Jesse Biter has a vision for Sarasota, and he plans to carry out that vision.
The 36-year-old Pennsylvania native sold his $16 million auto-sales software firm, HomeNet, in 2010, and currently owns DealersUnited. The software entrepreneur has big plans to build a 168-unit apartment complex on a downtown acre to offer what he calls “obtainable” rental units for working professionals.
Biter, who managed the Florida campaign for presidential candidate Rick Santorum, is also taking his fight for increased residential density downtown to local politicians and government officials saying the change would bring more people downtown to both work and live, and would allow developers to build more-affordable units.
Although Biter moved 12 years ago to Sarasota, his wife, Katie, is a Sarasota native. The Biters have lived downtown since 2007, and they walk most places.
Q&A WITH JESSE BITER
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you’d be a ... Navy pilot. I always wanted to fly for our country.
What’s on your nightstand?
Ha, ha, my phone (charging), my light control box and a lamp.
What are five adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?
Motivated, energetic, optimistic, religious, talkative
What’s your favorite movie?
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
Name one thing you can’t live without?
My wife. Before (she came along), my iPhone.
Do you have any bad habits?
My iPhone. Other than that I often find myself eating too much and always on a diet. I’m an extremist — I’m either pigging out or I’m on a strict diet.
Do you have bucket list?
Just in my head. I know flying in a Navy jet is on that list.
A CONVERSATION WITH JESSE BITER ...
… I’m not afraid of risk. Our country was built on the backs of people who took risks. Although I’m always concerned about failing or even falling short, I will always take calculated risks.
… (My inspiration is) Bill Gates. It was always Bill Gates because he started a company in his basement — a software-based company. I could associate with him. He was solving problems with software, and I knew I could do that. It was tough growing up seeing how much he did. He had 50 employees when he was 24 years old, or something like that. (There I was) at 26 with 20-something employees. It was that competition. Now Mark Zuckerberg is killing me. It’s all good. It just motivates me.
… I’m usually up around 7 a.m. I’m usually in bed around midnight and asleep by 1 a.m.
… I pray about a lot of the decisions I make. I pray every night that God will open doors I should go through and close the ones I shouldn’t. There certainly are some things I would do differently, thinking back. But, sometimes we think too much, and don’t end up doing anything.
… My dad was all about work ethic, for me. He was traveling around the world and working a lot and sacrificing a lot to support us. My mom, too, she was on the phone a lot (as a Realtor). They also balanced their lives well. While working hard, they valued spending time with family.
… Political aspirations? No, not necessarily. I get involved when I think I can make a difference. I prefer not to be the one to deal with all the rules and regulations of politics.
… Often, two to three nights a month, you’ll catch me and my wife walking up Main Street, eating dinner at Melange and then catching a movie at Hollywood 20. It makes for a great date with good food and a bit of exercise.
… (My business professor) told me that he was there teaching because he had failed in business. He said what I needed to do was drop out of school to do this myself. He said, “You won’t learn anything that will help you (open a business). You can always come back to school.” So, I took his advice, and that day I left for home and borrowed $1,000 from my mom and hired an attorney to start HomeNet.
… I am a gadget man. I love to buy anything that is cool or that makes life more efficient.
… I call it divine intervention. (Katie) and I, dated for a few years and got married in May 2010. Our third anniversary is coming up. We’ll be going to Chile.
… (I grew up in) Westchester, Pa. People always asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and I’d said, “I want to open my own business” for as long as I could remember.
… I always feel that, when I am in the car waiting at a red light, I am wasting time when I could be talking to someone.
… We will never leave Sarasota.
… As lame as it sounds, catching up on email is relaxing to me. Having a full inbox stresses me out. Other than that, I love time on the boat. I love to scuba, lobster and spear-fish.
… Whatever (my daughters) want to be, I will support it 100% ... I don’t try to steer them. If they want to go to college, that’s good, and if they don’t, I’ll support that, too.
... We went to Ireland, and it was cool. But, it could be somewhere in America, where people are drinking at a pub. We went to Paris, and it felt like Manhattan. It is too much like you expect. When you are in Asia, it is a different part of the world, for sure. It is a different culture … I love traveling to different cultures. My favorite place was Bangkok ... Bangkok is so different. The food was awesome. It was just a neat culture of people. I like going off the beaten path.
... (I dropped out of college) the first semester of my junior year (at Shippensburg University). I went to the state office to register my business, and they asked if I wanted it to be an S-Corp or C-Corp. I asked my business professor, and he didn’t know. I said, “Why am I spending all this money to find out how to start a business?”
... I met (my wife Katie) in 2007 at the chiropractor’s office. I was going there, and she had just graduated from Florida State (and was working at the chiropractor’s office). She was saving her money so she could move to California. I knew she had put her in notice (to leave), so when I ran into her outside (her) work, I asked her to lunch. She came out to lunch, and there were six of us. I asked her out after that. She decided to postpone her trip (to California). Then one of her friends backed out, (so she decided not to go). She was going out there with three of them.