Manhattan and the Silicon Valley may be known as the hot spots for technology startups to find space and grow, but Downtown Allentown is developing a hub of its own.
With the recent move of Trifecta Technologies to a renovated building along the 600 block of Hamilton Street, downtown Allentown is starting to develop a tech sector.
Monday afternoon, City Center Investment Corp., the company that is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new business in Allentown, welcomed four companies to Velocity, a new co-working space in a renovated historic site at 532 Hamilton St.
The companies occupy the upper two floors of the building, while one of them, Sarbari, already graduated to a larger office space downtown, said J.B. Reilly, City Center CEO.
The four companies setting up shop include The Social Station, Rising Tide Therapeutics, Park Inc. and Eleven Eleven Social.
“We allow companies to come here and grow and hopefully stay in the community,” Reilly said.
The timing couldn’t be better for the companies, noted state Sen. Pat Browne. The younger generation wants to be in an urban environment, he said.
“We are rapidly becoming a technology driven culture,” Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said. “This is what’s going to make the city grow and prosper. This is what cities in the 21st century need to be.”
Sarbari, a company that developed a Web-based solution for restaurant food purchases, graduated from Velocity before it officially opened. It is moving nearby to the upper two floors of City Center’s renovated historic property at 806 Hamilton St. The company relocated to the Lehigh Valley from Boston last year.
Sebastian Serra, Sarbari founder and CEO, and Andy Derr, chief operating officer, said they met with Reilly in November. Having grown from two full-time employees to 15, the company plans to hire 10 more this year and launch a nationwide marketing and sales effort.
“Our target market is the restaurant market,” Serra said. “Allentown is so centrally located. It was inevitable that we would outgrow this before it opened.”
Sarbari will move to the same building where a Tony Luke’s cheesesteak restaurant will open on the first floor.
Another Velocity startup looking to hire is The Social Station, a marketing tech firm that monitors and manages social media for small to medium-sized businesses.
“We are in about five to six other states; our plan is to be a national company,” said Alex Kalogeropoulos, founder and CEO. “This is where we feel very comfortable, it encourages a work/play environment.”
His plan is to hire eight employees by mid-November, the majority software developers. The company also is talking to chains that might want to use its services, Kalogeropoulos said.
The Social Station has 65 clients and seeks to hit 100 this year. Through Velocity, City Center plans to network with colleges and universities to attract talent, Reilly said.
North Star Construction Management of Upper Macungie Township completed the interior fit-out at Velocity.
Rising Tide Therapeutics is a biotechnology company producing therapies to treat rare diseases. Park Inc. is a multistate provider of valet parking, and Eleven Eleven Social is a full-service social media marketing agency.