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With the knowledge of how to run a business well

on its way, the next step was to nail down the big idea.

After discussions with some business and programming

friends, Helgerson felt he had a strong idea with practical

application. The idea: a simple app to alert individuals

of vacant seats in a movie theatre. Using near–field

communication (NFC), the app would allow movie

theatre patrons the ability to see which seats were

taken based on a phone’s proximity to that seat.

If there was an NFC capable phone in the seat,

then the seat would be marked as taken on

the app.

“So I began to think. What if we used

NFC to distribute pertinent information

to universities instead? And that’s

when the light bulb went off,”

said Helgerson.

With a sound idea and

knowledge of the market,

Helgerson felt he had the

core of the application

figured out. However,

there was one key

component missing

from this dream, and that was a seasoned programmer to put

it all together.

Enter Naveen Rokkam – a computer science graduate

student at USD.

Placing in the 98th percentile on his international exams,

Rokkam could have gone to any of the top 20 colleges in the

United States. However, it seemed to be fate that brought

Rokkam to the University of South Dakota.

Already successful in his homeland of India, Rokkam

was responsible for a $5 million project and the head of an

18–person team working for technology company, SAP. But

his heart was with his wife, who was completing her graduate

degree in health administration at USD. Deciding it was

time to come to the United States to be with her, Rokkam

essentially created an algorithm for himself out of parameters

he found to be particularly pertinent to his college search. Of

these parameters were “most entrepreneurial friendly” and

“most innovative from an entrepreneurial perspective.” South

Dakota seemed to be the perfect fit.

“The Midwest was my target region,” Rokkam said. “I

researched the most entrepreneur friendly states and states

that are spearheading entrepreneurship. South Dakota topped

that list.”

After speaking with a few USD professors, Rokkam was

sold. He decided to forego his interviews from the likes of

Duke and Penn State, and elected to continue his education

at USD. It was spring break 2015 when Rokkam received an

email from a man he had never heard of, somebody he would

later find to be one of his closest associates.

“In sort of a last ditch effort, I sent out an email to a

bunch of programmers, and out of all the responses, Naveen’s

response piqued my interest the most,” Helgerson explained.

When the two met, Rokkam told Helgerson that not

only what he was trying to do was possible, he also expressed

enthusiasm for the project and offered many ways to make the

idea more efficient.

With consultation from Venky Venkatachalam, Ph.D.,

dean of the Beacom School of Business, and assistance from

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