Covington's CovWorx brings collaborative energy, innovative spirit of startups all under one roof

Dotloop cofounders rehab Senior Services building
Covington's CovWorx brings collaborative energy, innovative spirit of startups all under one roof
Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 20, 2016

COVINGTON, Ky. -- When you’re part of the trio who developed and sold the Dotloop app to Zillow for $108 million, you can pretty much choose what you want to do next.

For Adam Koehler, that means creating a “giant mall for creative services” in Covington.

So he bought Covington’s old Senior Services building -- 20,000 square feet of space on Madison Avenue that came with a successful incubator kitchen in the basement, a need for cosmetic updates and a $20,000 air conditioner headache. It cost $585,000.

Koehler, the co-founder who served as Dotloop's marketing and strategy arm through his company Reversed Out, said it hasn’t been a giant leap. It’s something he was already doing in 2,500 square feet in Downtown Cincinnati.

Named CovWorx, the building will house people in fields that complement each other and who will use each other on projects as independent contractors.

“It’s an alternative to a big agency, where there’s lots of overhead,” Koehler said, adding that when bigger agencies let go of people, CovWorx is a place where those people can come and start their own business.

“We can provide a base amount of work,” he said. Startups that come to CovWorx need to “get to MVP: minimum viable product. They don’t need to go out and spend a lot of money on staff, they just use us."

CovWorx is using the same font and color scheme (blue) that the city of Covington is using in brand-building.

“We wanted to use the same branding,“ Koehler said. The city is looking at Madison Avenue as a technology business strip from the Ohio River to MLK Jr. Boulevard.

“So it’s kind of an accelerator as well," he said.

Also in the space is Lampros Labs and Vanda, soon to be joined by Viaggi and possibly a printing company, all of them adding up to nearly 30 people using the space.

Koehler’s continuing to grow his own company, Reversed Out, and also developing more apps. His newest, Vanda, will connect human resource departments to candidates across the country. That app should launch in January 2017, he said.

Troy Davis, co-founder and CEO of Lampros Labs, does front-end design and programming for companies. He hires talented college students or established talent transitioning into a new field to give them the experience they need, he said.

But he’s only looking for the best and the brightest, and most students come by way of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at University of Cincinnati, he said. Today, he’s got 22 employees both full and part time.

He said CovWorx “has a lot of potential.” The newest company coming to the space, Viaggi, already does work with Lampros Labs, “so they wanted to be close to us.” Viaggi designs mobile routers for Wi-Fi in transportation.

Koehler’s pretty proud of the building itself, which is located in a part of Covington that still needs redevelopment. The neighborhood doesn't bother him, he said, noting that he grew up in Price Hill when times were rough.

Originally built for the Knights of Columbus, the building was designed by architect Tomas J. Collopy in a style reminiscent of an Italian castle, according to the Kenton County Library website on local history.

“The first floor of the building contained: Offices for the secretary and building manager; lounges for men, women and children; a library; kitchen and council room. The second floor housed a large ballroom, two lounge rooms and two meeting rooms. The basement level contained six bowling lanes, a billiards room and a shower facility,” according to the website.

Today, that bowling alley is the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen, the first floor is where the entrepreneurs are located, and the ballroom is buried beneath a dropped ceiling, but still perfect for offices.

The other DotLoop co-founders also have moved on -- Austin Allison became the general manager for Dotloop and will grow that arm of Zillow in Cincinnati, and Matt Vorst put his money into his new startup, Physi, a mobile app designed to help connect folks who want to play sports.