Robert Reffkin and Ori Allon in the last few years among the nation’s most powerful real estate leaders as founders and leaders of the nation’s third largest brokerage (adding in 2019 acquisitions). For many months in 2018 and 2019, Compass was the most talked about (and in many cases most feared) real estate brokerage, largely because of its aggressive growth and massive war chest that it used to acquire big brokerages and recruit top agents in its pursuit of its 20-20-20 vision: 20 percent market share in top 20 markets by 2020.
In addition to acquiring large San Francisco Bay Area brokerage Alain Pinel Realtors in March, the company launched an aggressive technology push in 2019, starting with the acquisition of popular real estate CRM Contactually in February. Later in the year, it opened a Seattle tech hub that can house 100 engineers under relatively new chief technology Joseph Sirosh, who previously served as chief technology officer of artificial intelligence at Microsoft.
Despite its acquisitions and impressive tech push, Compass’ fortunes look quite a bit shakier today than they did a year ago with the implosion of WeWork, a fellow SoftBank-funded company who had to scuttle a planned IPO in the wake of revealing disappointing business metrics. Compass finances remain a mystery as a private company but the firm suffered collateral damage by association.
The fallout appears to have tightened the belt at Compass a bit, with perhaps less money offered to top agents as signing bonuses or marketing spends. Compass’s CFO, Kristen Ankerbrandt talked about a “culture of frugality” in a memo circulated to staff in October, noting that she signs off on any expense above $1,000.
Furthermore, NAR’s MLS Policy 8.0 named the Clear Cooperation policy, appears to complicate Compass’ strategy of using exclusive listing content as a cornerstone of its flywheel strategy.
Nonetheless, Compass remains the third largest brokerage in the U.S. (far behind NRT and HomeServices of America but comfortably ahead of Douglas Elliman) with $45.5 billion in 2018 sales volume on 34,644 transaction sides. (See the Swanepoel Mega 1000 for details. 2018 financials available as at end of 2018 and verified 2019 financials out April 2020). It ended 2018 with 8,155 agents but has grown agent count to an estimated 12,000 agents in early 2020.
Reffkin has been pushing Compass hard as he works to manifest his company’s “2020 Vision:” a goal to attain 20 percent market share in 20 core metro markets across the country by 2020. Prior to Compass, Reffkin worked as chief of staff to the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, following a five-year stint working in the firm’s private equity arm. Prior to Goldman Sachs, he worked at large investment bank Lazard and McKinsey & Company. In 2005, he served as a White House Fellow as special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury. Robert is also the founder of the nonprofit New York Needs You. He received a BA and MBA from Columbia University.
Ori Allon’s technology expertise, honed at Google and Twitter, gives Compass technology street cred and a competitive edge that many brokers cannot match. Before Compass, he served as the director of engineering at Twitter’s New York City office, after selling his prior company, Julpan, to Twitter in 2011. Before joining Twitter, Allon served a stint at Google after the tech giant acquired his patented thesis called Orion. During his time at Google he led a search quality team that integrated the Orion technology and algorithms into the Google search engine. Allon earned his doctorate in computer science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.