Keaton Keller, the 20-year-old founder of the YouTube channel TechSmartt, visited campus to share his social media experiences and answer student questions on Tuesday, Feb. 13, in Curtiss Hall’s Banquet Room A.
Keller, who is now based in North Hollywood, created TechSmartt in 2010 and has over 2.6 million subscribers. He said his channel is based at the intersection of technology and entertainment.
Over 40 attendees enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks provided by the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, which hosted Keller, as Keller gave background on how he started his channel.
Keller found an interest in YouTube when it first began and decided to create a gaming channel. He switched from purely gaming to tech and entertainment in 2010 with his channel TechSmartt.
“I’d always wanted to entertain a larger group than just the niche I’d occupied,” Keller said. “Gaming is cool, but entertaining people in tech, gaming, entertainment – that’s where I set my sights on.”
Keller also discussed several of the challenges he faced while working to achieve success. Some viewers did not trust a 16-year-old product reviewer, and he faced bullying both at school and online. Keller said that his parents, as well as the dean of his high school, helped him through his last two years of high school.
“It was through communication and persistence that got me here, and just knowing that I had an audience that I could turn to and focus my satisfaction on that, that’s what got me through it,” Keller said.
At the end of 2013, Keller realized his channel was going to run out of money.
“Every business has a problem, and it just comes down to how you manage that problem, and if you let that problem become other problems,” Keller said.
Through help from his parents and a job at UPS, Keller was able to pay back what he spent in one year. After having his first “viral video” in 2015, Keller said he had made enough money to continue TechSmartt.
Keller moved to California at the age of 18 to pursue his YouTube career.
He now has eight employees, a media company, and the highest retention and engagement rate of any tech channel on YouTube.
“I’m a kid from Arlington Heights, Illinois,” Keller said. “It’s virtually a nobody town. And I was able to do something that I’m so excited to do every day when I wake up. Anything is possible, seriously. You can follow your dreams and accomplish whatever you want. You can do it.”
Audience members asked Keller questions in a 30-minute question-and-answer session on everything from how to be successful in social media to his thoughts on the recent Snapchat update.
Several audience members also asked questions about how to start and gain followers on their own YouTube channels.
“It’s difficult because a lot of people don’t know the right content to make, or a lot of people just try to emulate,” Keller said. “Being original is what gets you discovered and then searched for, and then you build that audience. Be authentic and be consistent, and it’ll work.”
Keller said that developing and producing TechSmartt comes with some stress, but he has become accustomed to it and enjoys it.
“You have to enjoy the process, because the goal will only get you so far,” Keller said. “Pacing yourself and making time for your personal self is everything. Making yourself happy will take you further than YouTube will.”
Debbie Kayden, who works in the Student Counseling Center, attended the event with her daughter, who is a fan of Keller.
“I had no idea his age, and that he’s been doing this since the age of 13,” Kayden said.
Devante Marselis, a student assistant for the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute and fourth-year international studies student, said he was glad he came to the event.
“A lot of people, especially students in college, can get discouraged,” Marselis said. “He’s experienced it, and he’s doing it every day. He’s sharing what it’s actually like to be a young person and to have that much notoriety to be working for yourself and being a true entrepreneur. I enjoyed just getting that information and being a part of the community of other people interested in that.”
Jim Dwyer, the executive director of Alumni Relations, said he was also glad to have attended the event.
“As a member of the older generation, I was incredibly impressed by his vision and how he engaged the student body,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer also encouraged students who were unable to attend to make future Dow Entrepreneurship Institute events.
Keller said he enjoyed coming to speak.
“I was excited to hear the questions of the audience and their perspective on social media,” Keller said. “I was excited to tell my story. It was the first time I’ve been able to do it, and I think it went really well.”