Office Space: Rev1 Ventures Starts Startup Engines

Chloe Teasley
Games are strategic at Rev1; they help staff relax and refresh throughout the day. Not pictured: foosball.

From mattresses—and now to startups—the building on Kinnear Road that Rev1 Ventures calls home has been cranking out a product of some kind for many years. It's a bustling maze of rooms and people: Entrepreneurs chatting informally, boxes being rolled on dollies and seemingly endless pods of startup businesses lining the walls and organized into hallways in the middle.

They're all swathed in bright blue and green hues. A ceiling of factory-esque pipes and beams hangs high above, artifacts of the actual mattress factory the building once was. CEO Tom Walker says the ceiling “gives it a very industrial look, kind of before that (was popular).”

Rev1 Ventures is a newer company that has taken over a space previously designed for housing and helping tenant startups after its role as mattress manufacturer. “Sometime in the late '90s it was turned into an incubator and then we took over in 2012 or 2013 and made some modifications, really all of them to increase collaboration,” says Walker.

It is located near the Ohio State University campus, which has proven to be a fruitful location. “Proximity to OSU is really important,” says COO Kristy Campbell. “As you're walking around you'll see that about 30 percent or more of the companies come from our work with OSU, Nationwide Children's, OhioHealth and other corporate innovation-type partners, so being sort of in the center of the city helps.”

Currently, more than 50 companies occupy the building together with about 30 Rev1 employees. Roughly 300 people shuffle in and out of Rev1 each day. Each year sees a 30 percent turnover from people moving in and out, which is a good thing.

How about a company that's not quite ready to move out but whose quarters are feeling tight? No problem. All rooms have removable walls and allow for tenant rooms to double or triple in size.

“(Removable walls) allow companies to expand or contract with us here. We have really flexible terms month to month, so you're not in a long-term lease or anything like that,” says Walker.

Recently, a new room was installed for Rev1 employees to have more opportunities to rub shoulders with startup clients. Now it's difficult to tell who's a Rev1 employee and who belongs to a budding startup because they intermix and talk in the new area “pretty much all day,” says Walker.

“Sometimes there's a few extra chairs in here, so you'll see clients sitting in here or in the meeting rooms together with our team,” he explains. “And then you'll see startup companies, two or more, bunched up together just talking about things. … We wanted a space that fostered that kind of work.”

Tenant clients range greatly in size and industry, and they include software IT, advanced materials and life sciences. There are 16 wet labs for biotech startups and two training camps for learning software coding. One of the camps is i.c.stars, an organization focused on teaching coding to low-income young adults. The Chicago-based group's first Columbus cohort is tucked away down one of Rev1's hallways.

Walker says one of the things he loves most about Rev1 Ventures is the collaboration that occurs between people.

“One of my favorite things to do in the space is just walk around. You see the different conversations that are going on. It's my belief that how you help startups is the networking aspect of it, that you meet different people from different backgrounds, different experiences and it helps you grow. You see a lot of that happening organically in here,” he says.