Startup companies are one of the aspects of the American mentality that are great drivers of innovation. The ability for anyone with an idea to start a company is beyond the mindset of people in many other countries.

And while the odds of a startup being in existence -- much less profitable -- within five years are not good, the desire for people to explore the boundaries of what's possible has lead to some huge successes.

Some consider Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Alley in New York as being the hotbeds of innovation. While it's true that these are where many great ideas have been launched, creativity knows no geography.

While some consider a bad economy a bad time to start a business, the startup activity has been remarkably good. It's bad times that often drive people to think creatively and creativity drives innovation.

So I was very pleased when I heard about the upcoming Startup Weekend Stamford from Friday, March 30, to Sunday, April 1, at the Stamford Innovation Center. Think of this as a boot camp for innovators.

According to the organizers: "Startup Weekends are 54-hour events designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs. The weekend events are centered on action, innovation, and education. Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through testing, business model development, and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night demos to a panel of potential investors and local entrepreneurs. Participants are challenged with building functional startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks."

A number of Westport residents will be assisting would-be entrepreneurs, including Peter Propp with Shore Communications and co-founder of FairCo Teem.

Asked about the Startup Weekend, Peter said, "The main thing is to give people the chance to work on an idea of their own or someone else's idea and then present it to experts who will choose a winner." Peter will be there assisting, as well as mentoring. "It could turn into a company, but it is mainly a chance to learn about the startup process," Peter said.

So whether you're considering a startup, know someone who has a great idea for a startup, want to find out more about how startups work or just want to see some incredibly creative people -- and maybe the next Facebook -- give some thought to attending this event. A few years from now, you may be able to say "I saw that company when it was just an idea."

Information on the Stamford Startup Weekend may be found at www.stamford.startupweekend.org.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org.