The Real Deal New York

Growing pains: Convene co-founder and president Chris Kelly steps back

The firm, now valued over $500 million, is looking for a new president to expand the company globally
By David Jeans | February 14, 2019 05:02PM

Convene co-founder Chris Kelly (Credit: Wikipedia and Convene)

Chris Kelly, the co-founder of co-working firm Convene, has taken a step back from his role as president at the firm, as the company says it is searching for a new leader with experience to expand globally.

Kelly was moved to the role of vice chairman last December at the New York-based firm, which has 23 locations across the country, offering space and amenities, and more recently co-working services to mid-sized tenants.

“Convene’s business has evolved over the past 10 years, and my role evolved along with it,” Kelly said in a statement, adding that he will now focus on developing company culture and brand, rather than day-to-day operations.

During his time, Kelly spearheaded the launch of Elevate, the company’s workplace technology app for tenants and landlords which provides updates about buildings and services like keyless entry and food orders. But the platform has been slow to launch, and Kelly stepped back from overseeing its development after the firm acquired technology startup Beco to produce the platform last year.

Convene’s CEO Ryan Simonetti told The Real Deal that plans for the technology were scaled back six months ago and would only be available in Convene-occupied buildings rather than for sale to other landlords.

“We weren’t able to deliver a Convene experience,” Simonetti said. “We made that decision consciously.”

Elevate currently exists in two buildings in New York and one in Los Angeles, he said, with plans to roll it out in more buildings this year.

In a bid to keep up with the do-or-die co-working industry, the company is pushing for a global expansion, and plans to double its number of locations by the end of 2019. In September it signed its largest space yet: a 116,000-square-foot lease at RXR Realty’s 530 Fifth Avenue, where it plans to operate flexible office space for companies with 10 to 100 employees.

“We are looking to add to our executive leadership team for a president with global business, which neither Chris or I have,” Simonetti said. “Chris continues to be the primary spokesperson.”

Since it launched a decade ago, the company has raised $280 million and attracted investment from heavy hitters, including the Durst Organization, Brookfield and RXR Realty. Its most recent round last July raised $152 million, led by venture capital firm Revolution, pushing its valuation north of $500 million.

Convene isn’t the first co-working firm to reshuffle its executives to pave an expansion path. At Montreal-based flexible office space firm Breather, the company’s co-founder and CEO Julien Smith stepped back from his role as CEO just months after the firm raised $45 million. Bryan Murphy, a former eBay executive, replaced him early this year.