Hudson Valley native Deana Burke is democratizing Bitcoin as her startup Gracias drives cryptocurrency adoption among young women and teens from diverse backgrounds.
She’s also a partner at the coworking space CO in Rhinebeck and a startup advisor working with a handful of female-led and Hudson Valley ventures.
Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?
Hi! I’m the founder of a crypto startup called Gracias. Gracias is a mission-driven company, working to drive Bitcoin adoption amongst young women and teens from diverse backgrounds. I’m passionate about bringing Bitcoin education to people in underserved communities, so that they understand the characteristics of this new, evolving economy and the choices they have about their money. Ultimately I’m driven by financial empowerment, and I see crypto as a direct path for many people to achieve that.
Other projects that I’m involved with include CO, a co-working and events space in Rhinebeck. I’m an advisor to a female-founded travel startup called Allcall. I truly love helping other founders navigate the rough terrains of starting a company and launching a product, and helping female founders is particularly rewarding. I’m also an advisor to Hempire State Growers, a Hudson Valley collective of hemp farmers.
Besides these things, I love doing hot yoga, going on low-key hikes with my 3-year-old son, and eating at diners all over the Hudson Valley.
How did you discover the Hudson Valley?
I grew up in West Hurley! I went to West Hurley elementary and attended Onteora as a teen. I left at 18 and moved around LA, Brooklyn, London, and Glasgow, but I came back to the area about 5 years ago and bought a house in midtown Kingston earlier this year. I love it! My mom and her partner Amy Hepworth run Hepworth Farms in Milton, so I’ve also spent some time living down in that neck of the woods on their farm.
Walk us through a typical day.
I wake up stupidly early most days, not by choice but because my body just refuses to sleep in. I’d like to say that I spend these precious early morning hours journaling, meditating or exercising, but truth be told I usually just have some coffee and read Twitter. Prize idiot, I know! When my husband and son eventually get up, we’ll turn on the radio and start prepping for the day. FIP is a family favorite and it’s on almost constantly in our house.
Once or twice a week I head into the city for meetings. I’m loyal to Metro-North, and I usually hike it down to Poughkeepsie and take an early train. On most of the other days I work from home, or else I’ll go into CO if I’m needing some energizing proximity to other humans. CO is great for getting a lot of quiet, reflective work done, and it’s also so nice to be in a beautiful shared space with other people. I find that working from home too many days in a row can be taxing on my mental health, so having CO nearby is hugely valuable to keep my perspective in check.
I usually have a check-in with Gracias co-founder Chris Garrett at some point during the day. We talk through priorities and progress, and tackle any big problems that need to be solved together. After that I’m on the phone for a while, talking with potential hires, pitching partners or investors, or connecting with other people in the crypto or startup ecosystem. Marketing, legal, product, and/or admin work fills the rest of the day very quickly.
Many days I have a text thread going with another female founder friend to keep ourselves on track and pumped up. This is so critical to keeping my morale intact, as early stage startup life is filled so little external validation and so much rejection.
On good days I’ll find a break for a yoga class at some point, and then I pick up my son from daycare. After that it’s almost always a family dinner, which I rarely sacrifice unless I’m traveling. Many days I’m in bed embarrassingly early.
Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Hudson Valley?
I love diners and my family and I spend a lot of time in them! Our local is Kings Valley Diner on Albany Avenue, and it’s solid. Alexis Diner in Newburgh ranks highly for us as well — it’s always a good time in there! To me there’s just something really special about being in a buzzy diner filled with people from all different walks of life, communing over coffee and omelettes.
For non-diner food, I love:
- 🍕 Tony’s Pizzeria (Kingston)
- 🍸 Lis Bar (Kingston)
- 🇩🇪 Gunk Haus (Highland)
- 🌮 Diego’s Taqueria (Kingston)
- ☕ Village Coffee and Goods (Kingston)
- 🥐 Murray’s (Tivoli)
I do a lot of hot yoga and I love Rock Yoga in New Paltz. It’s a gorgeous studio with a really welcoming community. The Hot Spot in Kingston is great too. You are guaranteed a really brutal (but amazing) workout when you go there!
Do you have a go-to coffee or beer order, and from where?
How about a margarita from Diego’s Taqueria, on the rocks with salt, please! Or, a cappuccino from Village Goods & Coffee, paired with one of their amazing baked goods.
Where do you do your best creative work?
I do my best creative work when I’m with other people. Not to plug CO (again), but one of the things that I get out of that community is the rich, and often unexpected, conversations with the wide variety of people that work from there.
After that, my most productive time is while I’m driving. Something about the focused monotony makes the brain wheels turn — 9W is the site of my best work!
How has the Hudson Valley influenced or impacted your creative work?
The work/life balance and quality of life that the Hudson Valley affords me and my family has been absolutely critical for my development as a founder and entrepreneur. I simply wouldn’t have been able to take the financial risk that comes with starting a company if I lived in the city. So, living here has meant everything to me in terms of being confident and financially flexible enough to start Gracias and pursue it full-time.
What’s surprised you most about living and working in the Hudson Valley?
The way in which the Hudson Valley economy is changing and evolving is one of the most surprising things about being back here. Growing up, it was all about IBM. Times have changed, obviously, and it’s so interesting to see what is emerging in that corporate vacuum. The freelance, remote, and gig economy has given a new life to this area and it’s so nice to see. That said, it’s not without its challenges. I do walk around feeling like I’m straddling the worlds of “new Hudson Valley” and “old Hudson Valley” and I wish there was more authentic and respectful connection between the two.
Are you part of any local groups or communities you’d like to mention?
I’ve started co-hosting a monthly Games Night at CO! I recently learned Settlers of Catan and I’m obsessed. All are welcome at Games Night! Even total beginners — which I was myself not too long ago! There are all types of games available to play, and you don’t need to be a CO member to participate. Check our Facebook page for announcements!