Biter grows up in a middle-class household in Westchester, Philadelphia. His father is an administrator with the U.S. Department of Transportation. His mother sells real estate.
Jesse shows an early knack for business. If the power went out, Biter fixes clocks and other settings on neighbors’ VCRs for $1 apiece. By high school, he has graduated from lawn mowing to his own car detailing business (Biter Car Detailing) and stereo instillation business.
It was a God-given gift. Whenever there was an opportunity to make some money, I would do it. I never knew what I wanted to do in life, but I knew I didn’t want to work for someone else. That was my goal.
Drops out of Shippensburg University in the first semester of his junior year.
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?”
After he drops out of college his mother loans him $1,000 to start HomeNet, a company that installs fiber-optic cable. To make ends meet, he works at car dealerships, setting up computers and helping dealers save money by, for example, stringing together their PCs so they could use a common printer.
Bill Gates (was my inspiration) 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.
One dealership asks him to build a website to advertise its cars online. Biter doesn’t know how to create a site, with a friend, makes one. Soon he starts building websites for other dealers.
Biter starts building software that allows information about sales and listings to be handled electronically. The software cleaned up any spotty data…
Dealers would spell ‘Chevrolet’ 100 different ways
…and let sellers and buyers both know exactly what was available where, in real time.
The number of dealerships HomeNet works with rises to 500.
After a road trip through the Carolinas, across the Texas coast and up and down Florida Biter settles on Sarasota, Florida as his new home. He invests in local real estate.
Biter installs a grass lawn on his condo roof. The 5,200 sq ft apartment, which was bought in 2007 for $3.8 million, has 2200 sq ft of outdoor space.
Covered with hardy zoysia sod, the rooftop lawn will cool the rooms below it, extend the life of the roof system, reduce and filter stormwater runoff, absorb carbon dioxide and provide a play space for Biter’s young daughters and dog.
I’m going old school. I’m getting one of the old push mowers with the razor blades that spin around. I don’t mind doing it. It will take 10 minutes twice a month; no big deal.
The green roof costs about $30,000, or $2,000 for each 100-square-foot section of roof.
AutoTrader signs a deal to have HomeNet revamp the software that supports the company’s entire online inventory. Accorfding to Biter the project will increase HomeNet’s monthly revenues by at least 50% when the work begins in August, turning a company that hit about $1.3 million a month in sales in 2009 to one that borders on $2 million a month by the end of 2010.
The company has hired about 40 people over the last two years, including customer service reps and software developers. The employees work out of a variety of locations, from Sarasota to remote offices in Michigan, Los Angeles and suburban Philadelphia.
Marries Katie Annis, whom he met through his chiropractor. They have been dating since 2007. Congressman Vern Buchanan, signs their wedding license as a witness.
AutoTrader.com agrees to purchase HomeNet Automotive for an undiclosed sum. At the time of the sale HomeNet has $16 million in annual revenues, 135 employees and more than 18,000 dealers. AutoTrader.com plans to operate HomeNet as an independent subsidiary run by Bob Landers, a 10-year AutoTrader.com veteran sales executive.
It is reported that in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission the company writes that in December 2010, AutoTrader “acquired certain assets of HomeNet in a business combination for cash consideration of $61.6 million.” Biter calls that number “inaccurate,” but says he is bound by contract not to discuss details of the transaction.
It was enough money to retire for the rest of my life. But that’s not me. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
Biter is appointed by the Florida House to the board of Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership whose goal is to promote and develop Florida businesses.
He travels to Spain on an Enterprise Florida mission and blogged about the experience.
Before being on the board of Enterprise Florida I didn’t have much of an opinion of Rick Scott,” I knew the media hated him but that was about it. [I now think] his biggest problem is communicating to the media. He isn’t a politician, he’s a CEO and he is running Florida like a business.
Biter buys an old bank property just north of Sarasota downtown for $2.8 million. He wants to use it as his own office and to create a “fun” environment for young, creative entrepreneurs. He convinced his good friend Rich Swier Jr., the founder of the Sarasota business incubator The HuB, to relocate his enterprise from the Rosemary District to the building in January.
