Tamir Poleg started in the real estate industry as a construction worker 16 years ago. This experience allowed him to learn homes and construction from a fundamental level. After earning a degree in economics, he joined the tech world with a couple of start-up companies doing mainly sales positions in Europe.
In 2006, Tamir started his own real estate company in Houston, Texas. When the market tanked in 2007 - 2008, he saw the opportunity to invest in real estate and grew his portfolio, property management company, and construction company. Despite the odds, it turned out to be a good decision, and he ended up selling that company in 2013. A year later, he started Real, a technology-powered real estate brokerage, and this is where he’s been devoting his life to ever since.
Today, Tamir Poleg is the CEO at The Real Brokerage Inc. The company recently rang the bell at Nasdaq and is currently on a mission to make agents' lives better, creating financial opportunities for agents through better commission splits, best-in-class technology, revenue sharing, and equity incentives.
In this episode, we talked about:
03:36 Why Tamir decided to go into the real estate world?
07:22 How COVID gave way to in opening up the industry virtually
08:56 Why Tamir chose New York to start his own company
10:30 What was the vision for Real when they first started it?
15:13 When did the idea of building wealth through Real come about?
19:47 What sets Real apart from a traditional brokerage?
20:11 Why are agents attracted to Real?
22:49 How revenue sharing works at Real
24:16 What is the tech platform that Real uses?
25:11 The four main pillars of technology
30:15 Tamir’s most crucial piece of advice
Brian Charlesworth 0:35
All right. Hi, everyone. And welcome back to the Grit podcast. I'm Brian Charlesworth, the founder of Sisu and the host of the show. And today I have a special guest with me one that I've been looking forward to so today with us on the show, we have Tamir is that Poleg is how you pronounce your last name Tamir?
Tamir Poleg 0:53
Brian Charlesworth 0:54
So see I didn't even talk to him about that. But Tamir and I have known each other for about a year now. And I'm super impressed with what he's building and what he's done. And you know, he's got a background in real estate. He used to run an investment company where he had I don't know how many properties you had in that Tamir?
Tamir Poleg 1:12
We had about 2200 apartments.
Brian Charlesworth 1:15
2200 apartments. So I mean, that alone is a huge business. super exciting. also had a property management company. And now he's the CEO of Real brokerage, which is one of the upcoming brokerages that just went public on NASDAQ. Just a lot of exciting things going on in his life. So Tamir is there anything I missed there? Anything you want to give us for your background goes?
Tamir Poleg 1:38
Well, first of all, hi. Hi, Brian. Hi, everyone. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. No, I think, you made a very short and accurate introduction. Yes, I've been in real estate for about 16 years actually started as a construction worker, which is something that I'm very proud of. It tells that, you know, I know, homes and construction from the very basic level. And I then got a degree in economics and then joined the tech world with a couple of startups doing mainly sales positions in Europe. And in 2006, I started my own real estate company in Houston, Texas, as he said, started growing my own portfolio of properties actually went heavily when the market tanked at the end of 2007, and the beginning of 2008. So a lot of opportunities back then, nobody really wanted to invest in real estate or hear about real estate. And I was probably at the right place the right time. And I was young enough, to have the nerves to try and, and be daring, and started acquiring properties and growing my own portfolio and my own property management company and construction company. And that turned out to be a good decision, we ended up selling that company in 2013. And in 2014, I found a Real and this is what I've been devoting my life to ever since. So that's enough.
Brian Charlesworth 2:57
We're gonna dive into Real here in a minute. But I wanted to ask like, you're from Israel, originally correct?
Tamir Poleg 3:04
Brian Charlesworth 3:05
They're to Europe, to Houston, back to Israel now in New York. So tell me about this flow, like how do you decide where you're going to be in this world?
