He is a Berkeley kid raised by a single mom, who happened to be a Realtor. Robert Reffkin saw her change brokerages three times, always looking for a better deal, each change a struggle. So as soon as he got into the business world, he decided to do what he could about it: disrupt!
According to Everipedia, “Robert Reffkin was known as DJ Zahav, the Golden Hebrew. Columbia University undergrad and M.B.A. he’s one of New York’s leading philanthropists and hottest startup players, angling to change the real estate market forever.”
First the rental disruptor. He co-founded Urban Compass in 2012 (along with Ori Allon, who has sold a tech company or two) as a residential rental firm designed to blow up the murky NYC rental market with it’s cloistered listings and high fees:
Renters typically pay a 15% fee to brokers for commission. With Urban Compass, the typical broker’s fee is cut in half.
To execute the local vision, Urban Compass employs “neighborhood specialists.” Armed with red backpacks, iPhones and hyperlocal knowledge, specialists have real estate licenses and are paid a salary based on customer satisfaction, rather than a commission.
Wonder how long that lasted? Not very. But that’s the disruption business. Back then, even in rentals, Robert knew the key was service.
The duo quickly shifted the Compass brand from rentals to residential sales. The focus was still about service, but this time, Robert wanted to service the agents. He and Allon wanted to Zuckerberg-esque how buyers find places to live, and change how how people connect with each other and cities.
“I realized rentals were pretty specific to New York City,” he told me last week. “New Yorkers rent, the rest of the world buys homes.”
Like in Dallas. (more…)