Let’s be clear about one thing: Denton is nowhere near Silicon Valley.

Obviously this is true geographically, but it’s also true in the sense that people’s experiences in the tech industry in Denton are nothing like what you’ll find in the news or in TV shows like Silicon Valley.

The tech industry in Denton actually provides a refreshing counterpoint to some of the problems that plague Silicon Valley (i.e. lack of diversity, allegations of sexual harassment, etc..). This is reflected in the existence of places like Stoke, a co-working space and entrepreneurial center that opened in 2016. The people who choose to work at Stoke also reflect an ethos of consideration for the larger community. Read on to find out how you can help Stoke celebrate their one year anniversary later this week!

 Photo by Abbey Garlick. 

Photo by Abbey Garlick. 

Stoke’s first anniversary will be celebrated on August 1st. Since they've opened, we've talked to a couple of the businesses that work out of the co-working space at the Railyard development on E. Hickory. The center’s mission is to provide support for startups, freelancers, remote workers, and small businesses in the area. This support takes several forms. For example, having such a diverse, ambitious group of people in one place opens up a variety of collaboration opportunities or even simply the chance to get helpful feedback on an idea.

The center also hosts regular networking and educational events for its members and for the larger community. Stoke members even have access to mentors with extensive experience in technology and business.

Getting help to start a business

One person who has benefitted from the community at Stoke is Rob Garcia, project manager and founder of DadTech. Garcia is working on “an iOS app… that will provide custom content and parental controls to allow kids to be curious and safe online.” Developers who work at Stoke have helped Garcia refine his ideas and have provided guidance on how mobile apps are built, released, and marketed. A designer at Stoke created a logo for Garcia and helped him come up with the name for his flagship product.

Garcia also appreciates the mentoring and community that Stoke offers. It’s also worth mentioning that while his methods are technical, his goal is not. “The purpose of DadTech is to drive positive interactions between kids and parents,” Garcia says. This is a goal that a wide audience can embrace, in contrast to yet another “Uber for [fill in the blank].”

Early adopters

David Brunow and Brandy Thomas, the founders of Shepherd Dog,* were ready to move into their office at Stoke the day the center opened. Brunow and Thomas place a high premium on integration with the community, and having an office at Stoke allows them to demonstrate this even with their location choice. Shepherd Dog builds websites and apps for local businesses, but the company also offers its services to nonprofits at heavily discounted rates.

The people who choose to make their lives and careers here in Denton have an interest in local prosperity.

Having more established companies like Shepherd Dog at Stoke means that fewer developers and aspiring developers have to make long commutes, which means a lot to Brunow and Thomas. Rob Garcia also touched on this issue, describing his former commute to Dallas as “soul-crushing” and appreciating being able to work close to home.

Many people in Denton feel like they have no choice but to commute to places like Dallas or Plano to make a decent living. At the same time, some of Denton’s civic leaders are frustrated that people with useful intellectual skills often don’t keep those skills in Denton, which deprives the city of talent and, let’s face it, tax revenue.

While the stereotypes and real problems of Silicon Valley get all the attention, it’s important to remember that it’s a small, self-selecting slice of the industry. The people who choose to make their lives and careers here in Denton have an interest in local prosperity, which in a community this size has to mean prosperity for a wide variety of people. Places like Stoke allow companies like DadTech and Shepherd Dog to help others in the tech community, which in turn allows those companies to help the larger community.

Stoke’s 1st anniversary celebration will be held Tuesday, August 1st from 5:00pm to 6:30pm at at 608 East Hickory Street in Denton, TX. Come help them celebrate with some free drinks, cupcakes, and prizes! All are welcome. Admission is free, but RSVPing (which you can do here) is encouraged.