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200Keys: A Tech Entrepreneurship Conference for Teens

March 21, 2016

As a GSSM student, I am provided with many unique opportunities I wouldn’t have access to at any other high school. One example is 200Keys, an annual tech and entrepreneurial conference for teens founded by GSSM students.  During 200Keys this year, eighteen fellow GSSM students and I gathered in the SOCO building in Columbia to hear from three successful and inspirational entrepreneurs. 

The first speaker of the day was Michael Meyers, founder and CEO of a startup company called Tradeversity. Tradeversity is an online marketplace that allows students to buy and sell items safely within their university community. Mr. Meyers started the company as 21-year-old business student at the University of South Carolina. Mr. Meyers shared with us many valuable lessons about startups. He told us the key to a successful startup is to be passionate. Mr. Meyers began his startup while trying to sell spare backpacks to make money as a poor college student. Tradeversity was a solution to his problem and this is part of the reason why he is so passionate about it. Mr. Meyers also taught us that startups go through a lot of failure, however, these failures are necessary to learn from so a company can grow and develop. Mr. Meyers also told us that successful startups require a good team that is essential to positively develop and grow a company. 

Next, we heard from Robby Hill, CEO & founder of HillSouth. While HillSouth is a well-developed, successful company today, it began as a startup company. Mr. Hill started the company as a 17-year-old high school student. He took off with his business straight out of high school and didn’t pursue a college degree. While he encouraged us to attend college, he also encouraged us to find something we are just as passionate about and pursue it. Mr. Hill also advised us to strive to learn every day. He taught us that in order for your company to be successful, you can’t let yourself get distracted. Mr. Hill faced distractions while building his company, but learned to stay away from these distractions because his company required his complete dedication to be the best it could be. Lastly, Mr. Hill taught us to be open and welcoming to mentors. He relied on a lot of mentors especially in the early stages of HillSouth and he credits these mentors with the success of his company. Startups require a team of people with different skills and HillSouth would not be what it is today without the combined skill set of Mr. Hill, his mentors and the rest of the HillSouth staff. 

The last speaker was Kelly Truesdale. Mr. Truesdale helped found SOCO, the co-working space in Columbia where 200Keys was held! He has a strong background in computer science and worked on two startups prior to SOCO. He communicated to us the reality of startups. Similar to what Mr. Meyers said, Mr. Truesdale told us that failures are what build a startup. He also taught us that many of the best startups are based on solving a problem. The idea behind SOCO is to provide a working space for designers and developers to come in and work on their own or collaborate with others. SOCO solves a problem for workers in Columbia by providing a work environment and collaborative opportunities. SOCO has become quite successful in Columbia and will open a new location soon. Mr. Truesdale taught us that working on a startup is not always rewarding and often times very frustrating. But, with hard work, patience and a passion for the company, your work can and will eventually pay off. 

I am so grateful for opportunities like 200Keys to learn more about my interests and make connections with successful people in the field of business. If I hadn’t made the decision to come to GSSM, I would have never had such great exposure to the field I want to study in college and eventually develop a career in. 

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