October marks five years since Sarasota attorneys Evan Berlin and Jamie Ebling sold a staid title search business to their friend and client, area entrepreneur Jesse Biter. The attorneys basically dared Biter: See if you could do any better than 1,000 searches a month and a little over $1 million a year in annual revenues. See if you can get to 1,500 searches.
A commercial property owner who built and sold a software business in the auto industry, Biter beat that mark handily. The company, PropLogix, has been a growth tear ever since, now doing well over 20,000 searches a month. Its niche remains the same: using proprietary software to help clients find fees, liens or assessments on properties, to aid real estate closings. With roughly 230 employees, PropLogix did $19.79 million in revenue in 2018, up 1,651% from $1.13 million when Biter bought it in 2014. The firm is projecting at least $26 million in revenue on 2019, and Biter says it might even hit $30 million.
“I’ve always been able to see ways to improve processes,” Biter says. “And we wanted to bring professionalism to this industry.”
There are some other factors in the success. Biter says he reinvests all the profits back in the company, for one, and it also offers a robust benefits package, including employee stock ownership, which helps retain top people. Biter is also opportunistic about acquisitions, recently buying two competitors on Florida’s east coast. “We have a low barrier to entry in this industry,” he says, “which is why we have all these competitors.”
Now Biter faces one of those so-called good problems for an uber fast-growth business: constantly running out of space.
The company, with 170 employees in Sarasota, currently operates in an 18,000-square-foot cramped office in Main Plaza in downtown Sarasota. It moved there in January, after outgrowing previous space in Manatee County. (Biter is a co-owner of Main Plaza, which he and some partners acquired in November 2015 for $18.1 million.)
The space issue is both Biter’s biggest obstacle and No. 1 priority. He has met with officials from economic development agencies in Sarasota and Manatee counties and has toured multiple spaces. He’s looked in Bradenton and in north Manatee County, in the Palmetto area, and he’s looked at office parks in Sarasota, near Interstate 75.
Biter seeks at least 25,000 square feet and would consider buying a space twice that size and lease the rest. A longtime proponent of a work-live-play downtown and a downtown Sarasota resident himself, Biter laments downtown doesn’t have the space he requires, at least in one building. Once in a new campus, the firm will continue hiring, Biter says, including more software developers.
“We want a campus,” he says. “We are ready to move tomorrow if the price is right.”