Allentown Startup Grows and Thrives at Velocity Co-Working Space
By Colin McEvoy on May 16, 2016
Alex Kalogeropoulos started his own social media company out of college, he had his doubts about whether Allentown was the right fit. But the company has grown and thrived over the past two years, in a perfect parallel with the city’s downtown flourishing under its current renaissance.
“If you had a crystal ball when I started this company and told me I would’ve ended up establishing our headquarters in downtown Allentown, I probably would have laughed at you,” said Kalogeropoulos, 25, founder and CEO of The Social Station. “But now, I honestly can’t see myself being anywhere else.”
The Social Station was one of the inaugural tenants during the 2014 opening of Velocity, the urban co-working space that developer City Center Lehigh Valley established in downtown Allentown with the intention of encouraging entrepreneurs and startups to establish innovative, forward-thinking businesses in the city.
Starting off with just two employees, the Social Station has grown into a staff of eight handling social media accounts for dozens of businesses throughout the country. The company is outgrowing its Velocity space, but they are working with City Center to find a new location in Allentown so they can remain part of the Lehigh Valley community.
“As part of our research on best practices in urban revitalization, City Center found that every vibrant city across the country, and even around the world, seems to have co-working and incubator space,” said City Center Property Manager Robert DiLorenzo.
“Through Velocity, City Center aims not only to attract young companies to start up in downtown Allentown, but we also want to showcase the city as a place for them to stay and grow their businesses and help transform downtown Allentown,” DiLorenzo said. “The Social Station is a great example of that.”
Helping startups grow
The Social Station manages online reviews and social media profiles for companies, helping them respond to questions, manage customer reviews, and stay engaged with customers on such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, OpenTable, and more.
Among their clients are City Center, the Dime restaurant, and the Renaissance Allentown Hotel. Their successful collaboration with the Renaissance led the Social Station to partnering with a large hospitality company with more than 100 properties across the United States. The company is now working with 20 of those companies, with plans to add more in the near future.
“Velocity has been phenomenal to work with, and not just from a landlord perspective,” Kalogeropoulos said. “They’re not only constructing all these incredible buildings and projects in Allentown, but they’re also really trying to incubate businesses and help small companies like us as well. It’s really awesome, and it really sets them apart.”
Located at 532 Hamilton Street, Velocity is a 6,300 square-foot co-working space, with a modern architecture of glass, wood and exposed brick on the second and third floor of a rehabilitated rental property. Currently at full capacity, it offers space for ten offices, with occupancy ranging from two to eight employees, as well as open desk space.
“It’s not just the building”
In addition to The Social Station, some of Velocity’s other tenants are The Life Collective, a digital media agency; Rising Tide Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing therapies to treat rare diseases; and Penn State’s Lehigh Valley LaunchBox, a university- and community-sponsored business accelerator program.
Kalogeropoulos said Velocity is extremely helpful for small companies like his because it provides electricity, Internet access, or other crucial amenities. The ultra-modern space is also good for client meetings and perfect for the Social Station’s open environment and “Google feel” that appeals to the millennial workforce, rather than a traditional corporate layout, he said.
“I honestly don’t know if we’d be where we are today if we weren’t working in here,” he said. “It’s not just the building, it’s what comes with the building. I truly believe that being here has gotten us to the point we’re at and will continue to help us grow.”
According to DiLorenzo, Velocity also offers startups instant access to the highly collaborative business environment that has emerged in the city. “Companies in downtown Allentown really support each other and really want to see each other succeed,” he said.
Kalogeropoulos started The Social Station about five years ago, shortly after graduating from Bloomsburg University with a degree in business management. He and Ron Heft, the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, they created a technology platform that allows their team to handle all the different interactions a business may experience on social media.
“I found a lot of companies didn’t have time to concentrate on social media and would give access to their accounts to, for example, a host or hostess or an assistant manager,” he said. “These were people whose intentions were good, but they didn’t necessarily know what they were doing and suddenly had control of the public voice of the company, often leading to disastrous results. We can stay on top of that for them and bring an expertise to the table that they may be lacking.”
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