend, which brings together technology whizzes, marketing pros, legal experts, and others to pitch startup ideas and launch an online or digital-based company by the time the clock strikes midnight.

“Seeing people become entrepreneurs over the course of 54 hours is really cool,” said Jess Martin, one of the event’s organizers in the tech-savvy Research Triangle area.

A self-described startup junkie from Colorado named Andrew Hyde created Startup Weekend last year. Since then, nearly two dozen meetups have taken place, from New York and Boston to Hamburg and London.

The marathon gets off to a running start on Friday night, with a blitz of so-called “elevator pitches,” which are 30 to 60-second presentations of what might make a good business. Some ideas are seemingly so top of mind, that even the speakers themselves have difficulty making sense of the convoluted notions. Other ideas, though, prompt screeches of “awesome!” and “I like that!”

One of them — an iPhone application that would transform the immensely popular device into a voice-activated language translator — appeared certain to make it through the pitch process based on the crowd’s response.

But it’s eventually rejected.

Instead, the group votes to concentrate on five ideas for launch, and divides into teams. Carafe after carafe of coffee is drained, and box after box of glazed donuts is eaten, as software developers hover over laptops for hours, writing code. At the same time, the “words” folks refine the potential companies’ marketing and strategic business messages.

The objective is to build a company, yet attendees point to results they find even more satisfying.

“This is the era of entrepreneurship 2.0,” said Wayne Sutton, another organizer. “Part of this weekend is about relationships. And we have a goal of creating an actual startup company. But overall, in the end, when it comes down to it, the people who come are going to have a relationship like it was family reunion.”

Who knew family reunions required this much work?

The teams toiled long into the night - and early into the morning - fleshing out their ideas, adding meat to the conceptual bones. There’s logo design, target market, Web site flow, management structure, sponsorship potential and more to consider. It leaves little time for sleep.

“I got three hours sleep,” Martin said to one of his teammates Sunday morning. “And you got?”

“Forty-five minutes,” was the reply.

Martin said his team fell behind other groups in developing their business, a Web site and text-messaging service devoted to helping consumers land last-minute deals on soon-to-sellout items, everything from kitchen blenders to theatre tickets. The information is to be generated by consumers themselves in real time, hence the slogan for Dealcastr.com: “The deals you want. When you want them. Where you are.”

“This isn’t about making money necessarily,” Martin said. “The likelihood of you starting a successful company that makes millions of dollars in a single weekend is slim to none. In fact, you might as well just regard it as none.

“This weekend is a way to give people a way to see it is possible you can start something in just a single weekend.”

To learn more about the companies launched during Startup Weekend, visit http://www.startupweekend.com/.