When Kale Kaposhilin and partner Dan Stone officially opened Moonfarmer, a Kingston-based creative digital studio, in 2003, there wasn’t much of a tech scene in the Hudson Valley.
“For years we didn’t know any other companies providing digital production services. There were only between one and three businesses that we even knew of. In the almost 20 years that we’ve been in business — particularly the last five years—we’ve tried very hard to help create the conditions in which our colleagues and collaborators could find and help each other.”
Kingston’s tech scene has grown since then. The city is now home to the digital marketing service Dragon360, as well as the business development service, Exago, and the healthcare industry service, 340 Best, Inc. Dennis Crowley, co-founder of FourSquare, is also the founder and chairman of Kingston Stockade FC, the city’s semi-professional soccer team.
Part of the credit for the evolving tech scene may be due to Kaposhilin, who hosts the 2500-member Hudson Valley Tech Meetup in Kingston, as well as the yearly Catskills Conference. Both programs honor innovative ideas and explore ways communities can benefit from such ideas. Together with Moonfarmer, the programs exist under the umbrella of Evolving Media Network, a consultancy which aims to align technology and community.
“Relationships are an important part of technology,” says Kaposhilin.
Because the tech meetup is based in Kingston, it not only promotes connections but introduces tech workers to the potential benefits of starting a business there.
“It’s a good place to start such a business these days because so much of the younger and modern workforce requires a place where they can work, make their projects come to life, feel a part of a community.”
Dan Stone and Kale Kaposhilin / Photo by Joan Vos MacDonald
The work/life balance was a factor when Company, a NYC-based company previously known as Grand Central Tech, sought a location for a summer outpost. Company provides early-stage startups with resources, as well as training in building a workplace culture that emphasizes community involvement. The satellite office was a way to expand beyond the city base and offer entrepreneurs the chance to explore a new community. After searching several Hudson Valley cities, Company settled on Kingston, home to the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup.
“We did our homework,” says Sage Ramadge, Company’s social impact director. “We knew we wanted somewhere far enough from the city to get out of the orbit of what’s usual and comfortable. We wanted to be in a community that was beautiful and vibrant and where there was a technology presence. We looked at places like Beacon, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie. While each had its advantages, Kingston felt like the right fit.”
Kaposhilin introduced Company officials to economic development teams in Dutchess and Ulster County and arranged tours of Poughkeepsie and Kingston. It helped that Kaposhilin and Company shared values.
“We focus on broader community engagement,” says Ramadge. “How do our members interact with the community at large, how do they create opportunities for impact on their own through volunteering, philanthropy, just getting to know how the community can use their products and services and benefit.”
Kaposhilin can provide pointers on community engagement, having volunteered with Kingston’s O+ Festival, The Hoot at the Ashokan Center, and most recently, Stockade FC. He serves on the advisory board for Stockade Works and worked with Radio Kingston executive director Jimmy Buff to create a community radio station.
“I’m constantly amazed at how creative, heart-led, and purposeful the people here are and how much everyone has taken ownership of this place. You see it in our churches just as much as in our Stockade FC Soccer games, at the weekly farmers market, or in groups of people getting together to address issues related to gentrification and the displacement of vulnerable members of our community. We’re all working together to make this city a home for all of us.”
The local tech scene is likely to grow, but Kaposhilin wants that growth to factor in the needs of the entire community.
“Growth itself isn’t necessarily positive. Working together to help all people thrive in the community is. I believe that the future of our tech scene is in service to helping us all thrive here.”
Dozens of Company’s entrepreneurs will work in Kingston’s Senate Garage through August. On weekdays, the former industrial space hosts workers. At night, events introduce them to members of Kingston’s community. On weekends the laptops disappear so the venue can host other events while visiting workers get to explore the surroundings. Perhaps some will relocate.
“There’s a passionate prospective young workforce regularly emerging from the many liberal arts colleges throughout the region,” says Kaposhilin. “The future of an area is realized in large part through how many young people feel inspired to live and grow there.”