When I first started going to these tons of people there were BBS sysops, others were HAM radio enthusiasts who were learning about microwave packet radio, others were hardware hackers, telephony phreaks, ascii artists, and a few were pro infosec geeks.
Nobody was there because of the idea of "launching a startup" everybody was there because they wanted to learn about the Internet and the emerging technologies associated with it. When I first started going to these meetings in my teens most normal people hadn't even heard of the Internet (aside from AOL), so there definitely wasn't the idea that you're going to get rich just by hacking.
We had a blast just helping each other learn things like BSD sockets, networking, or hardware hacking for the sheer joy of it. Hacking was a FUN HOBBY but not one that would get you chicks or gobs of cash.. it was kind of like ANSI ART, demo scene, or HAM Radio which a lot of us were also interested in. There was absolutely zero pressure to achieve anything other than to have fun by learning.
There was a certain hacker ethos that existed back then which seems to be gone now as geek becomes sheek. You can still get a feel for what it used to be by reading some of the literature.
Here's a couple of books off my shelf from that time period which I highly recommend:
Startups and science fiction... that book is a favorite of mine.
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