tech & beyond ▲
By Sky Barsch
Ben Kinnaman develops
technology (hardware and soft-
ware) that controls multimillion-
dollar underwater robotic
vehicles. A former diver and a
historical shipwreck enthusi-
sast, Kinnaman owns Greensea
Systems, a company whose tech-
nology supports cutting-edge
research in the deepest parts
of the ocean, studying sunken
ships, land mines, marine life
and other phenomena.
VL: How did
you land in
wife and I
[We were thinking] about starting
a family, and we sure as hell didn’t
want to do it in Washington,
D.C., or Baltimore. We’d been
coming to Vermont for years: hik-
ing in summer, leaf-peeping in fall,
skiing in winter. So off we came.
It was the lifestyle.
VL: What about it?
BK: The values: community,
preserving the natural world,
being able to live and work and
play. And it’s just beautiful. It’s
hard to describe, it just felt good
here. We would come to towns
like Richmond and when school
let out, we saw kids walking
down the street, not a grown-up
in sight. And we saw families
together out at the parks and up
on the ski hill. My wife and I lived
a lot of places, and we just didn’t
see that anymore.
VL: What was your perception of Vermont’s tech scene
before you moved here?
BK: It was
setting up a snow cone shop
in the desert.
VL: Was your perception
BK: That was 10 years ago. I
feel that the state, especially here
in Chittenden County, has really
started to foster a tech community. The Vermont Technology
Alliance, Tech Jam, Generator
and FIRST have done a terrific
job of creating fertile soil for tech
in Vermont, while financial organizations and local lenders are
helping tech enterpreneurs raise
capital to grow here. I am excited
about the growing technical community and what the future holds
for technology in Vermont.
VL: What do you get out of the
BK: You get well-rounded
people. The best tech comes
from big minds, and minds who
engage in all aspects of life; [it]
does not come from minds sitting on an interstate for hours a
day transitioning from home to
business and living a two-dimensional life. Three-dimensional
minds are attracted to bigger lifestyles like Vermont offers.
VL: How do you find new hires?
BK: We’ve been really successful with our internship program.
Vermont Technical College has
a committed philosophy of valu-ing co-op experience, and they
value developing an engineering
curriculum based on experience.
If I have two resumes in front of
me, and all things are basically the
same, and one of them has experience and one of them doesn’t, it’s
a no-brainer. I would even say, if I
have two resumes in front of me
and one is from a big whammer-jammer school somewhere, and I
have one from VTC with a year
of experience as an intern, there’s
VL: How do we grow interest
and talent in tech?
BK: It has to be done through
application. We use the excitement of shipwrecks to engage
children in STEM — we do an
ROV summer camp each year at
the Lake Champlain Maritime
Museum, and the kids build a
robot to see a shipwreck in
VL: What was it like to pilot
a vehicle to view the Titanic?
BK: It was amazing. I’m a
pretty big shipwreck junkie.
It’s a spectacular shipwreck.
VL: Do you have a
BK: The first wreck I ever
worked on was Queen Anne’s
Revenge. It was Blackbeard’s
pirate ship. As far as wrecks
go, it’s not terribly spectacu-
lar. But eh … we all have
our soft spots for our
first time, right? A