Tech company LockerDome is more than doubling the size of its office space downtown and plans to hire up to 300 people by the end of 2020.
LockerDome, which currently has 45 employees, moved to a 6,800-square-foot storefront on Washington Avenue in 2012 but has outgrown that space, said its chief executive and co-founder Gabe Lozano.
After a 120-day build-out set to begin in the second half of 2016, LockerDome’s employees will move to occupy an 18,000-square-foot building a block away at 1314 Washington.
“We intend to outgrow that space as well,” Lozano said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. A Fitness Factory gym currently at 1314 Washington will relocate elsewhere downtown.
The tech company that started as a sports social media platform has evolved to become an interest-based social platform for gaming, music and politics, among other options. Earlier this year, LockerDome opened a New York office with a staff of eight.
LockerDome’s services expanded this year to include native advertising for brands to reach their target audiences across its platform. It currently has job postings in St. Louis for graphic designers, writers and developers to create polls, quizzes, video and other content for customers.
“We believe there is an opportunity to build content and ad experiences that better engage users and get instant feedback on a brand’s performance,” Lozano said.
Most of the jobs it’s adding are in the native ad unit, Lozano said. The first phase of the business was spent building an audience, and the company has grown from 20 million unique visitors a month at the end of 2013 to more than 100 million people each month.
“The bulk of our resources today are driving sales,” Lozano said. “There’s a massive shift in the way people talk about advertising. In the past, it was good enough to have people click on your ad but they tended to lack accountability and transparency on the back of that. Today, (advertisers) want accountability and transparency in real time.”
Since its founding in 2008, LockerDome has raised more than $18 million from dozens of investors, including Cultivation Capital and Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III.
LockerDome received $200,000 in 2012 through the Missouri Technology Corp., the state’s vehicle for funding startups, which helped LockerDome anchor a $1 million seed round from other investors. A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Economic Development said the MTC’s stake in LockerDome was later sold in 2013, resulting in the state receiving more than $400,000.
For the 300 jobs the company plans to create, Missouri officials are offering LockerDome $3.7 million through the Missouri Works program if the company meets job creation criteria.
Gov. Jay Nixon plans to visit the company’s current headquarters Wednesday. In a statement, Nixon said the state is cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs through the Missouri Technology Corporation.
“This significant expansion by a homegrown startup is proof positive that the investments we’ve made through the Missouri Technology Corporation are creating jobs and accelerating growth all across our state,” Nixon’s statement said.
LockerDome’s expansion is the latest in a string of recent tech job announcements in St. Louis. In September, San Francisco-based mobile payments firm Square opened a St. Louis office in the Cortex district in the Central West End, with plans to add more than 200 jobs over five years. So far, the company co-founded by St. Louis entrepreneur Jim McKelvey and St. Louis native Jack Dorsey, who is CEO of both Square and Twitter, has already hired more than 40 full-time employees locally.
The following month, tax, audit and advisory firm KPMG said it selected its St. Louis office across from the Gateway Arch to become one of the firm’s largest U.S. tech hubs. KPMG, which has its global offices in Amsterdam, said in October it plans to add 175 jobs in downtown St. Louis over the next three years, in addition to its 270 existing employees.
To date, KPMG has hired 17 employees in St. Louis office as part of its IT expansion and there are 88 local IT job postings, according to Karen Vangyia, KPMG’s St. Louis managing partner.
“We’ve found the highest concentration of skills (locally) in the project management, software development and technical support fields,” Vangyia said in an email, adding KPMG plans to host a technology career expo in St. Louis in mid-February.
Lozano has been a vocal proponent for growing St. Louis’ status as a tech city to spur economic development. He recently gave a speech to business and community leaders at the Log Cabin Club in Ladue, urging them to focus on adding more tech firms. Lozano said the city should set a goal of attracting 1,000 tech companies downtown with 10,000 employees by 2025.
“We already have organic growth,” Lozano said, citing the T-Rex technology incubator as a driver in cultivating startups. “When we moved here in April 2012, we were the only tech company I could name on the street. Today there are over 200. That is a big deal.”
Lisa Brown • 314-340-8127
@lisabrownstl on Twitter