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Chris Ainsworth: Start a company this weekend

A past Startup Weekend
A past Startup Weekend
<p>A past Startup Weekend</p>

A past Startup Weekend

When I say entrepreneur, or any variation, take a drink.

This Friday, dozens of developers and entrepreneurs will make their way to the InNEVation Center for a three-day startup jam with one goal in mind: to leave on Sunday with a viable business.

Founded by Andrew Hyde in the summer of 2007, Startup Weekend has since expanded from a single Boulder, Colo., event to a worldwide entrepreneurial powerhouse, with hundreds of cities hosting and more than a thousand projects started as a result.

The inaugural Las Vegas event was held at the El Cortez in 2011, and three more have followed. This weekend will be the city’s fifth (we’re doing math, ya’ll), and even at this early stage, Startup Weekend Las Vegas has already had several successes under its belt.

“There are a few companies that have come out of Startup Weekend that have survived to become local startups, including ClippPR, the winner of the first Startup Weekend, and LaunchKey, winner of Startup Weekend 3,” said Adam Kramer, SWLV organizer and director of entrepreneurship and Vegas Young Professionals at the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. “Both of these companies are on the cutting edge of their respective industry and are making quite a splash.”

LaunchKey is particularly notable, growing from a Startup Weekend concept to being the recipient of $750,000 in funding within months. Other local entrants that went on to become actualized companies include Phone2Action, Rumgr, Counterless and Coupla.

Still, don’t think that simply by placing at Startup Weekend you’ll find yourself sewing suits out of hundred-dollar bills — in just two short years, the majority of SWLV winners have already shuttered, Twitter accounts and domain names dormant and discarded.

Entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurialism.

So, how does Startup Weekend work?

Friday, Day 1

It starts with a pitch. After introductions and a short speaker session, badge holders with a concept are given a minute and a microphone. No powerpoints, no props, just 60 seconds and an idea.

Next comes the voting. Once everyone’s had their say, all attendees vote for their favorite pitches, and from those results, a handful (based on total attendance) are selected as the primary concepts to be worked on over the weekend. Teams are formed organically as folks gravitate towards projects that interest them, and work begins.

Saturday, Day 2

Work continues, with the occasional break to eat or listen to a short talk. Coaches (including successful entrepreneurs and instructors from the local scene) wander about throughout the day, giving advice and helping teams sort through and overcome problems. Everyone works some more. The conference officially closes for the night at 10 p.m., but most will end up hammering away at their keyboards well beyond that.

Sunday, Day 3

Work continues. This is the day where tired attendees panic upon realizing that they’ve only got a few hours before their projects will be on display.

Halfway through the day, focus shifts as teams scramble to tie up loose ends, finalize their prototypes and prepare demos. The judges arrive and presentations begin, with each team given five minutes to show off its product, followed by a brief question-and-answer session with the jury.

The jury then selects the winners, awards are given out — past prizes have included cash, a booth at CES, business services and office space — and then everyone goes on to celebrate and/or catch up on sleep.

There’s still time to sign up.

Feeling that entrepreneurial itch? While this is a bit of a short notice (look, this here is a biweekly column, see?), registration for Startup Weekend Las Vegas will remain open until the start of the event, so you’ve still got a day to clear your calendar and register. The entrance fee for developers, designers and non-technical folk looking to take part is $99. If you’re the voyeuristic sort, observation passes are available for a mere $15.

Details at lasvegas.startupweekend.org.

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a native Las Vegan and a tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) or at driph.com.