Tamir Poleg 3:14
It's really interesting because I didn't really have a master plan for my life. It's funny, I have one of our early-stage investors is a guy that I appreciate tremendously. And he's extremely successful. And my wife actually went to consult with him about two years ago, because she was kind of looking for the next challenge. And he asked her a simple question, like, what do you want to do? Like, what's your, what's your plan? And, and she said, You know, I'm not really sure. And that guy invested in so many companies, and he was the CEO of really big companies. And he told her, you know, you should get too frustrated about that because I'm now in my 50s. And I still don't know what I want to do. So what I'm trying to say is that I didn't have a plan, things just happened. I think that when I started in the tech industry, I really wanted to try and do business outside of Israel because Israel is a small country, it's about 8 million people in population. So obviously a small market. And I thought that the world is big, and there must be greater opportunities. So maybe I should try and play in, in other leagues. And this is how I started. And I think that this is what kind of opened my horizons that there's a whole world out there, and so many opportunities and great markets, and the possibility of making a much bigger impact. And I think that this is what brought me to Europe. And then this is what brought me to the US. My heart is still in Israel because you know, this is where I grew up. This is where my family most of my family is. My brother and sister actually used to live in New York. My sister just recently moved back to Israel, but I don't know, you know, many people call themselves a citizen of the world. But I would say that I'm kind of splitting my life between countries. I would guess that would be the best description.
Brian Charlesworth 5:01
I mean, I think the thing I learned from that to me is that you're just you're open, you know, you're open to being wherever. And not many people are that way. In fact, I'm sitting here looking at my own life going. Okay, I've been out of Utah a few times, but I pretty much lived in Utah my whole life. Right? So, yeah, I was in Europe for a few years, but for the most part, been in Utah. So, you know, it's just, it's a different perspective. And I've considered moving to New York before I've considered moving to San Francisco before and Virginia and ended up not pulling the trigger on any of those. So, anyway, congratulations, I'm just being open to making that happen.
Tamir Poleg 5:42
Yeah, I think it has to do with perspective on life. If you think that the world is so big, and there are so many things that are just not accessible, then you probably limit yourself to a certain place location, occupation. You know, when we started Real, for example, I was living in Israel. Initially, I was talking to Israeli investors who VCs and tech investors and all of them asked me, are you living in Israel at the moment? And I said, Yes. But you know, you should care about that. Because people thought that if I'm building a business in the US, or a business, that's US-focused, I should be there. And in many cases, that's correct. But I think that if you, as a CEO, or entrepreneur, have that commitment of being where you needed, it doesn't really matter where you say you live, because at the end of the day, you dedicate your life and your time to the company, and you do what's best for the company, and you put the best interest of the company ahead of anything else. So it doesn't really matter. Where's your residential address? It matters, what your actions reflect,
Brian Charlesworth 6:47
Well said. And I think most of the world didn't realize that until COVID. You realize,
Tamir Poleg 6:55
Brian Charlesworth 6:56
My company has been virtual, pretty much from the beginning. But you know, I think COVID open, open that up where the world now accepts that right?
Tamir Poleg 7:06
Definitely. And, you know, if we touched on COVID, and how it impacted people's view on working remotely, we grew during COVID, our team from about 15 people to about 45 people, which we're still a small company in terms of employees count, but most of the people that we hired during the pandemic are remote because we didn't really care about them being present in the office in New York. So we hired all over the place. And we felt very good about it. And then we listed on NASDAQ a couple of months ago, and at the end of July, we went to ring the bell on NASDAQ. And that was an opportunity to gather all of the employees that recently joined and have them fly to New York and share the excitement. And that there was a special moment there where it really felt special and different, just being physically in the same place, you know, being able to touch and hug and talk. So even though things can be done remotely, there's still a part of us that needs that interaction, which is face to face and human and just makes you operate all of your senses at once. Instead of just watch and listen.
Brian Charlesworth 8:19
Yes, totally, totally. I had my team in our office yesterday, just for a meeting. It's definitely different. Being on zoom versus being in person.
Tamir Poleg 8:28
Brian Charlesworth 8:30
So how did you choose New York? So here you are CEO of Real, and why New York?
