Coding his own way into business — And helping kids to do the same
Source: Jake Lucas
Before 23-year-old Will Jamieson was the chief marketing officer of Daniel Island-based Infinite Takes, before he was part of the founding team of the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, and before even he created his own app-making company, he started coding.
For him, that skill was his entry into the world of business when, at the suggestion of a computer science teacher, he graduated from programming his calculator to do his homework for him to making iPhone apps.
“Putting my app on the store, I got a good sense of entrepreneurship because people were buying a product that I built, and it was rewarding,” he said.
He taught himself how to do more, and from those first forays into app-making, he discovered a passion for entrepreneurship. So he taught himself about that, too.
Now, he’s working for a live video streaming company that, according to Jamieson, is “pushing the boundaries of what can be done live,” processing over 400 terabytes of video a month and broadcasting that video with less than a second of delay. In his job, his work is geared toward Infinite Takes’ livestreaming product Stre.am. This past summer, Stre.am powered the live stream of the Patriots Point fireworks show, filmed and broadcasted in real time from a drone. Over 15,000 people tuned in, according to Jamieson.
His time is a split between getting more users of the company’s consumer application, business development for its enterprise streaming service and raising capital.
He joined Infinite Takes a year ago, just as he was going into his senior year at the College of Charleston. In fact, he says the only reason he finished that fourth year and graduated with his computer science degree is because he promised his parents he would.
But don’t confuse the fresh-out-college label for inexperience. When Jamieson was just 17 and still in high school, he ventured into the business world by starting a company called Supreme Apps, out of which came an app that simulated a front-facing flash (for taking selfies in the dark) that was featured on the digital news site Mashable.
He started working full-time his sophomore year when he joined the founding team for Yik Yak, building out the app’s Android platform from 2013 into 2014. Then he joined a company called Geekin Radio, helping build an app that allows people to listen to the same music at the same time on different devices, where he stayed until the end of summer 2015 when he joined Infinite Takes.
With any level of success comes a certain amount of failure, and Jamieson is no exception to that rule - if only for a moment. In fact, as a freshman, he applied for a job with the local tech company SPARC and got turned down. At the time, SPARC’s CEO was Eric Bowman, who ultimately left that company, went on to found Infinite Takes and recruited Jamieson.
“Eric, pretty much since I got turned down, tried to hire me, and I got to tell him no forever,” Jamieson said.
Though the path to where he is now was created by coding, Jamieson said marketing is the way forward for him. He said that’s where his strengths lie more than coding, but that doesn’t mean he’s given up his college major altogether.
“I love coding because I love to be able to make something,” he said. “It’s like digital art.”
These days, his coding activities mainly include staying up to speed on new technologies and updates to programming languages. His coding background also helps him do his job. The programming powering Stre.am is beyond his abilities, but he knows enough to be able to talk technical with clients, investors and his own team.
“I can’t do it, but I know what they’re trying to do,” he said.
And in a world where more and more business is conducted using software, Jamieson now wants to help equip more young entrepreneurs with the skills that were so instrumental for him.
Last December, Jamieson joined the board of Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina (YEScarolina), a nonprofit that fosters entrepreneurship through training and various programs as early as middle school.
That strikes a chord with Jamieson, who said not enough people are exposed to business and entrepreneurship before they get to college, “but it’s something that has to start much younger.”
And he wants to do more. In addition to equipping students with business skills that they can use to make money, as YEScarolina does, Jamieson said it’s also valuable to teach them how to code.
“If you’re a college kid or a high school kid, you don’t have money to hire someone. You have to do it yourself, and coding’s pretty much the way you do that,” he said. “That’s one thing I want to help bring to YESCarolina is not only business plans, but more education into software development.”
He’s already been talking with a friend of his with a nonprofit geared toward introducing students to coding in much the same way YESCarolina does with entrepreneurship.
Plus, Jamieson sees early exposure to coding as important to the vitality of Charleston’s startup community as a whole. He joined YESCarolina because he wanted to give back to the Charleston community, one that he’s grown attached to since he transplanted from Georgia for school. At this year’s DIG South interactive festival, Jamieson was part of a panel discussion about that community, during which he said one of the downsides of the city from a startup’s perspective is a lack of developer talent to draw from. One of the keys to improving that, he said, is programs to teach local kids to code sooner.
“In high school, you take math, history, English, all these different skills that are a foundation for your college career, so you’re prepared for all the majors,” he said. “But computer science is a totally different type of skill that no one has exposure to until they get to college for the most part.”
And for proof of the benefits that coding earlier can reap, look no further than YEScarolina’s youngest board member.