Ollie co-founders out at co-living startup

Board member Gregg Christiansen takes over as president

Feb.February 21, 2020 07:30 AM
From left: Ollie co-foudners Andrew and Chris Bledsoe

Ollie co-founders Andrew and Chris Bledsoe

The co-founders of Ollie, a co-living startup, have left their roles at the firm, The Real Deal has learned.

Chris Bledsoe, CEO, and Andrew Bledsoe, COO, left the company last month. An Ollie spokesperson confirmed the brothers were no longer managing the company, and said the two will continue to advise the company as members of the board.

“Ollie is grateful for the vision and dedication provided by Chris and Andrew since the company’s inception,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson declined to say what prompted the co-founders’ exits. Neither responded to LinkedIn messages seeking comment.

Gregg Christiansen, a board member, will lead Ollie as president, a move supported by the board and the departing co-founders, the spokesperson said. The company did not specify if a search was underway for a new CEO and COO.

Christiansen, who has previously held roles at Northwestern Mutual and Fortress Investment Group, more recently launched a real estate investment firm, Cedar Hall Capital. He joined Ollie’s board in 2017, and was appointed president of the firm last month, according to his LinkedIn page.

The idea for Ollie was born of out Andrew finding a way to split up his one-bedroom apartment in the Financial District into smaller rooms, according to the firm’s website. From there, the Bledsoe brothers launched Ollie in 2012 as a firm that provides micro-units in rental buildings with hotel-style features such as cleaning, linens, internet service and community events.

But the firm has had trouble attracting significant investment. They raised $15 million in 2018 from the Moinian Group, Aviva Investors and others. But talks for a $50 million funding round led by student housing operator EdR never manifested.

The co-living model has had mixed results. WeWork launched its own co-living business, WeLive, but so far has opened only two locations, and wound back plans to open more. Common, a New York-based firm led by Brad Hargreaves, has seen more success and raised $63 million, according to Crunchbase. Others, including Bedly, have shuttered altogether.

Some landlords have bet big on Ollie. Simon Baron Development and Quadrum Global, which partnered on a 43-story rental building at 29-22 Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, allocated 14 floors to co-living units to be managed by Ollie. The project, known as ALTA LIC, opened to residents last year and charged between $1,376 to $1,880 a month for Ollie’s co-living units.

“ALTA LIC is the cusp of what I think will be a major disruption in the rental market,” Chris Bledsoe told the Wall Street Journal in 2018.

Ollie has two locations in New York, and one in Pittsburgh, according to the company website. More locations in Boston and Los Angeles are slated to open in 2021. But the firm has also struggled to expand at scale, in part due to the challenges of waiting for residential developments to come online — the ALTA LIC took four years to develop.

Write to David Jeans at [email protected]

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