Tamir Poleg 8:38
So we started in Israel, this is where we started developing the technology. But as soon as we wanted to get our brokers licenses, we opened up a subsidiary in Texas in Houston, actually, because that's where I've been, this is where my connections were. This is where I felt comfortable that I know, the landscape and I had the connections. So we actually started in, in Texas. But as soon as we wanted to expand our marketing efforts, and we were looking for talent, New York is probably the number one place for attracting high-quality marketing talent. And at the same time, the proximity to Israel, where most of the employees were located back then just play the role. So it was a combination of Let's be closer to Israel. And let's be closer to a major talent pool. And I hated New York, I must say at the beginning because it was big and overwhelming and crowded and noisy, and I just couldn't find myself over there. But I think that about a year later, it kind of grew on me. It's a really special city. And you just cannot ignore all the benefits that they can offer, especially to companies and access to talent and capital and opportunities. And there's so much happening there that just by being there, it impacts you. So I'm really happy that we chose New York to be honest.
Brian Charlesworth 10:03
Good, good. So let's go back to 2014. You found it Real. Tell me, like, what was your vision for real at that time? And how have you pivoted? Where's Real today? Like, there's some, I think there are some pretty big changes there. I don't think you quite had this vision back then. But I don't know. So I want to hear about that.
Tamir Poleg 10:23
I'm laughing because when I think about myself seven and a half years ago, I realized that I knew nothing, at least compared to what I know today about our industry at least. But I think that is what triggered us to found Real and we co-founded it. For four of us. We looked at certain verticals within the real estate space, I was the only person who had the real estate background. And we were just passionate about doing something in that space. So we're, we've looked at maybe doing a lead gen company for agents or doing something in the mortgage space. And one day, we looked at the brokerage industry, and the more we dove into it, the more we felt as if something is wrong here. So we saw that it's a huge market, it's dominated by the same names for many, many decades, we, we felt that many of those traditional companies are doing a great job at charging agents a lot of money, but doing a poor job at providing what agents actually need in order to succeed. We saw that more and more consumers were using agents, which was a clear sign that agents are here to stay. But at the same time, consumers are clearly signaling that they wanted to pay less, because there's constant pressure on commissions, as you know, in the past 20 years or so. So for us, it looked like this industry needed to change. And the more I dove into trying to understand what agents go through every day, and what they go through emotionally. And practically in their business, the more I got connected to the persona of a real estate agent. And at some point, we said, let's try and make agent’s lives better. And your thought initially, that it's all about technology and giving them tools and you know, giving them fair, economical arrangements or great splits and no monthly fees. But I think that as we evolved and progressed, we realized a few more things, we realized that agents needed an opportunity to build wealth. At the end of the day, as an agent, you're helping to build somebody's business and that somebody is the brokerage and it's only fair that you will benefit from that, we realize that culture is a huge thing for agents, because agents, even sometimes even if you just offer them a better deal, they will not join, and they will not join because of the reputation of the company, or because they're not attracted to the people that are already there. So we will learn a lot.
Brian Charlesworth 12:55
And it will come to you for a better deal. They'll always leave for a better deal as well. Right?
Tamir Poleg 13:01
Probably, but I think that there's one thing that we stick to, from the beginning until today. And that's the mission of making real estate agent’s lives better. And when I think about myself, personally, this is what I've been devoting my life to and I will continue to devote my life to it because I think that there is a population of 1.2 active real estate agents in the US. And somebody needs to come and say, and I'm not saying that it's us, it's a lot of people that are doing the same. People need to take care of that population of 1.2 million professionals. And if you come to think about it, there's no other industry where independent contractors, like real estate agents, are required to work under a license of a brokerage. Now, that specific regulation opens up the possibility of a lot of things that might not be for the best benefit of the agents, because agents need brokers or brokerages in order to operate their business. And yes, and unfortunately, at least historically, we've seen a lot of brokers just taking advantage of that power given to them by regulators. So for us, it was just a very clear and honest decision to go and take care of agents. And that's what we're trying to do.
Brian Charlesworth 14:24
So we share that vision because that's what we do at Sisu as well.
Tamir Poleg 14:29
Brian Charlesworth 14:29
Empower their real estate teams. So you mentioned something I don't want to just pass over which is building wealth. Like that's kind of when the shift happened for you. You're like, Hey, you know what, there are all these things that we can do for the realtor. But building wealth when did that whole thing come about?
