What is Startup X? An interview with founder Jonathan Gottfried

Startup X sounds like a ridiculous parody of the often insane startup scene. “Startup X is a revolutionary new concept. It’s so revolutionary that it doesn’t even exist yet,” wrote Beta Li.st, a site that tracks new Internet startups, “While Startup X will be top secret until the demo on March 14, we already know it’s poised to change the way you interact with and manage your social content.” More hype hasn’t been crammed into a that many words since before Cuil was launched. Beta Li.st seems to be in on some joke, and after hyping new websites multiple times daily, decided to crank the Hypemeter up to 11 in an attempt to be meta about a meta-startup with a homepage based, as “soon-to-be founder” Jonathan Gottfried says, on “an existing meta-startup.” Any more meta and you’d need Christopher Nolan to explain it to you. But as much as Startup X may sound like a caricature, Jonathan is completely serious about creating and launching a startup.

The catalyst was the StartupBus, which is, literally, a bus on which startups are built and launched. Startup Buses leave from cities around the country on March 8, and teams of “buspreneurs” are tasked with creating and launching a startup on the way to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Startup X was pre-launched with this in mind, and finally, about a week ago, Jonathan had an idea that stuck. “The idea is very solid and fleshed out,” he says (we talked over Google Chat while he was at a recent Startup Bus Hackathon in New York), so “the startup will evolve around it.”

Jonathan is deliberately vague about his concept, preferring to keep it secret until teams are assembled and the work starts, but he does provide some hints: it’s local, and it involves commerce (two areas already teeming with startups). “I can tell you that the key to the concept I have is that we will reduce barrier to entry to as close to zero as possible, and provide a simple and beautiful interface,” he adds, “Think Instagram.”

Another hint: the idea came to Jonathan while he was reading Steve Poland’s blog. “My idea kind of evolved from one of his gripes,” he says, “I’m not using one of his ideas, but he was talking about a particular pain point that gave me my idea.”

Jonathan’s already got the foundations in place: an idea, a domain name, even a sponsor. All that’s left is to form a team and get started, and with the Startup Bus departing soon, it won’t be long before “Startup X” becomes real. And with 48 hours to build a startup from scratch, it’s going to start feeling very real, very soon.

[Update: Startup X is Lemonade Stand, “a new and easy way to buy and sell locally.”]

Read more on Interviews, Technology, The Internet.