Biter and Sarasota Ford operations manager, Matt Buchanan, son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, launch Dealers United. The plan is to build a nationwide network of dealers that will have combined buying power with vendors.
The firm creates deals services common to many dealers, from search-engine optimization to customer management software. Network members decide independently if they want to buy into the deal.
Biter and Buchanan say they will spend at least $1 million in startup costs on the business. Five employees have already been hired and Biter plans to hire at least five more for a Dealers United call center.
Buchanan: We are going to work for the dealers. We’ll be more powerful than any one group.
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum picks the 35-year-old Sarasota entrepreneur to be the chairman of his campaign in Florida. This is the first time Biter has committed himself so deeply to any candidate:
After I heard him speak in Sarasota, I felt I had to get involved
Biter says Santorum’s pro-family and socially conservative perspective fits perfectly with his views and he has become one of Santorum’s top fund-raisers in Florida.
Being the Florida campaign manager for Rick Santorum was an amazing experience. First of all, I learned how someone can be and how the press can portray somebody completely different. To watch someone speak for an hour and a half and give great ideas and great ways to change the country through everyone’s lives from the richest to the poorest. And then for the newspaper to write, “Rick Santorum hates gays.” WHAT? It was just amazing how they twisted things. To really be a close part of a national campaign, to see how it was run, was very exciting.
The HuB, a loosely affiliated creative group formed in 2009, is moving to Century Bank building north of Sarasota downtown. The bank building was sold about a year ago for $2.8 million, or $68 per square foot, by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to Biter Idea Vault LLC, a Sarasota company managed by Jesse M. Biter,
As part of the clebrations for the HUb Grand Opening a 3D animation is created by students of Ringling College of Art and Design and projected on the building.
Biter and his wife host a $500-per-person fundraising reception in their penthouse home for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s politcal action committee, which Rubio uses to support conservative political candidates.
Biter unveils plans for bar next to the Hub building where he works. The open-air taproom will formalize a current practice: He keeps a beer kegerator in the lounge of his office, and it has become a 5 p.m. gathering spot for the building’s workers.
The whole idea is conversation. I want to create a place where everyone can go have a drink after work. He hopes the pub will be a similar nexus for congregating, and a place where people will come to watch a big game and enjoy some suds.
On local radio Sarasota City Commissioner-elect Susan Chapman criticizes Biter:
Jesse Biter is a newcomer. He would do better and be more successful if he allied himself with a more experienced developer who knew about the history of this city.
One person should not define the vision of a city.
I’m going to continue to push for more pro-growth, pro-development in the downtown core, where we want to focus on young professionals, entrepreneurs and artists. The under-50, under 30 crowd should be concerned.
At Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance Biter shares his keys for success: paramount faith in God, maintain a positive workplace environment, don’t micromanage, think bigger.
One of my prayers has always been ‘God, close the doors you don’t want me to go through and open the ones you do,'” Biter said, noting that faith in God is paramount to his success.
He said he had to learn to let go, not hover and trust his employees to do the right thing.
I realized that if I wasn’t there, the company still went on and still made money.
His 135 employees earned rewards for reporting and receiving good behavior.
Biter reaches the 19,341ft summit of Mt Kilmanjaro, Tanzania, Africa, with friends. Biter had got the idea from reading Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s book, “Delivering Happiness,” in which the celebrated entrepreneur writes about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and other experiences.
At a Rotary Club meeting, Biter attacks a group of downtown residents who participate in Sarasota Commission and Planning Board meetings
They’re afraid of 20-somethings spilling out of clubs at 2 am and bellowing at the moon. They’re afraid of throbbing music and honking horns.
Biter laments that commissioners feel they have no choice but to turn down projects that would, in his opinion, make downtown better. Biter plans to build a 180-unit apartment provide 800-to-1,000-square-foot apartments for rent at about $1,200 a month.
After just one year a 40,000- square-foot building owned by Biter is fully occupied. The building near downtown Sarasota is primarily occupied by the HuB collaborative workspace, which occupies the third floor and half of the four-story building’s second floor.