Tamir Poleg 14:55
So we really built real as a tech company, which means that for every employee that joined our team, we granted them stock options, because we believe that they should be rewarded for their contribution to growing the company. And at some point, about two years after we started the company, I was thinking about that. And I realized that there are three parties that help build Real, it's the investors, it's the team, and it's the agents. But if at any time Real, will be massively successful, and there will be some sort of liquidation event or an exit or somebody will acquire Real even though we weren't looking for that, then why is it that only the investors and the team will benefit from owning equity in the company. So I went to my board actually at the beginning of 2017. And I told them, that I wanted to start granting stock options to our agents. And coming into that meeting, I was, I didn't really know how they will react to it, because it means that all of those people we invested their money in the company will be diluted by the equity that we will be granting our agents. But I laid it out to them. And I was just amazed by how quickly and strongly they supported that, that idea. So very, very soon after, we came up with a stock option plan for agents. And we kind of rolled with it for a couple of years, what we've seen is that most agents did not fully realize the potential of owning stock options in a privately held startup, which was a little bit unfortunate, because I perceived it as a huge opportunity for them. But many of them just didn't realize, unfortunately, not too many people even understand what stock options mean, or how they one day can turn into cash.
And around 2019, I said, Okay, we're doing something great. But I don't think that our agents understand how great it is. So let's try and see if there's a better way of doing it. And then at that point, we explore the possibility of taking Real public. And that's what we did. And it's a process that took us about nine months. But eventually, in June of 2020, we became a publicly traded company at the beginning of the Toronto Stock Exchange venture. And subsequently, in June of 2021, we listed on NASDAQ as well.
Brian Charlesworth 17:24
So are you on are you still on both?
Tamir Poleg 17:27
Yeah, we are still on both? I would assume that at some point, we will drop the Canada listing and we will only trade on NASDAQ.
Brian Charlesworth 17:37
Yeah. Okay. So congratulations on that. By the way. I've built a few companies that I thought I might get to that point. But I have not gotten to that point where I've actually gotten to ring the bell and take a company public. So congratulations. That's exciting.
Tamir Poleg 17:52
Thank you very much. And
Brian Charlesworth 17:53
And that not many, not that many people in this world get to experience.
Tamir Poleg 17:59
Yes. And I wasn't looking at it this way. So it wasn't for me, it did not mean that this is any huge accomplishment or anything significant. I thought that this is another foundation that we need to put in place for the company and for the agents. So for me, it was just one more thing that we needed to do. I think that the moment where it kind of it became a little bit more exciting, was standing on the podium at NASDAQ and you know, looking outside at Times Square and seeing hundreds of our agents just, you know, cheering and, and smiling and being happy together with us. I think that at that point, I realized that we are really building something amazing that touches so many lives, and we're doing something good for people. And you know, I let myself be excited for a few minutes at that point. But then it's back to work. I mean, being publicly traded only means that you just have more work, it's more overhead and more things to take care of. So even though it Yeah, even though it looks you know, shiny and I don't know, desirable. At the end of the day, it just creates more overhead and work,
Brian Charlesworth 19:14
For sure. So let's talk about that. So you mentioned your stock options. You mentioned your agents getting equity building wealth, what else sets you apart at Real from a traditional brokerage?
