REVOLUTION REDEFINED

REVOLUTION REDEFINED

Robbie Antonio, the Philippines’ first unicorn-rider on making his stride towards the Kingdom of Bahrain

In the venture capital industry, a unicorn denotes any tech startup company that reaches a $1 billion market value as determined by private or public investment. There are only a couple hundred startups to date who managed to achieve this highly-coveted status and one prominent figure, Robbie Antonio, the Filipino virtuoso behind Philippines’ first unicorn, is currently disrupting the global property scene with his prop-tech company ‘Revolution Precrafted.’

A goal-driven connoisseur and innovation buff that he is, Robbie has his eyes set towards bringing his very own aesthetic revolution towards the Kingdom of Bahrain, and later – the whole of GCC.

We had a chance to meet Robbie to talk to him about Revolution Precrafted and what they are planning to do in this region.

Growing up from a business-oriented family, was it really a dream of yours to become an entrepreneur?

Definitely. I have always wanted to put up my own company using my own abilities, network, and experiences. The fact that I grew up in a business-oriented family only intensified my desire to become a businessman.

The Antonio family has been very active in the Philippines’ property sector for over three decades now. And your brainchild startup, Revolution Precrafted, is also in line with the same industry. Tell us what inspired you to venture into this business?

I have been exposed to the real estate business at an early age and I have come to appreciate its intricacies and complexities. I have become very familiar with almost all aspects of the business. However, there was that desire to break out of the norm and create something different that will totally stand out. I spent years doing my own research and I have come to realize that there is so much potential and possibilities in the field of branded prefab.

Now, what exactly is ‘Revolution Precrafted’?

Revolution Precrafted is now a global supplier of prefab homes, pavilions, and other related structures. It is continuously growing from what it was originally when we first rolled out in December 2015. It is evolving to become a global marketplace that links consumers with developers, fabricators and other suppliers for traditional and prefab homebuilding. 

‘Revolution’ is quite a catchy name for a startup, to be honest. What puzzles us is why did you adopt the term ‘precrafted’ as your company’s name instead of ‘prefabricated’?

The word prefabricated is too obvious. I wanted to coin a term that would define what we do in a classier and sexier manner. At the same time, the word ‘precrafted’ is derived from the word ‘craft’, which means profession.

During the early days of ‘Revolution Precrafted’, what were the major challenges that still sticks to your mind to date?

We never really had major setbacks or challenges. The concept was met with approval and support from various stakeholders because of its strong business proposition. In fact, a lot of investors offered to put in the capital early on because they really believe in what we were trying to accomplish.

In October 2017, ‘Revolution Precrafted’ achieved the $1 billion valuations or the ‘Unicorn Status’ as a privately-owned startup, the first to do it in your region. How did you manage to reach an outstanding feat in such a short period of time?

Before launching it to the public, we took the time to really perfect the business model and study its viability. We also took the time to partner with some of the world’s best architects, designers, and artists to show to the world that our business model works- that it is possible to design homes, pavilions with popular and renowned artists, and offer these at a lower cost. After seeing that our proposition is foolproof, investors expressed their confidence to invest in the company.

How was the experience of bringing together some of the world’s leading architects, artists, and designers such as Sou Fujimoto, Jean Nouvel, Tom Dixon, and the late Zaha Hadid, as part of one grand project?

It was really a very exciting time. As you know, I have a deep passion for art, fashion, and architecture and collaborating with some of the greatest minds in the world was just an experience not many people get to enjoy. Furthermore, seeing the finished designs made us proud of what we are trying to do. Imagine being able to create world-class home designs at relatively more affordable prices.

How easy was it for you to have these celebrated designers to sign up and work alongside your company?

There was always going to be a lot of questions when you start out and we had our fair share of questions from architects and designers early on, but when we explained clearly the rationale behind the business, a lot of them came on board. They share our belief of the need to democratize design and make it more accessible to the consumers.

The rudimentary of your business model is sourcing out key parts or materials for a project then ship them to your client’s location for assembly. Isn’t this a bit logistically demanding?

Yes, but it’s manageable. The key is to secure sufficient partners and suppliers around the world. At present, we have a marketplace of 700 fabricators around the world, and we have partnerships with fabricators in Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa. As we move towards becoming a marketplace, we will ensure to widen this fabricator network and connect them with developers, suppliers, and consumers.

Now when it comes to the pricing, how cheap is a prefabricated house compared to the traditional construction method?

It’s difficult to give a specific amount since we have different designs and we do orders by bulk. This allows us to achieve economies of scale, not to mention the fact that the prefab process cuts down the overall turnaround time of production, leading to significant savings and minimizing expenses. Generally speaking, you can achieve 10 to 15 percent savings with prefab though.

