Q&A: Robbie Antonio – You Say You Want a Revolution?

Born and raised in the Philippines, Revolution Precrafted CEO Robbie Antonio’s innovative precrafted designer homes are assuring that he will make his mark on the world.

If you’re going to start a revolution, you might as well call it a revolution. That’s exactly what Robbie Antonio did when he started his company Revolution Precrafted back in December 2015.

In the short span of three years, Revolution Precrafted, which specializes in highly customizable prefabricated homes, already has amassed properties in 27 countries spread across all six continents, with plans to be in 55 countries in 2019 and 85 to 100 in 2020.

Antonio will likely reach that goal if history is any indication. Just a year after founding the company with five employees, he secured a Series B funding round led by a Singapore-based VC firm and strategic investment, which raised the start-up’s valuation to over $1bn, making it the first ‘unicorn’ start-up from the Philippines.

As his company continues to flourish, it has grown close to 1,000 employees including its sales force and works with some of the world’s top architects as well as creative minds from the world of fashion and product design.

Photo by Anuj Madan

His hands-on approach to business extends everywhere throughout his company, though it’s almost hard to almost tell which he enjoys more — the billion-dollar business deals or the artistic side which combines his extensive knowledge of art and design vision.

When we met him in Seoul on an early Thursday morning, his legendary work ethic was on full display. He’d already hit the day running at 5:30 a.m. just after he’d arrived from Dubai and was on his third meeting of the morning. His marketing team was already out in full force working the local magazine circuit, and he was constantly on one of his phones directing everything like the conductor of a well-tuned symphony.

We talked with Robbie Antonio during his time in Seoul about what he’s been up to lately, and what the future looks like for his revolution.

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

We are very busy in our business roadshow efforts. Our roadshow has brought us to more than 30 countries already around Asia, Europe, South America. We are really concentrating on closing new projects in order to sustain our growth.

While we have achieved some success, (we are now present in 27 countries, with $8.7 billion worth of project revenues with our partners) it is our philosophy to work ever harder to achieve new countries and territories every month.

Revolution Precrafted has taken traditional construction methods in a whole new direction. How did you come up with the idea?

I’ve always wanted to create my own niche within the field of real estate. The prefab industry was already an old and existing industry but I wanted to create something different out of it. Branded prefabricated homes and structures was an idea I thought of during one of those days when I was studying the industry while I was still in New York. People have a lot of misconceptions about prefab and I was thinking of how to make them sexy, and appealing. My idea was to leverage my experience in branded real estate and create branded prefab homes that people will like.

Photo by Anuj Madan

Along with working with some of the world’s top architects, you’ve also integrated the use of fashion designers, artists and product designers. Tell us about that and how it plays into your overall concept.

The concept is to marry the elements of fashion, design and art and architecture and prefabricated real estate. It was something new and foreign when we launched Revolution Precrafted in December 2015. But as soon as we did, the public and the industry saw the opportunities and it caught on. We are thankful that we did it first. Branded prefab was something that came to me and appealed to me.

South Korea has a pervasive style in terms of the market being dominated by high rise apartment living. What’s your strategy for selling Korean consumers on such a drastically different design for the home?

It’s true that South Korea is now experiencing an economic boom over the past few years and people tend to sway towards high-rise buildings and condominiums. But the country is vast and there are a lot of lands that can be tapped and explored for horizontal developments and low-rise apartment buildings.

The concept is to marry the elements of fashion, design and art and architecture and prefabricated real estate. It was something new and foreign when we launched Revolution Precrafted in December 2015.

We are also appealing to the mid to upper-class market who collect beautiful homes. Our curated homes, or those designed by popular architects, designers, and artists, may appeal to them.

What are your plans for the South Korean market? Do you see any barriers entering what is already a saturated real estate market?

As I mentioned, there are opportunities outside of the main capital in terms of horizontal developments. We are also looking at supplying hotel villas in some of the provinces. We are presently talking to some companies already. We would love to do something on Jeju Island. We will reveal more details as soon as they become available. Some companies are also talking to us for possible exclusive dealership in Korea.

Butterfly House by Elizabeth De Portzamparc – Photo courtesy of Revolution Precrafted

On your recent trip to Seoul, how did the architecture of the city strike you?

I’ve been to Seoul several times, and I have always been fascinated by the wide variety of architectural influences in the city. I find South Korean architecture amazing.

In a recent interview, you said that continuing the speed and momentum is important to the company and that, “Once you lose momentum, you will start losing the projects.” Can you talk about that and how it guides your business strategy?

We are in the middle of our global expansion mode and as I mentioned, we just want to maintain our growth by bagging new projects. I believe that there is nowhere for us to go but up. The revolution team is very dedicated and hardworking and I believe that we can achieve whatever goal we set.

More than anything, you’ve established yourself as one of Asia’s top entrepreneurs. What advice do you have for others out there looking to achieve the level of success that you have with your organization?

Be creative. Think of ways how to revolutionize your industry.

The Billboard Home by David Salle In Collaboration with AA Studio – Photo courtesy of Revolution Precrafted

What work have you done over the years that you’re most proud of?

I am very proud of our flagship project, the P1.1 billion Batulao Artscapes project in the Philippines. It features curated homes and museums designed by some of the best artists, architects, and designers in the world such as Jean Nouvel, Christian de Portzamparc, Tange Associates and Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie.

We also have other designers such as Francesca Versace, Kenneth Cobonpue, David Salle and Elizabeth de Portzamparc, to name a few.

We are in the middle of our global expansion mode and as I mentioned, we just want to maintain our growth by bagging new projects. I believe that there is nowhere for us to go but up.

This project truly captures what Revolution Precrafted is all about, which is to develop design-driven, limited edition prefab structures that anyone can be truly be proud of.

Revolution Precrafted also launched this year its Revolution Flavorscapes residential project, in Pampanga province. The project is positioned as the World’s First Livable Food Park where you can enjoy cuisines from around the world.

At the heart of this 14,000 home project is its Food Park where you will see the planned amenities such as the Museum of Ice Cream, Museum of Candy, Chocolate Gallery and a Microbrewery with beer garden.

If you had to live any of the houses you’ve had designed to live in, are there any particular favorites that you would choose?

I would love to live in the Modular Glass designed by our revolutionary Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie. You can just see the environment around you thanks to the glass walls. It would be nice to meditate and have some peace and quiet after a long day at work.

Modular Glass designed by Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie – Photo courtesy of Revolution Precrafted

Bobby McGill of Branding in Asia contributed to this article.

Jeff Liebsch
Jeff Liebsch has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Eurobasket, Tribal Football and Yonhap News. He can be followed on Twitter at @chevybusan.

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