The initial 37 incubator offices became so popular that HuB founder Rich Swier Jr. and Biter built an additional 17 collaborative workspaces earlier this year. Thirty separate businesses are in the 54 HuB offices.
At about 2:45 a.m on Sunday a vehicle crashed through the storefront of a property on Sarasota Main St. owned by Biter. The driver told officers she must have fallen asleep, because she didn’t know what happened. She said she was driving home from a bar, and an officer smelled alcohol on her breath. The driver failed a field sobriety test. Despite the accident, Biter said his plans for the property shouldn’t be affected.
Katie and Jesse Biter share tips on elegant entertaining on their downtown Sarasota roof terrace.
Katie: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how often we entertain. It’s kind of ridiculous. My girlfriend says our elevator is a revolving door!
Following an exchange on Facebook where Biter said that “‘This death by committee is killing our city,” Sarasota Herald Tribune columnist, Tom Lyons, argues that Biter was attracted to Sarasota for the very reasons he is now pushing against:
I’d suggest the reason he liked Sarasota so much was, in no small part, because rules had kept it from becoming the congested, ugly mess many developers would have happily created if allowed.
Lyons also criticizes Biter’s push to replace the current five city commissioners with a single, elected, mayor:
Since Biter has not been able to get his way with the commission on some things, he naturally wishes that, when he wants to change some density rule or other city code, he shouldn’t have to convince three out of five commissioners. He’d rather just have to persuade one mayor. And Biter already tried putting money behind a commission candidate he thought might tip the commission votes his way, but his candidate didn’t win.
As part of his final week as host of “The Tonight Show” Jay Leno did a roundup of his favorite wedding names from his long-running “Headlines” segment, bringing the couples themselves to Burbank, California, to appear on the show. The Biters were featured due to Katie’s maiden name being Annis, making the couple the Annis Biters.
In a rebuttal to Sarasota Herald Tribune columinist, Tom Lyons, Biter says:
Sarasota has been my home for over 13 years and I care deeply for the long-term success of our city. While my vision for a more vibrant downtown or my political views or even my religious views might not jibe with Lyons’, his outright lying to your readers to make a point goes against everything I’ve ever been taught about ethics in journalism.
Biter notes that Lyons does not live in Sarasota and clarifies his support for the “strong mayor” proposal.
My support is centered on the best way to do things for the future of our city. It is not necessarily an indictment of the current commission. However, the ability for them to lead under the current form of government is not conducive to the needs of our exceptional city. Our city is not dying but that does not mean it couldn’t be better.
A company owned by Biter buys a second parcel of land next to a building he bought in Sarasota downtown in summer 2013. He plans to build up to 200 apartments offering units from $1,000 to $2,000 per month. The deal to buy the second lot was stalled after old technology from the nearby dry-cleaner leaked chemicals into the soil. Biter tells the Sarasota Herald Tribune he is waiting on financing approvals for $32 million for the $46 million project, with plans to start construction this year.
It’s frustrating for me being one who likes to act on things quickly. I’m a car guy, so I’m used to loans being immediate. I asked around with other developers, and they all said this is normal right now.
Biter talks politics, business, home life, and his interest in developing low-cost housing:
Before I was heavily invested in the stock market. I felt like, I don’t even know these companies. Why are they making money, why not? I decided to put my money where I live, make my town better and make money at the same time. I’m not bashful about that. Some people have criticized me for wanting to make money. Well, that’s what people do, we make money. You create jobs and make money. There are ways to do that, that are evil and ways that are not evil. If you make a good service or product and people are paying you for it, then it is ok by me.
Biter says he cannot get the necessary bank financing for his $46m affordable housing project because he lacks real estate development experience.
Banks love the project, but because I have never built anything before, they want me to have an experienced partner. It hasn’t been for a lack of effort, that’s for sure. The numbers make sense, It’s just a matter of whether the bank thinks so. They’re the ones writing the check.
Biter says some individuals have offered to finance the construction, but at interest rates higher than 10 percent, which would result in more than $3-4 million in interest, making the project unaffordable. Biter has already has received six offers for the former site, mostly from groups wanting to build high-end condos. He says he would prefer to sell either a stake in the development or the entire site to an entity that would stay true to his vision.
