Why I Almost Gave Away My Super Bowl Ticket

By Neil Thanedar

Last weekend, I was provided the amazing opportunity to visit Indianapolis and attend the Super Bowl with Startup America CEO Scott Case.

The announced perks were a free ticket to the Super Bowl, networking meetings with Fortune 500 CEOs, and a host of events with the political and business leaders of Indiana. But the highlights of my trip were almost always the spontaneous opportunities.

Scott had cautioned me to take full advantage of all that would be presented to me, both on and off the clock. He told me that this weekend could either be an amazing chance for me to grow as a startup founder, or just a fun weekend vacation. From then on, I made it my mission to learn as much as I could from Scott and my upcoming experiences.

On Friday, in true entrepreneur fashion, we were encouraged to ‘hack’ a VIP event with a closed wait list (Thanks @LarryChiang, @NTippmann). And 30 minutes later, I found my way to Mark Cuban’s table. I was thrilled to get a minute to pitch Avomeen to one of my business idols. But when I finished my quick pitch, Mark asked me question after question, and we ended up debating Avomeen’s business model for at least 20 minutes. His message could be summed by that famous line from The Social Network. My job for the rest of the weekend was to find a higher target for Avomeen.

As a young entrepreneur with a small, but successful startup, it’s easy to get caught up in early success and get complacent. But to billionaires like Cuban and Case, I’m still orders of magnitude away from their success, and they weren’t scared to challenge me and help keep me eyes on a higher goal.

From there, I soaked up every minute of mentorship from Scott Case. He found what business skills I most needed to improve, and worked hard to push me out of my comfort zone with my network development and sales pitch. I pitched Avomeen to everyone from student entrepreneurs to NFL cheerleaders (a story for another time).

After hours of challenges from Scott, a new business model hit me in a flash on Sunday. For the next few hours, I got as much as I could on paper, and have been working overtime ever since. In between, Scott Case and James Burnes, founder of Indianapolis startup Patent Status and the other Startup America Super Bowl winner, managed to pry me away long enough to attend an amazing Super Bowl game, courtesy of Startup America.

When I look back on this weekend, it is unlikely I’ll remember any of the specific plays in the Super Bowl, but I will remember the pitches, passion, and that ‘Eureka’ moment that I experienced behind the scenes in Indianapolis. I’m a better entrepreneur than I was last week, and I’ve got Startup America to thank for that.

Neil Thanedar, 23, is Founder and President of Avomeen Analytical Services, a Scientific R&D Laboratory that uses advanced chemical and forensic tools develop new products and solve manufacturing challenges. Avomeen grew to over 10 employees and $1M/year revenues in its first year and earned Neil the title Generation Next Entrepreneur To Watchby CNNMoney.