Tamir Poleg 19:28
It's a question that comes up very often when I talk to analysts and investors and I think that every agent is different. And at the end of the day, different people make up decisions based on different criteria. If you're asking me why are agents attracted to Real, I would say the few things one is freedom and flexibility. So when they join us, they really have the freedom and flexibility to build their business the way they want to. We do not dictate. We understand that they know their business. Much better than we do. And we just want to be there to support them. So they're really building their own business, on our infrastructure, on our platform. So that's one thing. Second, the economics obviously works. So it's an 85-15 split with $12,000. cap. For teams, it's even lower. I mean, the cap itself, there are no monthly fees. There's just one annual brokerage fee of $500. So I think we're very attractive on that. And we're not attractive, because we're trying to race to the bottom, we just think that we've built an extremely efficient operation using technology that enables us to pass along that saving to our agents. And it's only fair that we come at a pricing point where it's really attractive to them. And it also enables the company to be profitable and grow and become a massive business. So the economics is their culture, which probably comes ahead of anything else, we'll try to be extremely protective of our culture, and build an agent population who wants to focus on succeeding in real estate on focusing mainly on real estate, on working hard and being kind and collaborating and helping each other and building together something which is greater than all of us individually. And culture is probably one thing that keeps me up at night because right now we're at about 2800 agents, which makes it a little bit easier to control culture, we know exactly who's joining us, I can have conversations with every team that joins us. But at the end of the day, when we're at 10s of 1000s of agents, it'll be a little bit more difficult to control. So I think that it's extremely important for us to attract the right people at this point, and the right partners, and to be able to count on them to attract other agents that are like-minded that share the same DNA. In turn.
Brian Charlesworth 21:53
You can say how many agents are you at today, Tamir?
Tamir Poleg 21:56
It's 2800. Okay. Yeah. And just, you know, last month, we grew by close to 300. So that's kind of the growth that we're experiencing at this point.
Brian Charlesworth 22:07
Yeah, I was gonna say, I remember seeing the announcement of 2000. And that seems like that was only you know, maybe four or five months ago, something like that.
Tamir Poleg 22:15
Yeah, you'll probably see an announcement about 3000 in a few weeks.
Brian Charlesworth 22:19
Yeah. Okay. All right. Great. Congratulations on that. So something else I know, in speaking with some of your agents, rev shares is something you haven't really talked about. But certainly, something that your agents and team owners are excited about, is that something you want to talk more about?
Tamir Poleg 22:37
Sure. For us offering rev share is another opportunity to enable our agents to enjoy residual income or building some sort of wealth or an income stream. Obviously, this is not something that we want our agents to solely focus on, we want our agents to focus on real estate. But at the same time, we also understand that many of our agents interact with our other agents, and they have influence and instead of going and spending upfront money on marketing, from our end, maybe we should just create a system where our agents can attract their friends and people that they know, into the company. And then we spend marketing dollars on a rev share and rewarding our agents for helping us grow the company. So at the end of the day, it's a marketing cost. I'd rather pay or transfer that costs and dollars to our agents, rather than spend them on Google or Facebook. I think it's only fair that those dollars are spent within the company, rather than outside of the company. And that's how we look at it.
Brian Charlesworth 23:43
Yeah. Great point. So you've spoken a lot about technology. I know we're, we don't have that much more time today. So tell me about your technology. Like you guys built this based on technology, you say technology is your differentiator, that allows you to really save costs and do the things you do what exactly is the tech platform that you guys have at Real?
Tamir Poleg 24:08
So I'll start with maybe an unexpected disclaimer, I think that no company, including Real, has really managed to figure out an amazing tech product that attracts agents by itself. So agents do not join a brokerage because they heard about this amazing tool that they cannot live without. And that's a little bit unfortunate because there are so many millions and hundreds of millions of dollars that are put into the industry, but none of us is still managed to figure it out. And you know, I take the blame for some of it. I think that we're on the right track and that will change but the way we look at technology is as four main pillars, one is productivity, everything that helps our agents save time and make more money and provides them better visibility into their business. It includes the CRM and the education module. And a powerful dashboard and 24/7 support and transaction management tools and all of those things that at the end of the day help you run your business as an agent. The second pillar would be marketing. And there's an offline component to it and an online component to it on in the offline component as an agent, anything you would need from yard signs, brochures, listing, presentations, branded shirts, caps, car magnets, whatever you need, you can find on our app, and