It’s ironic that late last Wednesday afternoon one of Kingston’s newest techie residents was wearing on his tee shirt the image of an obsolete New York City subway token, now replaced in city turnstiles by a Metro card. Aaron Quint was until very recently chief technical officer in a rapidly growing Manhattan Internet greeting-card company whose stated goal is “to become the new protocol for valued social communication, regardless of the medium you choose.” On August 19 the 31-year-old Quint announced, via tweet, of course, that he was stepping down to become Paperless Post’s chief scientist, now resident in Kingston, instead.
“You can manage remotely,” Quint explained, “but it’s twice as hard.”
Tweeting beforehand to his social circle that he was “excited to meet people in the new hood,” Quint addressed the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup at the Kirkland in Kingston August 27. He was moving to Kingston from a 600-square-foot apartment in Park Slope in Brooklyn “to live up here and to do anything I want,” he told the 45 or so attendees at the meetup. After working 80-hour weeks for the past five years, he now wanted to participate in Paperless Post “from the side, not the inside.”
He may be moving to Kingston, but Quint’s not giving up his Brooklyn loyalties entirely. A couple of weeks ago, he took the step, unusual for him, of buying some new threads on bustling Fulton Street in Brooklyn. “Trying to keep Brooklyn as I move upstate,” his tweet explained. Maybe that explains the tee shirt.
Another tweet last Saturday informed the universe of progress at his new exurban location: “Buying a grill, constructing said grill, and making hangar steak tacos and grilled pablano salsa is the happiest I’ve been in weeks.”
From his new neighborhood, he expects to pursue innovative concepts and create new capacities for Paperless Post. He sees his Kingston adventure as providing him reinvigoration: “I came up here to be creative again.”
“I love writing code,” Quint confided to his techie audience at the Kirkland Hotel Wednesday evening. He works mostly with Ruby, a well-known object-oriented scripting programming language, and its derivatives.
45 million users
According to a family of websites called TechCrunch, Paperless Post is in the business of making virtual stationery. “Paperless Post launched in 2008 with a series of skeuomorphic online invitations that attempt to evoke the same emotions one might get from ripping open a real-life envelope and reading a real-life greeting card sent by real-life people.”
A skeuomorphic design provides a familiar pattern when “an object is made to resemble another material or technique.” The term is used in the computer world to signify orientation which helps us adapt mentally to new tasks by providing familiar ornamental elements no longer necessary to the current objects’ functions. Apple is supposedly masterful at doing that. One can imagine the challenges in integrating the elaborate formality of the world of invitations within an email context.
With a focus on skeuomorphic design in developing its electronic invitations, Paperless Post has extended its services also to provide offline printing services. Almost two years ago, it launched a line of premium stationery that allows users to have custom invitations printed out and mailed to their contacts. There’s undoubtedly much more to come — much of it from Quint.
Paperless Post this year supplemented the $12 million it had raised since its founding in 2008 with $25 million in new capital. The funding will go toward accelerating the development process of the company’s mobile and online tools, said James Hirschfeld, company co-founder along with his sister Alexa. Both attended Harvard College; she is now 30, he 28.
In April, a trade paper described Paperless Post as having 45 million users, as doubling its user base for the second year in a row, and as having issued over 100 million custom invitations and cards since launching. That same April article said Paperless Post had 70 full-time employees in an office in downtown Manhattan. According to Quint, it’s now up to 89 employees.
Van Keuren House
Aaron Quint and his wife, Kat Howard, are no strangers to the Hudson Valley. They have spent time in and around Phoenicia and in Saugerties, both of which they found relaxed and comfortable places. They started looking at real estate in the region in February. Though they looked at around 20 places, the home they were shown first, the Van Keuren House on Green Street in the stockade district of Kingston, stuck in their minds. The first stone Van Keuren House was built in 1700, burned down twice (once by the British) in the 1770s, and finally rebuilt in 1780.
The Quints, who Aaron describes as “history nerds,” couldn’t erase the house from their minds. “It was like a staged room in Colonial Williamsburg,” he confided to the tech meetup. “It’s like buying a history.” Only three families have occupied the historic home since 1680, he added: the Van Keurens (the first of whom was a director of the Dutch West Indies Company), the Carles, and now the Quints.
The Quints moved into the Van Keuren house on August 8. “First night in our house,” tweeted Aaron. “Feels awesome/weird. Like feels like we’re on vacation but we had to build our bed in order to sleep in it.” The family is temporarily sharing their space with the construction crew doing renovations on it.
Their lively and inquisitive one-year-old son Magnus is the center of Aaron Quint and Kat Howard’s lives, the apple of their eyes. His presence is a reminder of an existence outside working 80 hours a week.
What is Aaron Quint looking forward to in his new Kingston ‘hood?
Well, there’s becoming part of a new community, which he describes so far as warm and welcoming. He likes the small-town on-the-street contact, he says. “I hope people will continue to talk to me,” he worries jokingly.
There’s the process of exploration that goes with any relocation.
There’s getting back to concentrating on doing code, from which he gets so tangible a feeling of accomplishment: “I love to build things.”
Living in Kingston, he’ll be relieved of his most onerous day-to-day management responsibilities. Instead, there will be more time for him to keep in touch with academic research that could lead to new Paperless Post apps.
There’s the space to relish cooking and eating, for which he admits a great fondness.
And finally there’s the opportunity to enjoy that fleeting touch of immortality we feel most as we watch our children grow up and have the chance to grow with them. Evolution involves skeuomorphic transformation.