Last night’s First Indiana: Pitch Night at the Track was awesome. Not only did we get a look at the first three companies selected to pitch at the Innovation Showcase, but we were lucky enough to chat with the one, the only, Mark Miles.

If you’re not familiar with Mark, I know you’re familiar with his work. Mark is currently the CEO of Hulman & Co., but before his time in IndyCar, he was also the brains behind bringing Indianapolis the Pan-Am Games and the Super Bowl. Here are some of our key takeaways from this awesome fireside.

Leverage Your Resources to Your Advantage

In 2012, the World met the new Indianapolis thanks to the Super Bowl. For the first time, the entire country had their eyes on downtown Indianapolis as opposed to nearby Speedway, Indiana. Indy’s Super Bowl Committee responded with one of the most popular and highly-acclaimed Super Bowls in history. That was a source of pride for all Hoosiers, but it wouldn’t have been possible if they didn’t know how to leverage their resources appropriately.

“In other cities, as soon as the announcement was made, suburbs started fighting it out. This suburb gets the fan experience, this suburb gets ESPN. We decided we wanted to do it all downtown,” Mark explained.

Mark Miles shares how @SuperBowl2012 was brought to Indy, leveraging a vibrant downtown and pushing people to think big. #vergehq

— KA+A (@KAplusA) May 8, 2014

One of the reasons people loved Indy’s Super Bowl so much was Mark’s ability to recognize our city’s assets and leverage them appropriately. We had:

  • A walkable downtown
  • A good row of nightlife and restaurants central to the Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Banker’s Life Fieldhouse
  • Plenty of easy-to-use space in our downtown such as the outside of the Pan Am Plaza

Instead of trying to replicate what other cities had done in the past, Mark built the Super Bowl in Indy around the metropolis, providing a unique experience that attendees still talk about to this day. The lesson here is to know your assets and know what makes them unique.

“Who knows? We could have ended up having skiing in Carmel if we weren’t careful.”

Thanks for being careful, Mark.

Be Careful About Your Image: It Becomes Your Identity

One thing Mark feared in many of his early projects in Indy is that people would get the wrong impression of the Circle City based on our marquee event.

Because of that, it was important to Mark and many of the early Indy-Advocates that helped produce the centralized downtown we have today that we could show other dimensions of our city. This is what led to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium being built the way they were.

If you remember during the construction of each, they were specifically designed to be versatile enough to host a variety of events. Everything from basketball to swimming can be hosted at Banker’s Life while Lucas Oil plays host to the NFL Combine and soccer matches.

The real moral of this story is this: If you want to be taken seriously, you need to prove you’re not a one trick pony. Any chance you get, diversify your skill set and find things about you, your company, or your service that make you different.

Startup Nuggets

A couple of brilliant nuggets for startups from Mark last night based on his experience:

Campaigns and Startups are infinite tasks where you’re trying to figure out how to do more in the available time. Mark Miles at #vergehq — janneane (@janneane) May 8, 2014

Lesson: Treat your startup like a political campaign. It should be round-the-clock work with a firm deadline in mind. 

“The talent, we had to make them think like owners and the owners had to think like the talent.” – Mark Miles #vergehq

— Verge ® (@VergeIndy) May 8, 2014

Lesson: Leadership is about making all parties understand as much as it is getting all parties to execute. Get everyone on the same page first.

Thanks so much to everyone who came out last night! If you want to hear more about the Innovation Showcase, check here, here, or here. We also have another event coming up next week that is even more prototypically Hoosier than this! We’ll chat more about that next week!