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Rock Hill group provides foundation for innovation

When five Rock Hill businessmen formed Second Brick Ventures each brought his own set of skills. One was a real estate lawyer, another a banker, the third a restauranteur and marketer, the fourth, a skilled programmer and the fifth, an entrepreneur of unlimited optimism.

Collectively, they understood that technology moves at a dizzying pace. What’s here today will likely be eclipsed tomorrow. They also understood that youngsters – ages 18 to 24 – usually drive that pace as consumers and, more importantly, the authors of the next great idea.

Those ideas represent the first brick. The second brick is the expertise and capital Second Brick Ventures can offer to turn ideas into a salable product.

Second Brick Ventures boldly predicted that within six months it would do what others are still promising. While Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park vision of a technology-based economy moves at a deliberate pace, Second Brick Ventures wanted to show what can happen without “too much talk,” and without an endless series of PowerPoint presentations, says Agie Sundaram, Second Brick’s fountain of optimism and owner of Span Enterprises, a software development firm.

Last Tuesday Second Brick Ventures met is own goals, unveiling its first new product, beta-testing a second product and reaching out to high school students, challenging them to make a difference.

Second Brick Ventures’ first product is, a computer app. The app allows people to search for alternative healing options such as yoga, acupuncture, massage and other therapies. They are currently listing it in Charlotte, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. There are plans to expand it to other markets.

Those who use not only can see what options are available, they also can book appointments online. People who book online can post comments on their experiences.

Sundaram said they developed because there is much information on specific products and services, but no central source of information.

As Second Brick Ventures launched, it tested a second product so new that it doesn’t have a name. The second app allows people holding an event to send out email invitations. When printed, the invitations become the ticket to the event, and each ticket has a “QR” code that can be scanned at the door so sponsors know who is attending.

The app could be used for free or paid events. Payments would be made online with Second Brick Ventures taking a “small” percentage of each sale. Sundaram said that percentage has not been determined, but it would less than the 6 or 7 percent usually charged by ticket vendors.

To test the unnamed product, Second Brick Ventures invited local high school students to hear Alex Sheen, the founder of “because I said I would,” a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept.

After scanning their tickets, students listened to Sheen’s story, from working as a six-figure computer executive leading 1,600 people, to leading a nonprofit that has thousands of followers worldwide.

The premise of “because I said I would” is filling out “promise cards” and then fulfilling that promise.

Sheen first handed out the cards at his dad’s funeral, to honor a father who was good at keeping his promises.

Since then, Sheen has offered free promise cards to anyone who asks. So far he has sent more than 1.27 million promise cards to more than 105 countries. Some of the promises have gone viral on social media, such as a father, dying from cancer, who promised his teenage daughter he would write 826 “napkin notes” – one for each day she was in high school, to a wrong-way driver who had been drinking, who promised to accept his punishment for killing the driver of another car.

Sheen said the hardest promises are “those that you say to yourself, know only to you and yourself.”

The promise cards are “really about you,” Sheen told several hundred students over the course of three events Tuesday. “It’s the promises you make, the promises in your life, the decisions you make. They define your own world.”

Sheen said he hoped those listening would “see that making a difference echoes throughout your life.”