The Mentor and the Mentee Liz Young and Robert Reffkin share a passion for real estate, but both admit that the size of the industry can be a blessing and a curse. “The opportunity is so large and so wide that it’s easy to not be focused,” Reffkin says.
For most entrepreneurs, launching a startup three months before a global pandemic would just be bad luck. Not so for Realm founder Liz Young, whose real estate platform helps homeowners maximize the value of their home by guiding them through decisions like how much to spend on a kitchen renovation or when to refinance. During the pandemic, when millions of Americans began working remotely from their homes, Realm started receiving hundreds of inquiries per week from homeowners looking for advice.
“We’ve had a really captive audience of people sitting in their biggest asset and not spending on travel and other discretionary expenses,” Young says. “They’re saying, ‘Help me figure out how to interact with my home in its new use.’ ”
Young, 33, first took an interest in real estate at the age of 6, when her parents bought their first home. From then on, during every trip to the grocery store, she would pick up all of the real estate listings magazines. Prior to founding Realm, she served as the head of growth at Reonomy, a commercial real estate data and technology company that helps investors make better decisions.
“The whole time I was there, I thought, how do I put this in the hands of the average person?” Young says.
New York City-based Realm recently raised a $12 million Series A round led by GGV Capital, an investor in Airbnb, but Young isn’t letting a splashy fundraise get to her head. She’s determined to grow Realm into a household name and focused on making key hires.
When it comes to dreaming big and growing fast, few real estate founders have more experience than Compass CEO Robert Reffkin. Over the past eight years, he’s built that New York City-based company into the largest independent brokerage in the nation. In April, Compass went public, raising $450 million in its IPO.
Today, when the 42-year-old Reffkin isn’t running the business, one of his greatest passions is mentoring other entrepreneurs. “You actually get more from mentoring than you give,” he says. In 2009, he founded the mentorship nonprofit America Needs You (formerly New York Needs You), which helps ensure that first-generation college students earn their degree and find employment after graduation.
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