Brandon Fishman '05 (MSRE)
Former Students Use MSRE Program as Plateau to Launch Online Business
Brent Gleeson, 30, and Brandon Fishman, 26, began working on their business plan for NewCondosOnline.com within their first month in the Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program at the University of San Diego. They used the networking contacts they made during the MSRE program to build rapport within the industry, and sought the guidance of USD professors when creating their business plan. By the time they graduated from the MSRE program, Gleeson was president, and Fishman was CEO of their new venture. The idea behind their Web site is simple: Offer consumers a single online resource where they can access a broad database of information about condo developments from around the country. Three months before graduation from the MSRE program, they launched the Web site.
And it took off.
NewCondosOnline.com now receives 50 million hits a month according to Google Analytics, making it, according to Gleeson, “the largest and most visited new condo advertising Web site in the county.” Gleeson and Fishman started posting profits within their second year of operation, and for the 2007 fiscal year posted revenues of $3.5 million. The Web site has gone fully international, marketing condos from 39 states and 75 countries. They employ 13 full-time employees, and outsource five additional employees for IT, PR and accounting activities.
Fishman and Gleeson travel across the country to promote their business, attend trade shows and meet with developers. In January of 2007, the pair launched NCO Capital as a way to enter the financing arm of the business. They work with banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions to help finance development projects and take advantage of bulk purchase opportunities. In the summer of 2007, they also assumed a 30 percent stake in the online tutoring Web site Tutorzilla.com and raised $1 million in capital to help finance the venture.
Launching a condo-sales company in a troubled real estate market has been no easy task, but Gleeson cites their diversification into financing, their international platform and focus on the long term as what has helped keep them afloat. In fact, Gleeson says that the current market troubles make the success the pair have achieved that much sweeter. “The fun part is seeing something that you originally built, grow and thrive, especially with the challenges now in the real estate market,” Gleeson says. In addition to tackling these external market conditions, some of the most difficult tasks for Gleeson to overcome have been internal.
“The biggest challenge has been hiring the right people and managing them effectively,” he says. “I have had to tone down my military-esque management style a little because this is the civilian world, and you have do things a little bit differently.” Gleeson has found that many lessons from the SEAL community translate into the business community from expecting “110%” from his employees, to stressing accountability, being proactive and judging employees on results.
Gleeson’s experience in the Navy not only helped mold his managerial style, but it was also this training that brought him to San Diego initially. Gleeson came to San Diego 2001 for the arduous Navy SEAL training program, B.U.D.S. (Basic Underwater Demolition School), and has no plans to leave anytime soon. “I love it,” he says with a laugh, “And I’m never leaving.”