Uniting the world’s preeminent architects, artists and designers, ROBBIE ANTONIO is the vanguard of Revolution Precrafted, the purveyor of an exclusive series of prefabricated, liveable spaces
Sitting down with the vanguard of Revolution Precrafted, the purveyor of an exclusive series of prefabricated, liveable spaces
“I only use one type of pomade,” he replies with conviction when the hairstylist offers his suggestion on what hair products to use. His assistant is dispatched to the suite to retrieve his pomade. He is not easily swayed and certainly not easily dissuaded. He knows what he wants. It is therefore not a surprise that he became the youngest person to join the Forbes’ 50 Richest In the Philippines list. He joins his father at number 25 with a collective net worth of US$400 million. To pigeonhole him as just a high-net worth individual is a disservice. He was named one of the 50 Asians Who Are Changing the Way We Live by Singapore’s StraitsTimes. He was crowned the Philippine Real Estate Personality of the Year by PropertyGuru earlier this year. He was also recognised by BuiltWorld’s as one of the 25 Pioneers Who Are Transforming the Built Industry along with Elon Musk of Tesla and Adam Neumann, co-founder of WeWork. He is a dark knight riding a unicorn on a crusade to revolutionise real estate. His name is Robbie Antonio. His equine is Revolution Precrafted.
During the intermission, he passes a jet black business card to me, complete with a hot stamp of Revolution Precrafted’s emblem. The front shows the customary with his name in capital letters and a trio of phone numbers to regional offices.
He discloses that the card is not complete. Not because it is erroneously printed; it is because they will be opening regional headquarters in key continents to support expansion. The first international office, he says, will be in Dubai. Down-reaching in the pipeline include the US, Europe and South Asia.
Robbie’s assistant returns minutes later with his trusted hair product. The hairstylist proceeds to work his magic, prepping Robbie for the camera. Leaning against the bar, looking suave, Robbie flashes a million-dollar smile at the photographer, “I am ready.”
Robbie cut his teeth in the US. Upon graduating from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, he founded Antonio Development, which today has more than 42 million square feet of property in various stages of development including 63 vertical buildings under management and development, 10,000 residential, office and commercial units and 6,750 homes. He also has an MBA from Stanford University. The New York-based development company is responsible for Centurion – the first residential building in the Big Apple designed by Pritzker Prize winner Pei Partnerships Architects. Centurion proved to be one of the many luxury homes born out of collaborative efforts and Robbie’s conscious decisions to be exceptional at everything he does. The Midtown development is among the first projects Robbie embarked on.
Back then, even though he was in his 20s and fresh out of school, it didn’t faze him. “On the contrary, I was very excited. I wanted to prove to myself that I can be successful on my own, using my own abilities, and creating my own connections to start up a business. I consider myself to be a very independent person and I also enjoy taking on challenges,” the 41-year-old enthuses. “Building something from scratch on your own and continuing to start new venture is particularly exciting and I am just glad that I was able to do it.”
Centurion also gave him the impetus to position buildings in a proper format. Piece by piece, he began to lay down the tiles for his dominoes. When he returned to his homeland, he approached recognisable brands for residences whose interiors were fitted out by luxury brands such as Armani/Casa and Versace Home.
“They (Armani/Casa) don’t even want much art on the walls,” Robbie quips in a Forbes’ interview, elucidating the interiors of the plush apartments sited at Trump Tower Manila, which is set to open its doors soon. When the project was first announced to much fanfare, Robbie was gracing magazine covers and photographed alongside the leader of the free world.
That minimalist approach is a far cry from Robbie’s own obsession with the arts. He owns an extensive art collection by famous painters and by famous painters of himself. His home doubles as a
The morning started early. Test shots after test shots were fired. The monolight was tweaked millimetres by millimetres just so we could get the exact lighting as envisioned on the mood board, before the Astor Bar took in guests who intended to swop boardroom blues for happy hours. Each time, exposure had to be re-measured so we could get the photo just right. He has a forthright reputation and an unmistakeable aura. He may not be the most soft-spoken person you will ever meet, but there is no doubting his confidence.
depository for the oeuvre of self-portraits entitled (ditto) Obsession. The residence is designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, a Pritzker Prize winner who also happens to be one of the most influential architects of his generation. While other houses have enviable addresses, Robbie’s home has that and more. It has an idiosyncratic name fit for a superhero flick - Stealth - reportedly cost him upwards of US$15 million. That was just for the construction. The part-residence, part-museum with its 25,000-square-foot space needed some embellishments worthy of its status. And so on the walls are priceless and painstaking commissioned creations as part of Obsession by the likes of Julian Schnabel, Marilyn Minter and David Salle. If you have not witnessed Schnabel’s plate paintings, you might have watched his films that won over hearts at the Cannes Film Festival. “Art allows me to inject creativity. It is not just because it is a pure investment. I love working with artists, architects, designers. I like fashion people because they are very creative,” Robbie explains. He appeared on
VanityFair and Wallpaper because art critics were enthralled by his ardour. While he is still very much engrossed with art, Obsession has taken a backseat to Revolution Precrafted.
“We can match that,” Robbie roars as his business development manager takes up a seat on the side-line during the photoshoot after he is instructed not to leave his sight. Amidst looking fiercely into the camera while striking a relaxed pose, the duo are in an ardent discussion about closing a business deal here in Kuala Lumpur. A local developer has named its price – one that is much lower than the one proposed.
People on the scene can perceive there is a hint of impatience in the air, perhaps born out of frustration as the negotiations inch along. “It has to be right and it has to be fast,” Robbie spells out efficiency as the value he places the most importance on. “People say be patient, I am the exact opposite. I want everything now. It is a sprint, not just a marathon. People say it is a long-term thing. Yes, it is a marathon but to me it is always a sprint.”
