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At the recent Arch Grants gala, a phrase was used throughout the evening to describe one of the most important goals of the St. Louis startup ecosystem:
Attracting and/or retaining talented entrepreneurs.
Bryan Bowles is a textbook description of the retention side of those efforts. Bowles grew up St. Louis, and earned his accounting degree at UMSL. In 2012, he focused full-time on Worth Clark Realty, a brokerage he launched in 2009 while working as an equities trader at Scottrade.
Named for Bowles’ grandfather, Worth Clark Realty grew rapidly. In 2016, the company was ranked #89 on the Inc. 5000 — the highest ranked company in Missouri on the list. The company was included on the Inc 500 list again in 2017, this time coming in at #296. In 2017, Worth Clark was also named the third-fastest-growing privately held company in St. Louis.
After a very successful 5 years Bowles is stepping away from Worth Clark Realty to found and serve as CEO of Transactly, a new digital startup focused initially on modernizing and improving real estate transactions.
We sat down with to get a few of his thoughts on the St. Louis ecosystem, why the region is an ideal place for his startup, and the lessons he’ll take from starting a successful real estate brokerage into the tech startup world.
Bryan, are you involved in the St. Louis area startup ecosystem?
Absolutely. Worth Clark Realty has been a member of OPO Startups in St. Charles since 2016, and we’ve worked with several of the startups that belong to OPO. I also consider Randy Schilling, the founder of OPO, a friend and a mentor.
However, I really do view the St. Louis startup community as a regional ecosystem. I regularly meet with advisors and mentors at T-Rex and Cortex, and I will increase my involvement with those communities in the coming year.
Tell us about your new startup.
Transactly is a digital platform that makes real estate transactions more transparent. Nearly all—96%—of real estate transactions start online, then go completely dark. It’s a frustrating process for buyers, and as more millennials enter the housing market, they are going to be surprised to see how antiquated the process for buying a home is. It just isn’t a customer-friendly transaction, and it looks nothing like nearly every other transaction they’ll be a part of.
Real estate agents are less trusted than lawyers. There are reasons for that—and one of the big reasons is a lack of transparency. We believe there is a significant addressable market for Transactly, and that buyers will flock to agents who can provide a technology-based, more transparent process when purchasing a home.
You’ve already been a successful entrepreneur. What lessons will you take from Worth Clark Realty to Transactly?
Success is all about two things: the people on your team, and your ability to focus on your customers’ needs. Worth Clark Realty would not have grown the way it did without an incredibly talented and dedicated team. The same will be true for Transactly.
The focus on our customer—even above ourselves and our agents—is what made us succeed, and that focus on our customer is the whole reason I launched Transactly.
Last, what makes the St. Louis region special? Why are you launching Transactly from here, and not somewhere with potentially more investment capital available?
Because this is our home. I grew up here, my wife grew up here, and our kids are growing up here. I didn’t focus on real estate by accident—the idea of home and what a home means is important to me.
People here believe in each other and want to see homegrown entrepreneurs succeed. That’s why Worth Clark Realty has made collaborating with talented entrepreneurs from this region a priority. That sense of community is something I grew up with, and it will be one of the reasons Transactly succeeds.