Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

DURHAM, N.C. – The startup world is certainly all atwitter with hope these days with LinkedIn’s massive IPO, Groupon’s announced plans Thursday for its own stock offering and the ever-growing success of Facebook. Could there be a future Internet smash hit lurking somewhere in the Triangle?

The Council for Entrepreneurial Development and its partners as well as volunteers and mentors will be looking for the next big hit as Startup Weekend comes to the Triangle.

The three-day pitch, build and launch program gets underway Friday at the American Tobacco Historic District in Durham and concludes on Sunday.

“In a nutshell, that’s Startup Weekend, a one-of-a-kind 54-hour event where you and a make-shift team build a web product or mobile app that could be the next billion dollar blockbuster,” CED promises. “Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes – software developers, graphic designers, business people, and investors.”

Tickets are still available and can be purchased on site.

The judges to determine the winner(s) are a mix of entrepreneurs and investors. They include:

  • Jason Caplain,Southern Capitol Ventures
  • Joe Colopy, Bronto Software
  • Brian Handly, LaunchBox Digital, StatSheet
  • David Spitz, ChannelAdvisor
  • Joe Velk, Contender Capital
  • Richard White, User Voice

Here are some highlights from the event’s FAQ:

I only have an idea for a company. Should I come?

Yes! Triangle Startup Weekend is designed for idea stage concepts. No previous experience in starting a company is necessary.

I already have a startup. Can we enroll as a team?

Each person will need to sign up individually. You can pitch your startup Friday night, and if it’s selected, your group can work as a team – perhaps joined by a few volunteers and mentors.

Can I pitch more than one idea?

Nope, you just get one shot under the spotlight, so bring your a-game.

How long do the pitches last?

On Friday night, everyone who wants to pitch gets one minute to explain your new startup concept.

On Sunday, final presentations will last five minutes, then have a three minute Q&A with the judges panel.

What is the format for the pitches?

You are the format. You stand up on a stage and give a one minute pitch. There is no audiovisual support, and although we highly suggest you don’t do it, you of course could bring some kind of prop if you had to.

How are the startups chosen?

Anyone with an idea to pitch will have a chance to do so Friday night. A popular vote of those in the audience will decide the top 10 startups that will be developed over the weekend.

What if my idea doesn’t get enough votes?

Join a different team! It’s all about learning and making connections.

Who owns the idea? Should I be concerned about my intellectual property?

Startup Weekend doesn’t retain or claim ownership to any ideas, that’s up to the teams. The issue of patents, copyrights and the like is obviously an important one. It’s also one that is a question of risk and reward for you. If your concepts are so unique and complete that you’ll benefit from not sharing them in an open forum then we suggest you participate, and keep your best ideas close to the vest. If your concepts need input from the who’s who of the local startup community and from a number of technical and marketing geniuses, you’ll likely find more benefit from sharing them at #TSW2011 to gain perspective and potentially flesh them out through rapid iteration, than by holding on to them until someone else brings the idea to market first.

Can I work on my own idea independently?

Totally.

Where will we be working?

The opening and closing sessions will be held in Bay 7 at the American Tobacco Campus.

All day Saturday and Sunday morning, teams will work in the American Underground and others places around the American Tobacco Campus.

Who decides the winner?

A panel of judges consisting of investors and entrepreneurs will pick the winners.

Will there be prize money?

Maybe! We are working to find a sponsor to award modest cash prized to the top teams.

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