Afewyears ago, he sawthat therewas a disconnect in the real estate sectorwherein he could exploit. For a building to come into fruition, it consumes a lot of time in design and onsite construction. What if the whole process from the beginning to the end is streamlined? A master developer can order directly, be it homes, pavilions or even villas, from a digital catalogue and then they are shipped and assembled on site, saving manpower, time and, most importantly, costs - money. Eureka!
Launched in December 2015, Revolution Precrafted has been on a meteoric rise. “To date, we are present and have projects in 25 countries with total consolidated project revenues of US$8.5 billion with our partners in the next three to four years,” Robbie stresses. “We are expected to deliver 35,000 units from our projects. This is no small feat, especially for a company that is less than three years old.”
In the same period, Revolution Precrafted went through a couple of rounds of financing. The latest series B funding was concluded in October 2017, propelling its valuation to over US$1 billion, hence the much-coveted unicorn – a term coined for a privately-held start-up valued at over US$1 billion. “Yes, we are not discounting the possibility of raising external funding, only to support our planned global expansion. We want to be present in 55 countries by 2019 and in 85 countries by the end of 2020. Naturally, we will need to beef up our resources and manpower in order to make this possible. As to the manner of fund raising, we are looking into the doing a series C in 2019 and/or a possible initial coin offering (ICO) for one of our initiatives,” Robbie lets me in on his future plans.
Series C may see a further US$100 million injection to further support the unicorn’s expansion. He hints that Revolution Precrafted won’t stagnate in its present capacity, so even an eventual US$10 billion valuation is not out of the question. Growth excites him, be it winning new contracts, entering
“People say be patient, I am the exact opposite. I want everything now. It is a sprint, not just a marathon. People say it is a long-term thing. Yes, it is a marathon but to me it is always a sprint”
new markets or building new factories. Meanwhile, Revolution Precrafted has grown from five people, including himself, since its inception to 1,200 people presently. I ask him is Revolution Precrafted currently operationally profitable. His answer is a resounding “definitely”, however, he declines to divulge any number. “We are financially ready to support our current orders,” he adds. He upholds Revolution Precrafted adds value to any developers. Reason being the designers he chooses to collaborate with for his prefabs. “Obviously, they need to be recognised for their works. It is the reputation that I look for. They need to add value,” Robbie sets forth the condition. To further drive home the point, he cites the late Dame Zaha Hadid, the British-Iraqi architect famed for “liberating architectural geometry, giving it a whole new expressive identity”. Her work includes Guangzhou Opera House and Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. A dining pavilion designed by Hadid and Patrik Schumacher, principal of Zaha Hadid Architects, is purveyed on Revolution Precrafted’s website. The whimsical Volu dining pavilion is a cutting-edge, complex structure with an expressive form achieved through the bending of flat sheet materials, which won’t look out of place in ABug’sLife.
“A lot of people I work with started with business first and then they became friends. Some are friends first, then it (the relationship) became business. It is a natural thing. I don’t work too hard to try to get people. It just has to be natural for both to trust each other. I will try to do my best for their products. At the end of the day, it is consumer choice,” Robbie offers his viewpoint on separating friendship and business and the dynamics between the two.
“Nonetheless, we can say that there is great demand for our products. There is also substantial interest in our mid-entry homes because they have more accessible price points. In terms of geographical reach, we now have significant presence in Asia, South America, Central America, Europe, North America and Africa.”
It was in the Middle East that Revolution Precrafted scored its most lucrative deal to date. The mammoth deal is worth US$3.2 billion and entails the manufacturing of luxury apartments and hotel villas in Dubai’s The World Islands, composed of 300 artificial islands. Robbie says these two- to three- bedroom luxury condominiums will be premanufactured, shipped and then assembled onsite.
Proving that it is not a one-hit wonder, it sealed a US$210 million deal to build 60 luxury villas in San Gabriel Mountains, San Bernardino County in California. Each unit boasts five to six bedrooms, costing US$3.5 million. Further down the shores in Rio de Janeiro, it bagged a US$460 million contract to supply residential and hotel villas and other resort facilities in an eco-resort development. Across the Atlantic Ocean, visitors to Barcelona will soon be staying in the comfort of hotel villas built by Revolution Precrafted, after a US$52 million contract signed that also includes a clubhouse. Back in the Middle East, in the scorching Arabian Gulf country of Bahrain, it will involve in supplying up to 500 villas over a period of five years.
In between exhibiting at Design Miami, immersing in meeting after meeting, Robbie starts his day early. He leaves the bed at 4am every day, hits the gym and arrives in the office before normal business hours. “I was recently in Singapore for the Forbes Next Tycoons conference. It was a good time to network with them (attendees who are business titans and heirs from mostly around Asia). I really try to balance between different facets of business and of myself as an individual. When I have a bit of time when I travel, I get to see a bit of the (local) culture like art and design,” Robbie opens up on his personality as the photoshoot draws to a close. “I can be very artistic; I can be very playful; I can be very hard in the boardroom.”
Still brimming with bountiful energy whipped up by multiple changes of clothing, hairstyles and poses, he nudges me to ask him more questions while a hairdryer hovers above his head. So what is your plan for the rest of the day? “I had all my business meetings yesterday. I am going to complete them and head to Manila in a bit, Dubai on Saturday, India on (coming) Monday. I will spend the weekend (at home). Then all the way to seven different South American countries. I am hitting the road in Europe and the Middle East for roadshows until November. We want to be prevalent and ubiquitous, in six continents, which we already are. This is all business. There is no play.
“But this is play. When I am having a photographer and (creative) director like this, I am having fun,” Robbie says with a laugh referring to the photoshoot.
“We can say that there is great demand for our products. There is also substantial interest in our mid-entry homes because they have more accessible price points”