- August 31, 2018
Jesse Biter is a classic serial entrepreneur, something of a builder and tinkerer. He did that first with HomeNet Automotive, a software company he founded in 1996 in Pennsylvania, after he dropped out of college. He got a $1,000 loan from his mom, and, over 14 years, built the company into a go-to proprietary inventory software for auto dealers nationwide, with $16 million in annual revenue. In 2010, then living in Sarasota, Biter sold HomeNet to AutoTrader.com.
Biter's most recent build-and-step-back success is Sarasota-based real estate tech company PropLogix. Biter named a new CEO for PropLogix in late March, while retaining ownership shares. Veteran tech, software and cyber security executive Alex Eckelberry is PropLogix's new CEO.
Biter founded PropLogix in 2010. The company, which uses proprietary software to help clients locate fees, liens or assessments on properties to speed up real estate closings. did about $40 million in revenue in 2022. It has 250 employees.
While Biter is out of the day-to-day at PropLogix, he's plenty busy. He manages six employees who help him manage commercial properties — 97 multifamily units and 12 commercial buildings — including two Bold live-work campuses in Sarasota.
Biter outsources some management on his personal rental properties and grosses about $2 million a year from the ventures, he says. He also sits on the board of Sarasota-based Dealers United, which has 50 employees and $5.5 million in annual revenue.
Biter has no new plans or ventures yet post PropLogix. He enjoys life in Sarasota, where he moved in 2000. The move came a few years after Biter's fortuitous decision to ditch college, Shippensburg University in central Pennsylvania, when a professor could not advise him on how to start a business. Biter didn't know the particulars back then, but he knew hard work, since age 10. In 1995, at 19, off he went to the private sector, where he won a $20,000 offer to write software for an auto dealer. That led to HomeNet.
Biter says early on as a teen entrepreneur he would lay awake worrying about his payroll, which included only one employee in 1996. But he worked hard to meet his obligations.
"I never missed a payroll in my life," Biter says with pride. He soon learned how to keep the cash flowing. But during the 2000-01 recession, he had to lay off people. "(That) kept me up at night," he says.
"In hindsight, I missed opportunities I should have bought into," Biter says. One of those things was Bitcoin, the digital currency now worth more than $28,855 per unit.
Another mistake? Hiring the wrong people. Biter was once misled on stats by an official in the C-suite, learning the hard way that even top people can burn you.
But the biggest miss might be a college social media site Biter envisioned as he worked on software in the 1990s and early 2000s. He passed on the idea even after running it by employees. The space was soon filled by Facebook. Biter says employees at the time will still ask him, in 2023, about passing on the idea. "That could have been us," they joke.
"Keep your expenses as low as possible," Biter says. Worry about money last. Start by focusing on market share, brand and reputation, Biter advises. Profit will come after those steps.
“For me, there were a lot of tipping points," Biter says.
A big one was adding more and more features that auto dealers wanted in his HomeNet software during the late 1990s and 2000s. The dealers wanted to list colors of cars and other details unique to specific models.
Biter went to work on the proper algorithms. It worked. Once word got out that Biter had software that was exhaustive and complete, he went from a couple of hundred auto dealers as clients to 19,000 customers. He gave them the tools, so the auto dealers never had to call Biter again.
Biter was always a seller, and as a teen, he got quite an honor from a storied retailer. "I was the No. 1 seller at Radio Shack — nationally," Biter says. He would sell technology if he couldn't start businesses, he says.
Even if he starts a new company, Biter says he will likely have some holdings in commercial real estate, as he is bullish on Florida's economy, and confident the state will continue to attract people because of less regulation, lower taxes and no income tax. Biter says he was fortunate to get into Florida commercial real estate because the office demand is there. Proof positive of the Florida effect: he shares the recent story of a commercial tenant with a four-year lease calling him and asking for a 15-year extension.
Biter is married with four children. He plays golf and tennis. His oldest daughter works for him and runs their family AirBNB business. But leisure? Biter, an accomplished pilot, says he relaxes and travels 200 out of 365 days a year. "We are gone all summer," he says.