Brookfield-backed meeting-space startup Convene raises $20M

NYC-based company looks to expand footprint and range of services

From left: Ric Clark, 780 Third Avenue in Turtle Bay and Ryan Simonetti
From left: Ric Clark, 780 Third Avenue in Turtle Bay and Ryan Simonetti

Meeting-space startup Convene is looking to take a page out of WeWork’s playbook, backed by a freshly raised $20 million in venture funding and Brookfield Property Partners’ global heft.

Founded in 2009 as a provider of flexible conference and meeting spaces, the firm is now branching out into a broader range of services geared toward office tenants, its founder Ryan Simonetti told The Real Deal. For example, the firm has begun offering room-service catering, concierge services and fitness classes. In a sense, Convene plans to become to large, corporate office tenants what WeWork is to entrepreneurs and small firms: an all-around office service provider.

On Thursday, the firm announced it had raised $20 million in a Series B extension round headed by Brookfield, bringing its total venture funding to $51.2 million.

“Our strategic investment in Convene will facilitate the swift and widespread rollout of their service platform within our premier office portfolio,” Brookfield chair Ric Clark said in a statement.

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Convene plans to use a chunk of the money to expand from 10 to 20 locations. In Manhattan, the firm has leased space at several Class A office buildings – including TIAA-CREF’s 780 Third Avenue and the Durst Organization’s 114 West 47th Street – where it runs meeting and conference centers. On top of this core business, it plans to partner with more office landlords to bring a broader range of services to their buildings. For example, the company runs a fitness studio at 780 Third Avenue. Tenants in the building can also request fitness classes in their own offices.

“What (office landlords) are seeing and hearing from their tenants is about the need to start to think about delivering a different level of service in an office building,” Simonetti said.

His pitch is that large companies competing with Silicon Valley giants like Facebook or Google for top employees are increasingly looking to add amenities to their offices, and that they are more likely to sign leases with landlords that offer those.

“If you think of a full-service hotel with amenities on the lower floors, and replace the hotel rooms with offices, that’s what we’re doing,” Simonetti said.

The Real Deal reported in December that the rise of WeWork, which offers its tenants social events, food and drink, cleaning services and yoga classes, among other things, has pushed some traditional office landlords to consider expanding their services.

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