on our marketing center. And every agent that joins us, we also help them with their online presence with a personally branded website and personally branded app. The third pillar is community. And this ties back to culture, we do not have offices in all of those markets that we operate in. But at the same time, we want our agents to know each other, to collaborate to exchange leads to help and support each other professionally. So we just launched a community, which is kind of a Facebook-based product that helps our agents just engage with each other. And that's probably the glue that, you know, connects between all of the agents. The fourth pillar, which might sound a little bit gray, is brokerage operations. And there are not a lot of people who really understand what's going on in the office, Office of the brokerage, you know, in the back room where people are handling paperwork and payments and reviewing contracts and providing support to the agents. And I think that this is one of our strengths, the ability to automate the vast majority of the processes that until today were done manually and by humans. And this is what allows us to support 2800 agents and a massive amount of transactions with only 45 employees of the company. So that's how we look at technology moving forward, I think that there's a tremendous opportunity in the market. Whereas right now, people are either believing that technology is going to change the way people buy and sell homes. And obviously, we have Opendoor and Zillow and all of those companies that are focusing on technology, and at the same time eliminating the agents. And the other group is brokerages that understand the value that agents bring to consumers, and believe that agents are here to stay the way we look at it as we understand that consumers want to enjoy the benefit of a digital experience, you know, transparency, and speed and access to information and documents, and all of those things that make you really happy when you interact with tech giants. And at the same time, consumers want that human that can explain things and understand exactly what they go through, and understand the emotional side of the journey. So I think that Real will be going towards giving consumers exactly what they want, which is the best of those two worlds. And this is where we're starting to divert resources.
Brian Charlesworth 28:03
Okay, nice. Yeah, you know, as you know, I'm very close to the tech world in real estate. Since I have a tech company in real estate I've seen don't feel like you are the only one that hasn't practice. You know, I see every real estate company in the world building CRM. And I work with 1000s of real estate teams who have clearly stated they don't want that from their brokerage they want to CRM, you know, they can take anywhere with them. Right. So I think you guys are working on a lot of other technologies, and especially with some of the stuff that you guys do that is unique to you that, you know, there's a lot of tech there that you have to do just to run your brokerage. Right. So that's great. Thank you so much. You know, I guess the one thing I should point out is part of the reason Tamir and I were able to connect today, I actually have known him for a while now, but my wife actually joined your brokerage about four months ago. I think she was actually your 2000 agent. And
Tamir Poleg 28:59
Agent 2000. Exactly.
Brian Charlesworth 29:00
She is loving it there. So it's fun to see her be able to experience first I get to experience and watch her firsthand, get to see, you know, just all that stuff. And she's been, you know, she had her own brokerage before that. And you know, she's been in a few other brokerages, and it's fun to see her just kind of light up as she's been able to do this.
Tamir Poleg 29:22
Yeah. I mean, having Spring on our team is pretty amazing. We've been talking for quite a few months. And for me, Spring was always a person that I thought belonged with us. And it's just an honor to be able to kind of build something together with Spring so really excited about what's coming and, and yes, Agent 2000 is definitely an agent I will always remember.
Brian Charlesworth 29:46
So last question for you Tamir. Now you're short on time. Is there any advice that you would give to the real estate world the agents, team leaders, things like that, just anything that stands out for you that you'd want to share with them, just to be ready for the years coming forward?
Tamir Poleg 30:02
Wow. That's a big question. I think that if I had to give advice to one of my kids, for example, I would tell them to not be afraid. You know, people are often afraid about change, about uncertainty about things that are coming as entrepreneurs as agents, sometimes, you know, we operate in a huge uncertainty because agents live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes you don't have enough leads, sometimes you don't know if a certain transaction will close or not. I think you just have to have confidence in yourself, and not operate out of fear. Fear is is the most horrible motivator. And, unfortunately, 90% of our decisions are driven by fear. So if we were able to change that, and trust ourselves, trust our partners, trust our industry, and trust the future. I think all of us will sleep better at night and probably will produce better results.
Brian Charlesworth 31:07
Very well said, Thank you. Yeah, I think it's thinking with your heart instead of your head right? When that adrenaline comes in, if it goes to your heart, it's fun. If it goes to your head, it's fear. So, go with the heart. Exactly makes America great having you on the show today. Thank you so much for joining. Always a pleasure. And look forward to catching up with you again soon.
Tamir Poleg 31:27
Thanks for having me. Thank you, everyone, for listening.