Charleston student: From one tech startup to another, by age 21

Geekin staff members work in their offices at 637 King St. in Charleston.

Geekin Radio’s office is casual. Its offices are in downtown Charleston, on the second floor of 637 King St., above the office of the annual Dig South technology festival.

The space has exposed ventilation, a wandering dog, and couch amid computers and desks. To one side is a white wall with the company’s logo — a black, lowercase “g” that appears to be wearing a pair of headphones, indicative of what the music app startup aims to do.

Though it’s not yet on par with a SPARC or a BoomTown, the seven-person company has a unique player, one who hasn’t graduated college, but has already been part of a tech company that’s been reported to be valued around $400 million.

Will Jamieson, a computer science student at the College of Charleston and one of the developers behind the now well-known Yik Yak, an app where mostly college students post messages with no names attached, is developing the Android app for Geekin, in addition to the iOS version. He’s also working on marketing for the company.

“He was a really big prospect for us if we wanted to achieve the goals that we wanted to achieve. ... We need someone like Will on our team,” said Thomas Vitale, co-founder of Geekin.

Jamieson is 21, but don’t let his baseball cap and backpack cloud your thinking — Jamieson can hold his own with the big boys in the tech arena. A couple of weeks ago, he was a speaker at two Dig South events. Before that, he was one of the speakers at TEDx Charleston.

While people bring ideas to him, Jamieson said, he’s working for Geekin.

“This was the one that I really wanted to work on,” he said from Geekin’s offices. “It’s hard to find people that can make things in Charleston. ... I really felt like I could make a difference with this.”

Geekin produces an app that lets people listen to music together. That could be anyone from an NFL player, to a friend. The way that following people works is akin to Twitter, Jamieson said.

This summer, Jamieson — who’s from Georgia — will enter his senior year at the college, though he’s not exactly enamored with the idea of earning a degree. The screen behind him during his TEDx talk explained his mantra. “College: Necessary, But Insufficient.”

College schooling is “general knowledge about certain topics,” Jamieson said. Marketing and raising money are a couple of the challenges he’s already taken on.

“I’ve done it all through reading, resources online” along with doing it, he said. “I could take classes on that matter, but a lot of that stuff is outdated.”

At Geekin, Jamieson is in good company. A couple of co-workers dropped out of college, who are working on the iPhone app for Geekin. Jamieson has also worked on recruitment for the startup, which he says can be difficult when it comes to finding talent to develop the app on a certain platform, like specifically for an iPhone.

“The good ones I gotta get to drop out,” he said.

Jamieson’s parents weren’t into the idea.

When deciding where to go to school, Jamieson didn’t want a tech-full school. Among the places he was accepted were the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, he said. He made his decision after getting together with the College of Charleston’s head of computer science, Chris Starr.

“It was a really good computer science program within a really cool city,” Jamieson said.

Though Jamieson’s not the biggest fan of formal education, he’s a mentor for the school’s new International Cross-curricular Accelerator for Technology program, where students work together in groups of three on startups.

“Will is a stellar student because he has not only academic capabilities but the passion to put what he learns to interesting uses,” Starr said. “He can execute on what he knows, and that makes all the difference.”

Before Yik Yak and Geekin, Jamieson started his own app company, Supreme Apps. Under that, he’s developed seven apps, including one that helped him download photos from Facebook, and another called Front Flash that solved a very modern problem: how to shoot selfies when it’s dark.

He still gets ad revenue from some of the apps, he said. Jamieson’s no longer involved in Yik Yak, a subject he didn’t elaborate about.

Despite his successes over the past few years in the tech world, he wasn’t accepted into an internship program at Charleston-based tech company SPARC for the summer after his first year at the college.

Jamieson said the rejection was a “blessing in disguise.”

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me because that summer is when I made all my apps,” he said.

Eric Bowman, founder of SPARC, said it was “pretty funny” that Jamieson was rejected for an internship at the company. Bowman was a moderator for a panel at Dig South where Jamieson was one of the speakers, called “THE PRIVATE BOOM: Equity Sales for Tech Companies in the Secondary Market.”

“He’s extremely competent in that area ... He’s had to go through it,” Bowman said.

Though someone tech-minded like Jamieson might feel the urge to put down roots in Silicon Valley, he has no desire to following graduation. He wants to stick around the Lowcountry.

“I want to help Charleston really earn the name ‘Silicon Harbor’ and not just that self-imposed name that we’ve kind of given it,” Jamieson said.