Robert Reffkin

June 13, 2024
5 min read

Early Life

Robert Reffkin was born June 7, 1979, in Berkeley, California. He was raised by his Israeli immigrant single mother, Ruth Reffklin. His father, an African American Jazz musician passed away when he was 11.

He was raised by an Israeli immigrant single mother, disowned by his maternal grandparents for being Black, and abandoned by his father.

Early Career

Robert earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in just over two years. At 25, he became a White House Fellow, serving for a year as special assistant to Treasury Secretary John Snow. Previously he spent five years working at Goldman Sachs’s private equity arm and a year as Chief of Staff to the President & COO, Gary Cohn. Before joining Goldman Sachs, he worked at Lazard Frères and McKinsey & Company.

Reffkin served as a Mergers & Acquisitions Associate in the Investment Banking division of Lazard Frères & Co. LLC. He advised on complex mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, restructurings, recapitalizations, and leveraged buyouts. While at Lazard, he founded the firm’s Sponsors for Educational Opportunity professional internship program for underrepresented minorities and Lazard’s first comprehensive investment banking tax training program.

Compass Inc.

Reffkin received a B.A. from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, where he received the Robert & Jacqueline Willens Tax Research Award.

In 2012, Reffkin co-founded Compass, Inc., an online real estate technology company with Ori Allon. He was inspired to start the company due to his mother’s hardships working as a real estate agent. The company provides software services to over 25,000 real estate agents who earn a percentage of the selling price and give a percentage of each commission to Compass.

Compass went public on April 1, 2021, with a valuation of $8.22 billion.

Philanthropy

In 2008 he raised $1.3 million to help the Success Charter Network open its first school in the Bronx.

He is the founder of New York Needs You (now America Needs You), a nonprofit that provides career development and mentorship to first-generation college students. No matter how big your dreams are, Robert proves that with the right strategy, you can achieve anything.

Running To Support Young Dreams Marathon Challenge

In 2007, Reffkin ran fifty marathons—one in each of the 50 US states—to raise $1 million for organizations that support young people in realizing their dreams by expanding their horizons, accessing educational resources, and getting the tools they need to succeed.

Boards

Citizens Committee for NYC, Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, founding chair of Bronx Success Academy 1 charter school, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the A Better Chance program, and the Summer Search Foundation.

He is the author of No One Succeeds Alone: Learn Everything You Can from Everyone You Can.

Robert Reffkin is part of our Black Founders50 Series. Download the complete 2023 BBVA Founders50 list here.

BBVA envisions a vibrant Canadian technology ecosystem with significant participation from members of the Black community. We are on a mission to help establish 1000 successful, Black-led tech and tech-enabled businesses in Canada by 2030.

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