Biter accepts the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from Evan Berlin. He takes the challenge in his rooftop hot tub overlooking Sarasota Bay and calls attention to Operation Second Chance, a veteran’s support charity. He nominates his brother Ethan Biter, a test pilot in the US Navy.
In a move that signals that Biter either has a buyer or a new partner, attorneys representing the Atlanta-based Carter Acquisitions, LLC, will ask the City Commission on Nov 17 to let the project proceed under a new site plan and without paying into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. Carter Acquisitions has a new site plan for the project that includes a greater number of smaller, affordable apartments, with at least the 168 units being under 1,250 square feet. Since the group is building more affordable housing, according their letter to the city earlier this month, they should not have to pay into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Gov. Scott announces Biter is to take one of the governor’s seats on the board of directors at Enterprise Florida (subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate). Biter has already been serving the organization as an appointee of the Speaker of the Florida House since 2011. He succeeds Henry Rodriguez, and is appointed for a term from today through Sept. 30, 2018. Scott:
Jesse has been a leader in the Florida business community, and I’m confident he will work tirelessly to make Florida the best state for job creation.
In an interview with a Sarasota magazine, Biter recounts influences in his life:
I can’t begin to describe how I’ve been shaped by my parents. They are the biggest influences. They have done the most for me and gave me a work ethic by never letting me get away with anything. They held me accountable but never micro-managed my life. They set boundaries that were pretty broad, and, as long as I operated within their rules, had the opportunity to learn and to fail and to try again in life.
Bill Gates and Michael Dell are heroes of mine. Watching what other successful people do is important, but I was always more impressed with people who came from nothing. I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon, and there was not anyone in my family with real business experience, but I knew I wanted more for myself. To see people come from middle-class families and become super successful, that was my goal, and these men were whom I wanted to replicate.
Biter sells a 13,881-square-foot office building at 1445 2nd Street in Sarasota to a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Carter Acquisitions for $3.04 million. Biter bought the building for $2.8 million in June 2013.
Biter plans to add a seven-story residential building with 90 one and two bedroom apartments, called called HuB Lofts, next to the HuB business incubator. The 1000 sq ft units will rent for $1600 a month and are targeted to those who work in the incubator, with 30 inquiries so far. The 5,500 sq ft ground floor of the building would be used as HuB office space. Construction is to begine by June 2106. Co-developer Brian Jones:
I look at it like an overall campus we’re creating. It’s not just an office, just apartments and they’re separate. The residential portion will be able to use office amenities, and the office will be able to use residential amenities.
Space Florida’s Board of Directors approve the creation of a bonus plan for employees. Under the plan, the maximum amounts of annual payouts would depend on employees’ positions. Some employees could receive a bonus worth five percent of their pay while President and Chief Executive Officer Frank DiBello, who is paid $267,952 a year, would be eligible to receive up to 50 percent of his pay — $133,976. Board Member Biter:
All we’re doing is agreeing that this is the structure, that this makes sense. When the actual numbers come back, we’ll have the opportunity to discuss and say that’s way too much or that’s too little.
Biter hires Healy as the CEO for Professional Lien Search. Healy was previously CEO of Novitex Enterprise Solutions, and spent 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service. PLS Operating Partner Biter:
Once PLS surpassed 60 employees, we knew it was time to bring in the big guns. Healy’s impressive resume made him an obvious choice to take the reins. I’m excited to know that our clients will be able to expect better service, faster turnaround times and additional services under Tim’s watch.
Biter writes an editorial in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, advocating for Uber to be allowed to operate in Sarasota.
I’m disappointed when an innovative company like Uber begins operations in Sarasota and it has been met by a regulatory battle with the city government…Now is the time for Sarasota officials to prevent our city from falling behind. Modern regulation for ride-sharing is being passed across the country. There will not be a better opportunity for our city’s commissioners to show they are serious about innovation in practice , not just on the campaign trail. Seeing our elected officials embrace modern regulations will signal the sort of forward thinking that can transform our city for the better.