Garage bootcamp in the NYT Magazine

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From: Rohit Khare (
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 19:27:51 PDT


While Nasdaq Burns

Networking with the true believers at the recent 'Boot Camp for
Start-Ups' seminar. By JESSICA SEIGEL

This is big -- really big," said Bill Sarpalius, a former Texas
congressman, taking in the scene at Boot Camp for Start-Ups, a
seminar recently held in Manhattan and currently making its way
around the country. While the Nasdaq was imitating sine waves on
computer screens around the world, Sarpalius, like everyone else in
sight, was networking wildly and conferencing on his cell phone. He
was on the line with his board working out a merger with a rival
while his employees were back at, a Web site that,
come May, will allow citizens to pool their resources and hire former
congressmen as lobbyists. Getting voted out of office, he decided,
was "the best thing that ever happened. Now I'm part of a new
frontier. There was the gold rush, the land rush and the oil boom.
Now it's the Internet. I'm staking my claim."

Such was the spirit of endless possibility -- tinged with frantic
urgency -- among the 1,000 prospectors, most of them white guys under
35. They had paid $995 each to learn how to hone and sell their ideas
with the artful savvy of a Hollywood pitch meeting. ("Less is more,"
advised Bill Joos during the Perfecting Your Pitch seminar. "Bait
hooks, don't force feed fish.")

Indeed, the convention seemed to take a page from Writers Boot Camp,
a how-to sensation founded in a bygone decade, though these young
hopefuls were after much more than a two-movie deal. "You have a
three-year window to make $100million," Robert Lessin, the chairman
and co-C.E.O. of Wit Capital, told a standing-room audience. "After
that it's business as usual."

The Boot Camp was organized by, a start-up that helps
start start-ups and will, of course, be going public later this year.
Guy Kawasaki, the company's C.E.O., used to be "chief evangelist" of
Apple Computer; at the seminar he seemed to proselytize for the whole
New Economy. "The general message," he said, "is, things are still
O.K." Translation: V.C. billions are still there for the picking.
"Take the money when it's offered."

He didn't have to say it twice to Jeremy McGee, the 17-year-old
president of, a children's e-mail service whose business
plan McGee hatched with a partner he met in church and that has
subsequently attracted $100,000. Or to the 29-year-old Morgan Stanley
broker who is quitting his job to focus on a Web site that "empowers
personal trainers."

Another general message to the believers was: B2B
(business-to-business marketing) and B2C (business to consumer) are
so five minutes ago; from now on it's all about B2B2C. Michael
Parekh, managing director of Goldman, Sachs's Internet group, passed
the good word to Michael Janay, a 31-year-old who is quitting his job
to launch a Web site offering college-admissions services. Janay ran
off -- literally -- to revise his business plan. "It just clicked,"
he said.

By cocktail hour, everyone was fully converted. Even the service
staff. Like a Los Angeles parking valet who is working on a
screenplay, Antionette Davis, who was working the conference's coat
check, confessed she is leaving her job to study graduate computer
programming. "Everyone and their mother is doing high tech," she
said. Plucky coat-check girl and mother launch Internet start-up --
sort of an "Anywhere but Here" meets Esther Dyson

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