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With UpTech Gone, Covington and NKU Look to Move Forward Together

UpTech, a start-up accelerator new technology-based enterprises, launched in Northern Kentucky with much enthusiasm, first settling in Newport and then arriving in Covington in 2013.

Companies that incubated there, and the accelerator itself, received occasional glowing headlines, such as Travel Notes, which was acquired by a Silicon Valley firm, but whose website is now inactive; Hive, a music app, that also appears to be inactive now; and 3DLT, a 3D printing service that made a pitch to AOL and that is no longer in operation. 

Aspiring companies would apply to UpTech and if accepted, would be offered $50,000 for a one-year incubation period that also offered mentoring and office space while their products were developed.

Now, like many of the big ideas that emerged from the entrepreneurs brought to incubate there, UpTech is gone, too. 

That means its space at 112 West Pike Street is now empty. The storefront sits in a building redeveloped as PikeStar. It is leased by the City of Covington which had sub-leased it to UpTech as part of its entrepreneurial strategy.

To fill the void, the city is turning to a new partnership with Northern Kentucky University and refocusing its efforts on a broader business sector, not just high-tech.

NKU is developing its own start-up accelerator and while a formal vote has taken place yet, City of Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said Tuesday night that one would be imminent.

So the Covington city commission is set to approve next week a new sublease agreement with NKU.

"It will operate shared services for entrepreneurs. UpTech was exclusively for high-tech and they would find their capital investors outside the community a lot of times and we weren't keeping them here," West explained. "We were subsidizing them and then they were moving somewhere else."

UpTech had signed a new five-year sublease agreement which has a little more than three years left. The new NKU initiative will assume the remainder of that lease. The subsidy comes in the form of the roughly $194,000 paid by the city each year to PikeStar. UpTech, and now NKU, would pay the city about $77,000. In total, the subsidy each year is around $118,000.

"When (UpTech) decided to close shop, the lease allowed them to assign that to another succeeding entity," West said. "The NKU Foundation would be that entity."

But this time the money will be more broadly targeted. "This could be a contractor who wants to start a plumbing business," West said as an example. 

City Manager David Johnson said, "Hopefully, this is a front door to more NKU presence within the city."

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: 112 West Pike Street, former home of UpTech (RCN)

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