Vermont’s small-business-minded community makes for fertile ground for businesses to grow, even during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greensea, a Richmond-based business that creates and maintains OPENSEA, the universal open architecture software for deep-sea robotics applications, recently expanded its operations into another nearby building, Richmond’s Creamery.
The company marked its 15th year in business by leasing 4,200 square feet of the building for use as offices and laboratory space.
Dawn D’Angelillo, marketing director at Greensea, says the new space will allow the company to add to its ranks and build a more tightly knit community of employees. Greensea, which had 49 employees in August 2021, will likely hire a dozen more people by the end of the year, she said.
Greensea founder and owner Ben Kinnaman “is very about community,” D’Angelillo said, and the company grew during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t feel how much we had grown, because all of us were remote, but then Ben really wanted people to start getting back together and communicating and collaborating side by side. He wanted more people together and the Vermont office had gotten so big we couldn’t really be in the same building comfortably,” D’Angelillo said.
Greensea is primarily Vermont-based, but an office in Plymouth, Mass. allows employees to meet with harbor-based clients and access the ocean to test systems, D’Angelillo said. About 70% of the company’s employees live and work in Vermont.
Kinnaman is determined to keep his business in Vermont and grow it here.
He started his career as a commercial diver and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilot in North Carolina, and that’s when D’Angelillo said he was inspired to create the open architecture software platform for the marine industry that would become OPENSEA.
His employer at the time wasn’t interested in helping develop it, so Kinnaman decided to go into business for himself.
He and his wife had vacationed in Vermont and decided it would be their new home and that of Kinnaman’s new business.
Kinnaman says he found support in Vermont’s lending institutions and from the state of Vermont when he first started Greensea.
“What Vermont offers that no other state can offer is a rich and vibrant community of like-minded entrepreneurs and a support network that is unequaled,” Kinnaman said.
“When we first started Greensea, no lender would look at us twice but Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) would. They’ve been just amazing. … Vermont also has a great and very approachable investor community. This ranges from angels, to private equity, to institutional equity. I have been very fortunate to find two amazing private equity investors that have been sources of both capital as well as mentorship. This investor community also provides an accessible network of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and leaders. This is a fun and productive network.”
Kinnaman highlighted Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies for its advice and assistance as Greensea grew.
D’Angelillo says Greensea also received several state grants during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic which helped them add new employees and expand into the new space at the Creamery building, including a Vermont Employment Growth Incentive, a State Trade Expansion Program grant and a Small Business Innovation Research grant.
The Vermont Department of Economic Development also led a years-long effort to redevelop and remediate the Creamery building where Greensea now leases space.
“People ask, ‘Why did you choose Vermont?’ Why not?” she said. “Robotics and autonomy is changing so much that there’s a future where there’s going to be a vehicle that is unmanned but has an ROV that is connected to the ship controlled by someone in an office,” and that office might be anywhere.
“What makes Vermont really special is the lifestyle we can offer our employees and their families,” Kinnaman said.