The Power 100
As published in Commercial Observer.
88. Amol Sarva
CEO and Co-Founder of Knotel
Last Year’s Rank: 100
Flexible-office-space provider Knotel is helping spearhead the future of the workplace and stands poised against WeWork in New York (and beyond) after tripling its footprint globally in 2018, to 100 locations from 30 in 2017 and to over 2 million square feet from 600,000.
The New York-based company completed 28 deals in Midtown South in 2018, snatching up over 450,000 square feet, and it closed out the year with nine Manhattan leases, totaling almost 180,000 square feet, all sealed in December.
“We were in a lot of bake-offs with a lot of coworking types,” Amol Sarva said. “Halfway through the year it stopped being interesting. It used to be fun to beat them head-to-head.”
Knotel expanded its footprint in Paris and has moved into Los Angeles and also Berlin and São Paolo, Brazil, with its purchase of flex-office provider Ahoy!Berlin. Knotel also acquired online office leasing data service 42Floors and launched Baya.io, a blockchain platform for gathering and using data on real estate transactions.
In April 2018, Knotel announced that it closed two funding rounds—a $25 million Series A funding round, and then another $70 million in a Series B, led by Newmark Knight Frank. (Observer Capital, led by Commercial Observer Publisher and Chairman Joseph Meyer, is also an investor.)
And several months later in October, Knotel reeled in $60 million in a separate funding round led by Norwest Capital Partners, a venture capital firm that’s backed the likes of Uber and Spotify. NKF also participated in this round.
Amid its expansion, Knotel moved to a new headquarters at 229 West 43rd Street, the former New York Times Building. The company leased 57,000 square feet in the building last December as its new outpost, relocating from a 14,000-square-foot space at 137 Varick Street in Hudson Square. (Knotel had just moved into its Varick Street location in August 2018 but by late January 2019, it had doubled its workforce to 240.)
Sarva, who co-founded Virgin Mobile and research firm Halo Neuroscience, said he focuses on companies within the global 1,000, following them to major cities across the globe where they’ll need services.
“We’re in with folks that used to look down from the mountaintop on flex [office] and now it’s a religion; 60 to 70 percent of the largest owners have us in their buildings,” Sarva said.
For last year’s list, Sarva characterized traditional real estate methods as “cobwebs,” saying he’s aiming to take down the industry’s archaic business practices when it comes to listings, negotiations and the time it takes to complete a deal.
When asked if his feelings had changed, he said, “I took out my broom and have been waving it in the corners [of the industry] over the last year.”