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Chicago based startup aims to bring real estate into the digital age!
Chicago-based entrepreneur Gary Bryan Dobbs is striving to bring real estate brokerage into the digital age. His latest venture, Augustine Company, is aimed at leveraging social media to assist both real estate brokerages and architects engage in the growing social spheres of the internet.
With a background in architecture, Dobbs is currently hard at work building a platform that utilizes social technologies (including Twitter and Facebook) to enhance the real estate cycle. The platform that Dobbs is currently building will allow real estate brokers to earn revenue and run their businesses in a social space largely new to the market.
We spoke with Dobbs about the work he’s doing and the connections he’s making in the Chicago startup scene to get his unconventional social platform off the ground.
How did the Augustine Company begin?
Basically the Augustine Company is the idea that I had while I was going through some pretty hard studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I had worked for 6 years at a real estate brokerage and I’d seen the nature of the business and how it was.
In 2008 I decided I wanted a longer term approach -- I moved to Chicago and started studying architecture a year later. For two years I ate, drank, and slept what I studied. It was really a kind of in the trenches time for me; I worked my butt off as hard as I could.
After a year I started to have some health issues. I went to the emergency room a week after my finals ended in 2011. I had problems breathing and they didn’t know what it was. After that I worked on my health for over a year while I was studying. At that point I decided that what I was getting from IIT -- it’s a great institution -- it was still old school. There was something big missing and it led me to where I am today.
Is there significance in the name you chose? Augustine?
St. Augustine is an apostle of the Catholic church. There’s a painting of him in the LA County Museum of Art, holding up a burning heart in his left hand, his head on fire, and there’s a light over his right shoulder that he’s looking at. It was painted by a famous artist over 4,500 years ago and it really struck a chord with me.
When I went to the ER it was something hard that I’d gone through physically, but it made me stronger. I decided to commit myself to building something great, something bigger than myself. I wanted to make something that people could share in and work hard and be rewarded for their work.
When did you know that entrepreneurship was the path for you?
I guess you could say that I didn’t know that I wanted to be an entrepreneur a long time ago when I never understood what it is. I moved here to Chicago, struggling to take my background and experience and turn it into a career.
I was struggling hardcore. Nobody wanted to give me anything new, they just wanted to put me right back in sales. I saw it as a dead occupation and I didn’t want anything to do with it.
I guess it’s like when you’re growing up as a kid and you have these emerging abilities. You don’t know what they are and you don’t know what’s happening. You figure out what your strengths are and grow into it.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I get up at five or six and start with my three and a half month old daughter. I take care of her and if I can, I try to get out and exercise some. I try to keep up with reading the Wall Street Journal and other news sources.
I work from home right now on my desktop, reaching out on social media: Twitter, Facebook -- a lot of the platforms I’ve been integrating. I’ve been learning how to balance them and tie them together and structure this business idea.
I’ve been doing my homework and research to find out what problems brokerages and architects are currently facing in their businesses today. Getting out into communities like 1871 and connecting with the people I’ve been meeting online.
I’m a one man show at the moment, but I’ve been making connections with people.
If you sold your company today for $10 million, what is the first thing you would do with the money?
We’d pay off any investors and take care of liabilities of course. My share would just put my family at ease. We could live a little bit more comfortably. I might bank it and grow it into more product and services.
I don’t plan on letting up with software as a service in real estate. It would be a good platform to start more, maybe even two startups.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
I think it would be to be in every place and in every aspect of my business at the same time. I’d really be able to be in touch with each aspect of the business and really have a clear understanding of even the most up-front customer service oriented roles.
What’s next for the Augustine Company?
Right now I’ve got a couple of investors who each want to invest $50,000 so I’m doing everything I can to produce the firepower to execute with that. I’m working on getting the revenue, building relationships with customers, and establishing a team. I’m working on having each of those aligned so that I can really turn this business into a thriving entity.
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