To enlighten our readers on your prefab options, do tell us about Revolution’s product price points and key figures.

The price range of our homes is between $20,000 to $360,000. We have our basics homes designed by our internal architecture team, and we have curated homes designed by 81 revolutionaries from around the world.

What are some common misconceptions the public holds towards prefabricated structures and products?

People sometimes think that prefab structures have bad quality, but that is not true. Our homes pass stringent quality testing for earthquake and wind speed. Another misconception is that prefab homes are ugly.
We deliberately partnered with well-known designers and artists to debunk this fallacy. We are proud to say that we have prefab homes and museum designs by Pritzker-winning architects such as Jean Nouvel, Christian de Portzamparc and Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie among others.

PropTech’ or Property technology is the buzzword to ponder here. How significant is this to you and the whole concept of your business?

Yes – another reason why we decided to explore prefab is that we wanted the technology aspect of it. We used advanced robotics to streamline our production processes. This is something that differentiates us even further from traditional home building. Soon we will be adapting smart home technology in our homes too.

Does your company integrate green technologies when it comes to building houses?

We are exploring ways to further make our processes more sustainable, but as it is, prefab homes are already energy efficient because they use a lot of glass, which encourages minimal use of electricity for lighting. The insulation of prefab homes is also adjusted to make them more convenient and homier for customers.

You forayed in this part of the world to bring forth the prefab option for consumers, rather than the usual brick and mortar style of building houses and structures. How do you think the Arab consumers will respond to this concept?

I think consumers from the Middle East will like prefab homes. Consumers from the region have a passion for great design so they would appreciate the wide selection of curated homes that we offer. Our homes are scalable and expandable and can be adjusted to any size we want. Not to mention, the cost will be far lower as compared to the traditional home building.

Mid of 2018, you’ve announced your entry to the Kingdom of Bahrain through a strategic agreement with Property One Investment Co. to supply for residential villas. What can we expect to come out from this agreement?

Well, we are now in the middle of finalizing the type of homes to be supplied to Bahrain. We are making sure that the homes we will offer in the market will be aesthetically impressive, comfortable and cost competitive. We will share more details as they become available.

What’s your stake on Bahrain’s real-estate and property sector?

Bahrain is a priority market for us. This market can be a significant springboard or launching pad for us, to expand all over the GCC region. There is a big demand for quality and beautiful homes in Bahrain and around the GCC. This is why we want to make sure that we offer the best products in this market.

What impression did you get when you first set foot here in Bahrain?

Bahrain is impressive, and the skyline is striking.

Do you think Bahrain will be the most strategic location in the GCC region for you to set up your Revolution hub?

Yes, as we mentioned, it is the gateway to GCC, so we are very excited to be doing business in this country.

From the company’s array of portfolios, which project are you most proud of?

We are proud of all our projects, but we are especially proud of our projects in Dubai, Myanmar, California, and Japan only because of the sheer scope and complexity of these projects. They are now in varying stages of planning and execution, but we are ready to give more updates in the coming months. Our teams are working to finalize the master plan for these projects.

Where do you see ‘Revolution Precrafted’ in the next 3-5 years?

We want to strengthen our presence in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In 3-5 years, we would have expanded our business to include additional products such as schools, clinics and offices; and explored
other businesses such as affordable housing, hydroponics and fintech, to name a few.

How important is speed, momentum, and execution in your company?

Speed is part of our promise. We can build our homes in as fast as 2-3 months. However, there are factors to consider such as finalizing the masterplan and conducting surveys on the project sites. We want to deliver projects as fast as we could, but we know that we need to be very careful and accurate in our execution to provide quality products.

When it comes to decision making – would you take a bold high-risk move, or rather a cunning low-risk approach?

You will not achieve greatness if you are always afraid to take risks. Having said that, you need to be aware of your strength to ensure that you are ready. And, it would be best if you also had safety nets in position at all times.

In this highly artistic and competitive market of yours, is passion enough to stay in the game?

Passion is not enough. You also need hard work, determination, creativity, and flexibility. You need to be able to go with the flow, and not be stagnant.

How would you describe your leadership and your management style?

Very hands-on, and always on, never off!

For you, what are the qualities that define a successful entrepreneur?

Resilient, Flexible and Creative.

What’s a typical weekend for you?

I seldom spent weekends. As I mentioned, I am always on.

And lastly, as one who’s received accolades and made the journey, what advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs on how to build great disruptive businesses?

Take risks and be flexible and do what you love.

 


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