RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Can social networking amongst friends and strangers, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial wannabes, geeks and tech klutzes lead to a winning business idea?

Several dozen people will find out starting Friday night as they gather for

Over what promises to be a grueling 54-hour time frame, organizers and participants will argue, debate, think outside of any box they already work in, and invest a lot of sweat equity in creating a new venture.

Launched in 2007, Startup Weekend has already put on 20 other events across the country, including one in Chapel Hill last November. The end result could be an incorporated company that is owned in part by the participants.

But the real benefit, according to one of the organizers, is the relationships that participants will develop during what could turn into a creative bonfire.

Asked what participants will receive, Jess Martin, one of the organizers, wrote online: “The same thing that the attendees get: an opportunity to build relationships with entrepreneurs in the Triangle, a nifty t-shirt, a shot of pure entrepreneurial adrenaline, some delicious food, and the chance to see people get excited about starting something.”

These events aren’t for the tame, either. “Attendees are responsible for bringing the same desire and passion to the project and walk out of the room with the task at hand, in a short 54 hours. Sound intense? It is,” Startup Weekend promises on its web site.

The RTP event starts at 6 p.m. Friday at the Edge Office on Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh. John Glushik, a venture capitalist at Intersouth Partners, will stop by to talk with attendees later that evening to discuss what VCs look for in evaluating potential investments.

Here’s the tentative schedule as provided by the organizers:

FRIDAY:

6:00-7:00pm – Meet and socialize.

7:00-7:15pm – Introduce the idea of startup weekend. Present guiding principles.

7:15-7:45pm – 1 minute introductions. Who you are, what kind of work
do you want to do this weekend?

7:45-8:30pm – 1 minute pitches of ideas. 1 minute follow-up for questions.

8:30-8:45pm – VC John Glushkin of Intersouth Partners talks about how
to evaluate an idea for a startup.

8:45-9:15pm – Narrow down to small # of ideas. Everyone votes on top 3 ideas.

9:15-9:30pm – Break into groups of 3-10 people to start companies.

9:30 — Break. If you want to go home, go for it. Otherwise, stick
around and start working.

SATURDAY:

9am – Breakfast. Start working.

12pm – Lunch. Keep working.

6:30-7:00pm – Quick status update from each group

7:00-8:00pm – Dinner. Open mic hour (we’ll have music EQ set up with a guitar and keyboard for anyone to go cover a song)

8-10pm – Keep working

10pm — Break. Go home if you want. The hardcore will keep working.

SUNDAY:

9am – Breakfast. Start working.

12pm – Lunch. Keep working.

6:30-7:00pm – Quick status update from each group

7:00-9:00pm – “Launch party” – go out to a local restaurant or club

9:00pm — Break. That’s a wrap! The hardcore will keep working.

Organizing the RTP event are Martin, who is lead developer for Winedrip, a web community for wine enthusiasts; Jason Dimambro, president of marvel Internetworking in Raleigh, and Wayne Sutton, a social media evangelist and community content manager at WNCN TV in Raleigh.

RTP Startup Weekend is already drawing media interest. Cable news network CNBC is already in town with a crew to cover the event.
Should be tough physically, mentally – and fun.