GOSHEN, N.Y. (June 23, 2017) — Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare and founder of Kingston Stockade FC, led a packed room of over 200 people in a discussion of the technological, demographic and workforce developments that are ever increasingly shaping the Hudson Valley economy. A Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation Thought Leaders Master Series event, Disrupted: The Future of the Hudson Valley Economy was held at SUNY New Paltz today, focusing on trends that have redefined not only how the Hudson Valley does business but how businesspeople interact on many levels, using “disruptive technologies.”
Crowley began the discussion talking about the serendipitous ways in which disruptive technologies are born of necessity and demand, and grow into services that people need and will continue to use. He recalled the infancy of Foursquare, which began as an application designed so Crowley and his friends could most simply and efficiently navigate their new post-college hometown of Manhattan. Figuring his need might be a universal one, Crowley quickly turned Foursquare into a consumer app whose growth was led by in-app advertising.
“The general rule with a lot of this stuff is just build something that you like, you build something that your friends like, and there’s a pretty good chance that their friends will also like it and maybe their friends too, and that’s how this stuff grows and grows organically,” said Crowley. “That’s what happened with my first project, Dodgeball.”
In addition to co-founding Foursquare, Crowley is its executive chairman. The location technology company powers products used by more than 50 million people every month across 100 countries. Previously, he founded Dodgeball, one of the first location-based mobile social services (acquired by Google in 2005) and helped to build early location-based games PacManhattan and Conqwest. Crowley is also chairman of the Kingston Stockade Football Club, a semi-professional soccer team that competes in the 4th division of the US Soccer Pyramid. He has been named one of Fortune’s “40 Under 40” and is a member of Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment.” He is currently an adjunct professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).
“Foursquare offers some of the digital world’s most powerful analytical and predictive tools, so bringing Dennis Crowley’s industry-leading knowledge and experience within the new, disruptive economy to a Hudson Valley audience of business, community and academic leaders is a proud moment for our organization,” said Laurence P. Gottlieb, president and CEO of HVEDC. “The positive impact from today’s event will be felt throughout the region for quite some time, as just one conversation with HVEDC may have spurred an unexpected investment.”
Crowley used the HVEDC event platform to announce the exciting news that Foursquare has launched an exploratory process into the viability of opening a Hudson Valley office. While the Hudson Valley has not traditionally been a haven for tech companies, some have begun to test the waters, including Etsy, which has an office in Hudson, N.Y. In exploring options for where to expand their operations, including engineering, Foursquare identified many major and second tier cities across the United States and in Canada. When the idea of the Hudson Valley was brought up, board members wondered about the availability of the right talent in the area.
“So, we have put together a job description for software engineers living in the Hudson Valley. We’re going to start circulating that job description today, tomorrow, the next couple of weeks,” said Crowley. “We’re going to see if we get a bunch of qualified candidates to apply for it. If we can find four or five engineers that fit the qualifications we’re looking for, and who raise their hands and say ‘I want to work in the Foursquare Hudson Valley office, then we will try to open an office up here.”
The event also featured the Disruptors Panel – a panel of regional tech and gig-economy experts – which also took a deep dive into developments in technology, demographics and the workforce. The panel consisted of Garnet Heraman, founder of Anvil Venture Partners and co-founder of Karina Dresses; Melanie Axelrod, graphic designer; Kale Kaposhilin, co-founder of Hudson Valley Tech Meetup and co-founder of Evolving Media and Moonfarmer; and Johnny LeHane, co-founder of CLUBWAKA and Managing Partner of Hudson Valley Startup Fund.
The panel shared its experiences operating in an increasingly tech-driven marketplace. The gig economy has created new opportunities for people to work in the environment of their choice, on the projects that speak to their values. Simultaneously, it has opened up opportunities for more traditional companies to access a broader talent pool, using freelancers to meet specific needs.
Johnny LeHane, co-founder of CLUBWAKA and managing partner of Hudson Valley Startup Fund, is a Hudson Valley native who attended college for engineering and imagined landing one of the nine to five jobs in the traditional economy, only to find out they no longer existed.
“Where does the Hudson Valley go from here?” posited LeHane. “We have great starts in hubs like banking, and food and medical. I hope to see companies launch here, and have the core of their team here, but rely on that gig economy to employ people here and across the country.”
Hudson Valley Startup Fund is a $1.125 million member-managed seed capital fund, launched in 2015. It has committed over $250,000 in two investments and continues to identify local scalable companies ready for investment. CLUBWAKA is a nationwide social sports club serving 50,000-plus customers annually in over 40 cities across the U.S. Since its launch in 1998 as The World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA), LeHane has led the development of technology platforms, nationwide franchising programs, logistics and digital marketing programs and partnerships with global brands.
“If we want to make a successful tech economy here in the Hudson Valley, we have to really embrace the essence of the Hudson Valley and the DNA of the people who are here,” said Kaposhilin. “That has a lot to do with agriculture, community values and social justice. The people we employ care about these issues. They want to work for a company that’s creating meaning in the world; they want their efforts to have meaning.”
Kaposhilin has 20 years of experience in most forms of technical and creative media production. Evolving Media Network is a team of talented web developers and creative media professionals in the Hudson Valley. They have been providing creative services and producing web applications, mobile apps and web sites for more than 10 years from their headquarters in Kingston. He is also a co-founder of Hudson Valley Tech Meetup and Catskills Conf as well as one of the organizers of the Kingston Stockade FC.
“The great thing about the Hudson Valley is its quality of life,” said Axelrod. “With the Internet economy, it’s possible to do anything here, locally.”
Axelrod graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 2016 with a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and has experienced a wide range of work environments, from old-school corporate to remote start-up. Axelrod found most of the environments lacked appeal and is now working successfully as a full-time freelancer.
“Everything I’ve done between 1996 and now pretty much proves that disruption has become the norm,” said Heraman. “A lot of it has to do with basically taking disruption as the new norm and really understanding how things are going to get out to the marketplace by partnering with the right people, especially corporations.”
Heraman is a seasoned investor with 25 years of experience in early stage ventures, business strategy and brand development in the US and abroad (Canada, United Kingdom and India). Anvil Venture Partners in New York City provides capital and consulting services to help startups accelerate from seed to scaling. Heraman is investor in residence at the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center Business Build Program at SUNY New Paltz. He is also co-owner of Karina Dresses, a Hudson Valley ecommerce company celebrating its 10-year brandiversary in 2018. Heraman is an angel investor, board member or venture advisor with numerous successful startups including: Dynepic, IOKids, MetroButler, Urban Trials, StrongArm Technologies and Biba Ventures.
“HVEDC is pleased to continue to see the tremendous interest from our community in these events, which provide very valuable tools,” said Gottlieb. “People are now equipped with knowledge where they can read the local economy and react in appropriate ways to grow their own enterprises, which is great news for everyone in the Hudson Valley.”
About Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC):
HVEDC is the leading economic development agency for the seven-county region of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties. The public-private partnership markets the region as a prime business location to corporate executives, site selection consultants and real estate brokers. HVEDC helped start the organizational, branding and promotional effort for NY BioHud Valley, Hudson Valley 3D Printing, Hudson Valley EDs & MEDs, the Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance, HV Play, Hudson Valley Talent and more. To learn more, call 845-220-2244 or visit www.hvedc.com.