You'd be excused if you've never heard of Robert Reffkin, but you're almost certainly familiar with his work.
Reffkin was reared by a single mother who was an Israeli immigrant herself. He got the beginnings of what would later become his now-famous entrepreneurial mentality from her. Robert had a dream of starting a DJ business when he was younger. Everyone around him was skeptical, but his mother never stopped encouraging him. When he was still in high school, his business was so successful that it allowed him to pursue one of his lifelong ambitions: attending Columbia University in New York City.
The problem was that Robert wasn't necessarily the greatest student in his class at the time. He had a C average, which wasn't bad but wasn't enough to get him into the school he'd recently fallen in love with. Despite this, he threw himself into his SAT preparation and eventually achieved his objective – the first of many major ones he would face during his life.
The History of Robert Reffkin and Compass Real Estate
Following graduation, Reffkin joined McKinsey & Company as the firm's youngest business analyst. He worked there for two years before returning to school to earn his MBA, after which he made his successful return to Wall Street as an associate at Lazard.
This period of his career saw him work for a number of notable companies, including Goldman Sachs. He was the chief of staff for the company's then-president and COO, but he sensed there was more in store for him than this position. At such a young age, it was the type of job that most people would be envious of, but Reffkin knew it wasn't the final stop in his career. He quit Goldman Sachs in 2012 to start his own business.
On the one hand, launching a real estate firm like Compass Real Estate in 2012, of all years, may not appear to be the most obvious career path. Reffkin, on the other hand, always had something others didn't: the capacity to understand not only where an industry was, but where it might be headed.
He obviously had no knowledge of the industry, but everything that was going on in the world at the moment convinced him that it needed to be disrupted. He set his sights on doing exactly that in collaboration with tech entrepreneur Ori Allon.
In more ways than one, Compass Real Estate found its stride during the next few years. It was able to raise more than $1.6 billion in venture funding, which includes $450 million from SoftBank directly. The business had been on a roll in the greatest possible way, which regrettably coincided with the start of the still-active COVID-19 pandemic.
Reffkin, on the other hand, had dealt with adversity previously and was prepared for such a situation again.
The housing market had begun to recover in a big manner by the spring of 2020, and companies like Compass Real Estate were at the forefront of it. Single-family home sales had reached a 14-year high in October of that year. When 2021 rolled around, Compass had not only recovered, but was bringing in more revenue every month than it ever had before. Despite the fact that he had to lay off agents at the start of the pandemic due to the uncertainty that the industry (and indeed the world) was experiencing, Reffkin and Compass had to hire more than 3,500 agents to meet the enormous demand that ensued.
Throughout it all, technology played a significant part. Artificial intelligence and computer vision were used to instruct agents on not just who to target but also when to do so. The same algorithms might be used to analyze images of a home to determine what improvements were required to raise its sale value. Compass even created a smartphone app that allows agents to produce bespoke movies, deliver bottles of champagne to recent satisfied homebuyers after a successful transaction, and much more.
Today, Compass Real Estate is worth more than four billion dollars and is positioned to have a significant impact on the sector. All of this is due to Robert Reffkin's inability to give up — which is exactly how he prefers it.
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