Alex Kopicki is the co-founder and CEO of Kinglet, a startup online marketplace for office space. Kinglet aims to revolutionize commercial real estate by simplifying the workspace leasing process. Founded in 2014, the company uses a peer-to-peer model popularized by sites such as Airbnb, connecting guests to curated spaces listed by local property owners and businesses.
Q. Tell us a bit about your background and about how Kinglet got started.
A. My background is in commercial real estate development. I cut my teeth in the industry at a company called Manekin, LLC, which is a regional real estate development and full service commercial real estate firm. Then, four years ago, I started my own boutique real estate development company called Solstice Partners.
Like many small businesses in the Baltimore metro market, we had a difficult time trying to identify our first office space for lease. It was a head scratcher: Jeff Jacobson (my business partner) and I were two commercial real estate professionals looking for a mere 500 square feet. We knew all of the brokers and property owners, we knew our concerted geographical area, and yet we couldn’t find space.
That pain point for us in starting our new business transformed into the idea behind Kinglet: to create a fluid marketplace designed for emerging businesses. We wanted to empower startups by providing great search and transactional experiences for their first space, so the companies could focus on their primary business during what’s traditionally a time- and energy-consuming process.
Q. What were the first steps?
A. The inception of Kinglet really started with the inception of Solstice Partners four years ago—that’s when we started to iterate. What we built in essence was a Redfin/Zillow type of model where we enhanced the shopping experience for small businesses. Businesses could go in and peruse beautiful spaces in an easy-to-navigate format. They could educate themselves on the market and availability. With Kinglet, we completed the marketplace concept. We created a standard rule and standard legal agreements to allow the the consumer—that small business—to easily and efficiently connect with real estate investment trusts of the world.
Q. How do you sell the concept to property owners and landlords?
A. Through our platform, guests and hosts have a fluid mechanism through our platform with which to actually identify, search for, and then transact for their space. We are rescripting the sublet market—the name is a play on words: sublet to “King-let.” The goal is to create more efficiency in subletting space. Landlords see us as a great opportunity to connect with emerging businesses, to connect with a company when it’s a team of five, and might become a team of 50 or 100 in the course of two to four years. Those are the relationships landlords want to capture early, and that’s why they are using our system.
Q. How are you seeing property owners take advantage of Kinglet?
A. We give our hosts the ability to activate space that might be otherwise difficult to sell or lease. It might be the end of corridor space; it might be too small for a typical tenant to look at and so no one has focused on it previously. Our product also enhances the brokerage community because we deal in increments of space that brokers are not necessarily focused on.
Q. What kinds of spaces are customers booking?
A. In the spaces we’re filling now, the sweet spot is 500 square feet up to 5000. In Baltimore city for instance, 95% of the transactions that occurred in the last 12 months were for spaces 5000 square feet and under. So what that tells you is the market as a whole is primarily made up of small businesses. We’re trying to solve for that equation, rescripting both how people search for their office space and the transactional process. We’re boiling down something that typically took a number of months to transact—by the time you drive the market, identify a property, negotiate a letter of intent, negotiate a lease… We’re taking all of those pain points and reducing them to the fewest parts possible in order to create a fluid process and dialogue between the supplier of that space and the emerging business lessee.