I have to say I’m a bit jealous of James. He lived it up like a VIP at last week’s Super Bowl activities and he earned a ton of media attention for his new startup, PatentStatus.
But it’s hard not to root for the guy. James Burnes hustles harder than a lot of entrepreneurs that I’ve met, which is why I asked him to write this candid guest post on how he turned a startup pitch competition into a big-time win for his company.
Enter James Burnes on PatentStatus and their Super Bowl victory:
You’ve got to love being on the home team. Especially when you’re from Indianapolis, like I am. The city believes in the startups that are growing in Indiana — so much so, that they designed one of the most inspiring startup competitions I’ve ever witnessed.
Six finalists gathered at the Speakeasy on Friday afternoon before the Super Bowl to find out who won. Each had created a 60-second video sharing their vision for that Indianapolis startup story. Following a quick, impromptu Q&A and entrepreneurship round table moderated by Kristian Andersen, Mayor Ballard announced the winner: my new patent law software venture, PatentStatus. It was a surprising honor – and opened a door that has quickly accelerated our business.
This is me just after learning that I was going to the Super Bowl:
Our virtual patent marking software exists because Congress passed the America Invents Act in the fall of 2011. PatentStatus enables companies to shift from traditional marking (stamping various patent numbers on each related product) to the newly approved virtual marking format (stamping a single, consistent web address (ie. patent.companyurl.com) on every product and then listing those related patents on the web site registry. PatentStatus handles the entire back-end for managing the data, publishing it to the web site and tracking all the changes for future litigation that may arise in the case of infringement.
Corporate counsel who select our cloud-hosted solution can achieve significant long-term cost savings and in nearly every case immediately increase the net-value of the patent portfolio, for an investment that is a fraction of the cost of current methods and processes.
Here’s our winning entry:
The Super Bowl ticket wasn’t the best prize.
Moments after winning we were handed an itinerary for the winner that would prove far more valuable than the game ticket – we were going on a 48-hour whirlwind tour of events and meetings that would put us in front of potential clients and inluencers.
Following an interview on WIBC Saturday morning, Scott Case hosted me and Neil Thanedar, founder and President of Aveemo, another Startup America contest winner from Ann Arbor, for a private two-on-one conversation with the Under Amour’s founder and CEO, Kevin Plank. This fast paced session was a mashup of Q&A, pitching, and anecdotes from Kevin. I left inspired and acutely aware of critical decisions that I’ll need to be making in the coming weeks.
Later that day we attended the Exact Target & Twitter VIP party, providing an opportunity to get facetime with several business executives that we hope in the coming 4-6 weeks will result in meetings with their corporate counsel to discuss our software implementation for their business.
We finished Saturday night at Taste of the NFL at Gleaner’s Food Bank – a 20+ year-old fundraising event by the NFL to support food banks across all 32 NFL markets. The attendee list was a who’s who of corporate executives – at $750/ticket, you’d expect that, right? I left with a pocket full of attendees’ business cards that will keep me connecting on LinkedIn for several weeks.
Waking up Sunday, I attended Governor Mitch Daniels’s brunch at the Statehouse along with 30 to 40 out-of-state companies that Indiana is wooing to establish operations here. It was exciting to be both a startup pitching our business to these IP-rich companies while simultaneously representing Indiana’s startup scene. The event was capped off by 5-8 minute conversations with both Governor Daniels and later his Secretary of Commerce, Dan Hasler. Both described a vision for our State that has me excited for all of us in this startup community about the direction Indiana is headed.
Think big or go home.
Before heading to Lucas Oil Stadium, Scott Case gave Neil and I an incredible two-hour session challenging every assumption of our business, letting us tap his brain on the lessons he’d learned building the companies he’d help found (including Priceline.com). In retrospect, I would honestly say this two hour session was the real prize of the weekend. If I had the option for two hours for that kind of feedback and constructive criticism – or a ticket to the Super Bowl – I’d pick the time with Scott. Seriously – those two hours are going to completely transform my law software startup’s strategy for growth.
In a future post I’ll submit my key lessons from that meeting, but the one that I cannot ignore: “Go 100% and go big….or GO HOME. What’s the point of hitting field goals – when touchdowns are what you need?”
Get creative to get the most out of the experience.
I made it my mission to make the most of my Super Bowl Suite ticket…and did I ever. We were on the lower level suites, so I took the two hours before the game to wonder the entire floor stopping and talking to any person in a sport coat or high heels who looked ‘corporate’ that would look me in the eyes. My time was well spent – I met folks from Chase Bank, Cummins and a slew of companies outside Indiana you wouldn’t have heard of (but I have their cards!).
I also took the bold step of crashing other suites than the one we had tickets to throughout the game. A bit risky, but I didn’t just come to watch a game, I came to make my business the most successful possible. I won’t bore you with who all I met, but I can tell you a three facts: 1) Drew Brees was never in the New Orleans Saints Suite, but James Carville was (nice guy, by the way), 2) the Lucas Oil Products Suite has an amazing custom blue horseshoe-shaped bar built into the jumbo suite and 3) when you’re inquisitive and kind to others – you can get a business card from anyone in ANY suite you want and they absolutely don’t care that you don’t belong there.
Keep the momentum going.
A fast-paced weekend has been a complete game-changer for my business and the way we’re going forward. I collected nearly 100 business cards and had even more meaningful conversations (amazing how many execs don’t carry business cards on them). I have three appointments that will be held in the next two weeks that are with Fortune 1,000 companies who I hope to secure as early clients for PatentStatus and most importantly – I have affirmed that it is the relationships and willingness to help connect others that will make me most successful – not my ideas or my great head of hair.
I am grateful to have been selected to represent the Indianapolis Startup scene by Develop Indy – and I hope I have an opportunity to pass it forward and help others in the Verge community connect and build relationships. I know my venture’s success will come from the support, feedback and input of those outside and inside the local startup community – and I look forward to learning from each of you.