How remote workers are building a tech community in sleepy Sussex County - Technical.ly Delaware

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May 27, 2016 12:53 pm

How remote workers are building a tech community in sleepy Sussex County

The internet is making tech scenes viable everywhere. Could the remote workers of Lower Delaware be a national model?
Rehoboth Beach.

Rehoboth Beach.

(Photo by Flickr user Patrick Nouhailler, used under a Creative Commons license)

While Wilmington gets a lot of the spotlight for its growing tech scene, Sussex County’s growing tech community can’t be ignored.

The increasing prevalence of working remotely seems to be having an impact — Sussex is, after all, Delaware’s fastest growing county.

“There are so many people in southern Delaware who work remotely because the technology facilitates it now,” said Shaun Tyndall, the founder and director of Inclind, a Georgetown-based software development company. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting and video calling.”

His own company is a prime example.

"Clients no longer care to meet with us physically."
Shaun Tyndall, Inclind

When Inclind switched to becoming open source through Drupal around 2008, that seemed to change everything. Before, the company’s client base was 90-95 percent local, Tyndall said. Today it’s more like 25 percent.

Using Drupal meant having a niche market, and Tyndall began building within the platform’s community by attending national conferences, sponsoring modules to be developed or contributing code.

“That work exposed us to potential clients that were seeking agencies that focused on that technology or had a specialization there,” he said. “That’s really, I think, what shifted our reach.”

Inclind used to have a central office; now all of his employees work from home. Just a few weeks ago, Tyndall made his first extremely remote hire with someone in Connecticut.

“Clients no longer care to meet with us physically,” he said.

Inclind's HQ is in a house in Georgetown, Del. (Photo by Tony Abraham)

Inclind’s HQ was formerly in a house in Georgetown, Del. Now all the company’s workers work from home. (Photo by Tony Abraham)

Ed Timmons, the chief technology officer for Selbyville-based Avalanche Industries, has had a similar experience.

The Avalanche brand just launched last September, but the ecommerce business began in 1997. The company grew when its partner, Amazon, took off, and now it also sells through eBay and Walmart.

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“A lot of what drives our growth is data-driven ecommerce,” Timmons said.

Did the Avalanche folks have opportunities to move to any of the four nearby, major east coast cities once they expanded? Of course.

"The lifestyle is great here. If there's a way to stay here and make a living, then why not?"
Ed Timmons, Avalanche Industries

“We like it here in Sussex County,” he said. That doesn’t mean Avalanche doesn’t have a big reach — Timmons has had remote workers in Europe, Russia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Australia and clients across the world.

He, too, has noticed the start of a tech boom that’s being led by remote workers. “I’ve noticed a lot of different companies employing tech people — tech service companies and web design. Real estate, over the past decade, has exploded,” he said.

Home construction companies like Rehoboth’s Schell Brothers have invested a lot in automating their business process, Timmons said, and an increase in high-tech healthcare companies have mushroomed as well.

Tyndall said he knows a Delawarean who, after a stint in San Francisco, moved home to Smyrna to work remotely for LinkedIn. He said he also knows of several IBMers and Hewlett Packard folks who live in Sussex and work remotely, too.

“The lifestyle is great here,” Timmons said, who was born and raised in the area. “The cost of living is a lot lower than the city. … If there’s a way to stay here and make a living, then why not?”

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Companies: Inclind
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