Startup Weekend lets entrepreneurs show off

Startup Weekend has arrived in Las Vegas.

It may sound a bit crazy, but the idea behind the event is to give dozens of entrepreneurs the chance to pitch an idea, assemble a team, then build and demo their product.

The event takes place Friday night until Sunday afternoon at the El Cortez.

"Not only are we sponsoring the event, but I'll be a judge on Sunday," said Tony Hsieh, chief executive officer of

Hsieh said Las Vegas is not known as a hotbed of technology startups, but the "number of startups here" pleasantly surprised him.

He attributed the ongoing revitalization of downtown Las Vegas in creating a community that is friendly and attracts small technology startups.

Startup Weekend typically brings together developers, designers and businesspeople. This weekend's events will also include students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas developing and pitching their business plans.

Participants can't tackle everything in such a short time, but Hsieh said he expects legitimate startup ideas to be hatched this weekend.

Todd Levy, co-founder of BloomWorlds Inc. in Las Vegas, hopes to get Hsieh's attention and maybe some seed money with his idea for an applications store for Android phones and tablets that sell educational products and kid-friendly games.

Bloomworlds' app is not yet on the market, but will be available soon. Levy said he's hoping to recruit developers this weekend to design and then submit apps to BloomWorlds for review.

"We are going to use this weekend to pitch our mobile offering," he said. "We are looking to raise seed funding or attract an angel investor. No venture capital yet."

Beginning with open microphone pitches Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and get one minute to pitch the crowd. Through Saturday and Sunday, attendees will focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing lean startup methodologies and building a viable product.

On Sunday evening teams demonstrate their products and receive feedback from a panel of experts, including Hsieh.

One of the important lessons that participants learn at Startup Weekend is that you need to really focus on a minimum viable product, said Shavonnah Tiara, owner of Option Advisory in Las Vegas and the event's co-organizer.

Tiara said events such as Startup Weekend are crucial for the local economy.

"What we need in Las Vegas is more ideas," she said. "We have a bunch of really smart people here and events like this weekend will allow the to create a team of get the backing to bring it to life."

Tiara expected more than 120 people to attend the first-time event. She said she expects a few "angel" investors to be there scouting unique ideas.

Registration at the event is $49 for students or $99 for nonstudents. Additional information and registration:

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at or 702-477-3893.