Meet the billionaire who is disrupting the US real estate industry through technology

Stephen Nartey June 27, 2023
Today, Robert's startup, Compass, is worth $4 billion and has a presence in 20 markets across the United States. Photo credit: Robert Refkin via LinkedIn

Robert Refkin, Founder of real estate tech company, Compass, felt inferior and doubted his ability to perform well academically while growing up. His high school guidance counselor was the first to tell him he was not academically fit for the schools in Columbia after the infrastructure in New York City enthralled him.

Refusing to accept the verdict passed on his ability, Robert motivated himself to study and make it into the schools in Colombia. However, he wore the hat of a C-average student throughout high school and college; partly blaming this on his disinterest in subjects such as calculus or Western civilization. He did not see how studying such subjects could impact his worldview.

He was more intrigued by entrepreneurship and summer internships, which in his view, opened the window to appreciate the natural world and what made it tick, according to Tech Crunch. Today, his startup, Compass, is worth $4 billion and has a presence in 20 markets across the United States.

He learned his early lessons in entrepreneurship from his mom, who taught him to always make sure to get back on stage with a greater passion any time the challenges of life knocked him down. She also inspired him to start his real estate business.

During his mother’s active working days as a real estate agent, he noticed her difficulties getting the right tools and support to discharge her duties. As much as she pushed, she was not able to realize her professional goals. Based on this experience, Robert built his business to provide real estate agents with a platform and tools to deliver on their job.

According to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, there are currently more than 3 million individuals with active real estate licenses – with 1.6 million actively working as realtors. The growth in the value of property and the appeal of the housing market has seen this number increase by more than 500,000 in 2021, according to home light.

Despite their relevance, there is a gap in realtors accessing the right tools to maximize their income. To address this challenge, Compass aims to empower realtors with the requisite tools, technology, and technical support to make them more profitable and efficient.

Since Robert established the business in 2014, Compass has been working with real estate agents in 20 major cities across the US, and has been pushing an expansion drive since 2018. It has opened 70 new offices and employed more than 600 people. Additionally, its real estate agent ecosystem has witnessed a significant growth of more than 8,000 agents, according to Mckinsey.

It is key to note that, before Robert attained his billionaire status, he worked for management consulting firm, Mckinsey & Company; and Goldman Sachs – where he rose to become its chief of staff for the President and Chief Operating Officer, Gary Cohn; as well as the US Department of Treasury – as a White House fellow, according to Master Class.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 27, 2023


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