James Kupernik, chief technology officer for VidMob, could have located his software development team anywhere. The company headquarters are in New York City, and they could have hired engineers there. Many software companies locate in areas such as Boston or Silicon Valley, which are close to well-known engineering schools.
James chose to build his entire development team of 25 professionals in downtown Pittsfield and plans to expand. The company closed a $25 million Series B funding round and needs to accelerate hiring to meet business goals. James expects that by the end of next year the size of the team on Pittsfield’s North Street will double.
“Being in Pittsfield means that we can hire more developers than a competitor who is based in Silicon Valley because our cost of living is so much less. Instead of hiring two engineers, we can hire three engineers. That’s been a big benefit for the business,” James said.
VidMob, founded in 2014, is a software company in the fast-paced digital advertising business. The company started as a web-based platform to connect brands to video professionals, such as editors, animators and graphic designers. It has since expanded to enable those brands to quickly customize video ads and send them via partners like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. It has raised more than $45 million in funding.
Well-known brands using VidMob include Bayer, Ikea, Intercontinental Hotel Group and Neutrogena.
While high tech centers are often thought of as the place to build a software company, many talented people prefer a different kind of life.
“There are a lot of people who are looking to get out of the high rent, always-on cities. They want to be in a place where their money can allow them to do more, but where there is the opportunity to go to New York or Boston for the weekend. Pittsfield is uniquely located geographically for that,” he said. “It is a fairly easy to tell the story about the quality of life here.”
“Our younger, more recently graduated employees don’t really want to spend a bigger portion of their income on rent than they have to,” he added.
James does not expect that bringing a large number of talented engineers to Pittsfield will be a problem.
“Out of all of the offers we have made to date, only one person, who is from Chicago, decided not to take the offer after we flew him out here. The biggest concern for him is that he did not want to own a car. He loved the area, but did not want to depend on a car,” James said. “Not all of our employees have a car. Some of them just don’t want to own one. It isn’t uncommon for them walk to work. If they want to go someplace, they get together with people who do have cars.”
“Company values and the company culture are also critical in attracting and retaining talent,” James said.
Part of the culture that attracts employees is community involvement and charitable giving. VidMob places one percent of its revenues in a nonprofit calls VidMob Gives, which helps other nonprofits “amplify their message through video.” The company is also starting other social responsibility programs.
“The impact that we can have here in the Berkshires and Pittsfield is significantly more measurable than making those same efforts in New York or San Francisco,” he said. “Of course, we will do initiatives there as well. But, when you do it in Pittsfield, it will have much broader reach and much broader impact in the community. The company is really invested in the idea of how can we be better partners in the area.”
As VidMob grows, it is working closely with the City’s Red Carpet team, headed by Michael Coakley, business development manager for the City. The team brings together resources from across the City, county and state to help companies expand and to find opportunities including financial incentives.
“We’ve met with the Mayor and she is eager to work with us,” James said.
The area around VidMob’s North Street offices is designated as an Opportunity Zone by the U.S. Treasury. The Opportunity Zone program presents an opportunity for private, tax-advantaged investment into areas of economic need, benefiting both residents living in the zones and private investors.
The growth of VidMob will mean an influx of software development talent into the City. James thinks that will mean the start of a startup culture here.
“There will be a critical mass of engineering talent who will either start their own separate companies or go on to the next thing right here. I believe that we can have a lasting impact that will be felt here in the Berkshires,” he said. “That is a legacy that I would like to have.”
The company is also in the early days of considering other operations that could be opened in Pittsfield.
“The company is aware that this area has a rich history in customer service and inside sales-based initiatives. There are a lot of service-based industries up here,” he said. “We are considering whether it would make more sense to grow these parts of our business here rather than in other locations.”
“The potential of this company is significantly more than we thought it was four years ago and a lot of that will happen in Pittsfield,” James said.
– by Roger Matus
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