Featured Founder: Steve Johnston of Ideal Agent
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Steve Johnston, Founder & CEO of Ideal Agent, a real estate technology platform selling homes for as little as 2% commission via a referral network of top real estate agents.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
I grew up in residential real estate, my mother co-owned and operated Century 21 offices in South Florida. Back then, it was a world without the cell phones, Internet or the present-day websites used to search, sell or buy real estate. Selling real estate was more challenging, so the average real estate commission was 6%.
Fast-forward to a world where homes for sale can be seen across the globe and potential buyers can take a virtual tour without leaving their couch. Even with the technological and marketing advances being utilized throughout the real estate industry today, the standard sales commission remains at 6%.
In the early 2000's, I founded one of the largest and fastest growing residential real estate brokerages in the country. A technology-driven platform that offered all real estate services(brokerage, mortgage, and title insurance) under one roof at a lower commission. The company was incredibly successful, but the same market that helped fuel our growth also brought us to our knees during the Great Recession. Learning from that experience and a passion for innovating residential real estate to deliver a better home selling experience at a fair commission, Ideal Agent was created.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Top real estate agents in the United States are fetching 6% and more in commissions. Technology has enabled agents to be more productive and efficient with no pass-through in savings to the seller. The industry is plagued by inexperienced agents closing an average of 5 transactions per year creating less than a mediocre home selling experience at a high cost.
Ideal Agent has created a nationwide platform of top local agents who have agreed to deliver 5-star level service and marketing for as little as a 2% commission when the home is sold. The end result is a better home selling experience at a fair commission.
My work, while challenging, is extremely rewarding. I get to do what I love every day, real estate and helping people. We have an awesome founding team that is creating a great culture of balancing hard work and having fun at the same time.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
Running a start-up presents new challenges on a daily basis, I think many entrepreneurs have this idea of starting a company and then you’re an instant success. Things always take much more time and money than you anticipate and life will throw you a few curve balls along the way. It’s amazing what hard work, a positive attitude and traction can overcome.
Where do you see your company headed next?
We’ve spent the last couple years building our foundation and fine-tuning our service, now we’re well positioned for rapid growth and scaling. We are closing on our first investment round this quarter and will use those funds to build out our technology platform, grow our network of agents and further build our brand. Our services are currently available in 49 states and every major market in the country.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
Follow your dreams and passion, you only get one shot at this life. Pivot when necessary, never give up. Execution is critical. And, pay it forward when you can as you never know when you may need a hand in life.