Startup Looks to Solve Startups’ Real-Estate Problem

Kinglet has built a website to connect small companies to real estate. Seated at their desks are, from left, EJ Rumpke, Mike Vess, co-founder Alex Kopicki and co-founder Jeff Jacobson. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/MCT)
Kinglet has built a website to connect small companies to real estate. Seated at their desks are, from left, EJ Rumpke, Mike Vess, co-founder Alex Kopicki and co-founder Jeff Jacobson. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/MCT)

(The Baltimore Sun/MCT) - When Baltimore-area real-estate professionals Alex Kopicki and Jeff Jacobson started a development firm roughly three years ago, they figured they knew what they were doing, so they were surprised by one of their biggest problems out of the gate.

“We actually had a great deal of trouble identifying and locating our first office space,” Kopicki said. “It was a real head-scratcher.”

And thus a new business was born.

As the real-estate firm, Solstice Partners, took off, the pair started noodling with plans for a website that would make it easier for a small business like theirs to find a place to rent.

Their first site, retrievRE, displayed available office space on a map. Launched last year, it collected about 2,300 listings in just a few months, but the business model didn’t convince investors.

“We were providing a better shopping experience, but we weren’t providing a better transactional experience,” said Kopicki, 34, who worked for a commercial real-estate firm for eight years before striking out on his own. “We said, ‘It’s easy to marry the two. … Why don’t we provide a great shopping and transactional experience?’ ”

So they created Kinglet, conceived of as an “Airbnb for office space,” a site where “hosts” can list available desks and “guests” can apply to license them on a month-to-month basis, receiving a reply in 48 hours or less. The platform, which also collects and distributes the rent, went live for the first time this week.

Kopicki said they expect to have about 1,000 desks listed on the kinglet.biz site within 60 days. The company, named for a tiny, adaptable warbler with an orange crown on its head, makes its money by charging the occupying business a 10 percent fee for the service.

“We’re not doing anything really trailblazing, but it’s important to understand that there’s a huge void in commercial real-estate, and we see it as a really huge opportunity to meet the needs of small businesses,” Kopicki said.