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Business Observer Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018 5 months ago

Business incubator pivots away from leasing co-work space

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The Rocket Lounge Innovation Center, with move to Naples, sets its sights on helping upstart firms.

New Naples arrival Rocket Lounge Innovation Center — in the news lately for major expansion plans — has decided to leave the leasing of co-working space to others while it helps international tech companies get a U.S. foothold.

Rocket Lounge will also continue to invite innovative up-and-coming companies in Southwest Florida to join the accelerator at its new home, on the fourth floor of the Bank of America Center at 4501 Tamiami Trail, Naples.

Renting co-working space is “a real estate thing,” Founder and CEO Dieter Kondek tells Coffee Talk, detailing the revamp that follows the Rocket Lounge’s April 1 move to Naples from Fort Myers.

Leasing “is what others are doing,” Kondek adds. “We want to be an accelerator.”

With that in mind, Kondek is working with the family trust that owns the building to hand off the renting of desk space and use of common areas. Rocket Lounge has 10,000 square feet in the 33-year-old Class A building.

The 79,156 square-foot building is getting “major renovations” and is nearly half leased, says James Doane of the Welsh Cos., the listing broker and property manager. Vacant space includes 6,000 square feet on the fourth floor at $18 a square-foot triple net. Floors two and three offer the same $18 rate while the first-floor rate is negotiable, according to LoopNet listings. Doane says leasing activity there is “tremendous.”

The two-year-old accelerator is not ending all involvement in co-working space, Kondek says. He’s signing agreements with operators of work-sharing spaces in Tampa and Orlando to help Rocket Lounge’s international members extend their presence beyond Naples.

A native of Germany and former tech executive, Kondek moved the entire Rocket Lounge from downtown Fort Myers to Naples after he and COO Bud Stoddard decided going south was the best route to profitability. Naples, they expect, will grow as a draw for international tech startups, especially European ones, and offers less expensive room and board than Boston, New York and Austin. “The goal is help them build their work here,” Kondek says. “Now we don’t have to spend time worrying about filling up space.”

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