Outside the Comfort Zone: Urban Compass’ Ori Allon

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Ori Allon
Ori Allon

“Ori Allon recently joined with ad exec Eyal Chomsky, sports agent Arn Tellem, and NBA player Amare Stoudemire to purchase the Jerusalem basketball team, Hapoel”

The serial entrepreneur is a restless animal. He or she moves from one investment to the next, never satisfied with seeing a single seedling ripen into sustainable profitability. The challenge is personal, but it’s also about creating impact in the entire ecosystem.

Take the Twitter success story, with its many component parts. Their stock price has effectively doubled since the touted November IPO, a record for the microblogging company. So what turned Twitter into Wall Street’s new social media darling? The rule book for monetizing social media remains uncodified. But one principle seems obvious: you need the right people in your corner, who somehow fuse entrepreneurial smarts with technical wizardry.

This brings us to case of Ori Allon, until recently Twitter’s Israeli-born director of engineering. Allon, at age 33, has seen an envious amount of entrepreneurial activity. Armed with a PhD in computer science, Allon has sold startup companies to Google and Twitter. Now he continues searching for fresh challenges with his new startup company, Urban Compass.

As a transplant to New York, Allon noted a gap in the frenetic rental market: No central online space existed for would-be renters to find the perfect apartment without the intervention of the ubiquitous broker, and the accompanying percentage (usually about 15%) that they pocket from the completed deal. Urban Compass basically slices that take-away in half while providing a much cleaner layout and more systematic search process.

Allon is filling the gap with new technology, an innovative business model, and heavyweight investors providing abundant start-up capital. When you get your picture taken with Michael Bloomberg at your company’s launch, then clearly you are a force to be reckoned with. The company’s valuation of $150 million is astonishing when one one considers the relative infancy of the start-up. After all, Allon intends for Urban Compass to go global, with New York merely a first – albeit extremely cutthroat – testing-ground.

The serial entrepreneur is also drawn to new experiences, and is not above emotional attachments. Allon recently joined with ad exec Eyal Chomsky, sports agent Arn Tellem, and NBA player Amare Stoudemire to purchase the Jerusalem basketball team, Hapoel. He sees this investment purely in sentimental terms. Allon wants to give back to the city where he grew up and to the sports team that he grew up loving and supporting. But that doesn’t mean Allon isn’t serious about transforming Hapoel into a Euroleague contender. Having deep pockets in the boardroom means that Hapoel can now shop for the best talent.

The restlessness that drives Allon to start a new company in a new business sector (that is, not another variation on the social media startup) and to sink resources into a project stemming from childhood dreams is part of his entrepreneurial DNA. The compulsion to step outside comfort zones goes to the core of what it means to be an entrepreneur. We can all leverage this lesson into our daily lives, and continue to remind ourselves of it with each successful IPO.