Hudson Valley Tech Explores Community Regeneration

1044!

That’s the new high for Hudson Valley Tech Meetup members, announced at this week’s gathering with (animated) confetti. We broke one thousand, and with that accomplishment came the energy and inspiration we’ve come to expect from the Meetup (but just a little bit bigger).

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That energy was helped along a bit by a new first for the Meetup: musical guests! Folk music legends (and local favorites) Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Ruthy Ungar and Mike Merenda kicked off the event as The Jay & Molly Family Band, treating us to their new song commissioned just for the Catskills and closing out their short set with a Pete Seeger singalong—the perfect musical introduction to the community-mindedness and creativity of the rest of the evening.

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Michael Muyot (that’s “Mu-yo,” he clarified), president of CRD Analytics and Fishkill native, started his career in econometrics on Wall Street, working with big pharma, insurance, and other Fortune 500 companies—but soon realized that not only are those companies motivated by profit, not principles, his work with them was simply helping the rich get richer. That was counterintuitive to his idea of success. “For me, success is when we all do well,” he emphasized. So he’s shifted his vision to sustainability, creating the “Sustainability Index” as a benchmark for companies that think environmental, and localism, advocating for people to spend more money inside their communities. The perfect example of these concepts for the Hudson Valley, he says, is precision organic agriculture—something he’s working on implementing in the years to come.

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That attention to community and sustainability continued with Michael D’Agostino’s demo of Tentrr, an app that he hopes will “reinvent the idea of how, when, and where we enjoy the great outdoors.” Here’s the basic concept: if you own 10 or more acres, you can contact Tentrr to set up a campsite on your property, which includes a tent, table, a grill, and even a “loo.” Then, it functions kind of like AirBnB, allowing campsite owners to accept reservations with guests they feel comfortable with and get as involved as they wish in the camping experience. Michael says the result is extra income for those with extra property, more money spent in small communities, and a better, more connected camping experience for campers. What’s not to love?

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Matt Stinchcomb touched on the idea of community-minded business once again in his talk on Etsy.org. Many companies, Matt explained, approach responsibility to the environment and communities as something they need to deal with after the fact—not something that’s built in to the ethos of their business. That’s something he’s trying to change. Etsy.org asks: “How can we do business in a way that’s regenerative?”

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Matt’s hoping that their new entrepreneurship program, the Good Work Institute, will answer that question, by training business owners and makers to embrace a holistic approach to business. Think of it as business education for social good, for those who want to shift the conversation from “which companies are ‘less bad’” to “which companies are actively improving the world.” The next round of the program starts this summer right here in the Hudson Valley, with applications due May 1.

To close out this night of community improvement, we were treated to a talk from Zephyr Teachout, professor, former gubernatorial candidate, Education Director for Fight for the Future, and candidate for representative of New York’s 19th congressional district (hey! That’s us!). Don’t let her name fool you, she joked—“I’m not an app.” But she is a huge proponent of technology, including both net neutrality (she was a fierce opponent of 2012’s proposed SOPA and PIPA bills) and the need for reliable, high-speed broadband Internet, and she’s making the latter part of her campaign platform.

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In today’s day and age, she explained, there can be no such thing as economic development without the inclusion of broadband for all. “Without Internet, people can’t find jobs,” she explained. “Children can’t do their homework.” Teachout’s history with technology impressed even the most experienced programmers in the room—did you know she hired the first team of programmers on a presidential campaign (Howard Dean’s), and that she knows how to code?!—and her commitment to using the Internet as a force for good in local communities hit home with many in the audience.

This event was supported by several amazing companies, including event sponsor Atwood Tech Solutions along with annual sponsors HealthQuest, Ulster County Economic Development Alliance, Rhinebeck Bank, Senate Garage (once again our beautiful venue), DragonSearch, and Eberhardt Smith, who provided the event photography above.

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Interested in joining us next month? (We’re gathering at IBM!) Check out Hudson Valley Tech Meetup! See you there!