Dublin Villager

Senior creates buzz at TechColumbus event

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Megan Holstein was the smartest person in the room at the recent TechColumbus Innovation awards.

At least, that's what people kept telling her.

The Coffman High School senior and CEO of Pufferfish Software worked the trade floor before the Feb. 7 awards ceremony and even though she didn't win the Student Innovator award, she created a buzz.

"I was a finalist," Megan said. "I was in the top five and two people actually won the award."

Megan's father, Mike Holstein, said she worked the trade floor before the awards ceremony like a pro.

As president and CEO of Proteon Software, Mike has networked and done product demonstrations before and it's not easy.

"It's a big deal. There were 1,000 business leaders and investors from central Ohio and the top 50 innovative companies in central Ohio and Megan was there," he said. "She was on the trade floor giving demos of her product."

The products Megan was showing off are applications for iPads and iPods that cater to children with autism and other special needs.

"I've done this and what she did seemed natural, but it isn't easy," Mike said. "That's pretty impressive."

Megan is no stranger to networking and showing others her apps. Since starting Pufferfish Software, she said she's created many contacts within the autism community. But this experience yielded a new occurrence.

"One of the organizers of the TechColumbus event was running around telling everyone that I was the smartest person in the room," she said.

"It wasn't just one person who said this. People kept walking up and telling me that."

"Megan said, 'Dad, make him stop. It's embarrassing,' " Mike said.

But many people took the words seriously. Mike said one person approached him about working with Megan to develop software for disabled children through a large grant.

"People were coming up to me slack-jawed," Mike said. "I was a little slack-jawed."

The TechColumbus Innovation awards weren't Megan's first time in the spotlight. The senior was part of a TechColumbus panel on how to get more women involved in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

"I got roped into all this by accident," Megan said. "Everyone sees a young woman in STEM, so I'm getting lots of contacts.

"I didn't set out for that. (Being in STEM) feels completely natural. I don't think anyone looked at me strangely for my gender."

Holstein is also set to receive a statewide young woman's achievement award from A national women's organization this spring for empowering women and helping the community.

"They went out and found candidates," she said. "I got an email about it."

Between being a CEO and winning awards, Megan is also working to graduate. The Coffman student has been earning college credits online and plans to go to Ohio State University in the fall.

"I'm in the premajor program at the Fisher School of Business," she said.

"I want to go for business administration and want to get a fine arts degree in interface design."

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