As kids working for their grandfather, Ron and Jon Antevy talked of someday becoming business partners. Years later, they used a UF master’s thesis to build a $500 million company.
The last Monday in January 2018 was a very good day for Ron and Jon Antevy. That’s when their company, e-Builder, sold for $500 million.
The following Friday was even better.
That’s when the brothers broke the news to their 200 employees and handed out plump surprise bonuses worth tens of millions in total. Longtime workers — those who’d stood with the company through thick and thin — became instant millionaires. Even new hires, days on the job, got checks.
“I get emotional thinking about it. It was the greatest day of my life,” Ron says. “To be able to thank people in a way that meant a lot to them for everything they had done for us was such a great feeling.”
It was the right thing to do, Jon adds.
“We did it because we’d made it there as a team,” he explains. “We were all crying together. None of us could keep a dry eye. It was the best day, I concur with Ron. I’ll never forget it.”
Neither will e-Builder’s workers and their families. Lives, for sure, tipped toward the sunnier that unforgettable Friday. One employee repaired his mother’s roof. Another helped a brother-in-law get on his feet. Retirement accounts were fattened, college savings funds started, dream vacations planned.
Not a bad day at all for a couple of guys who’d turned a UF master’s thesis into a fortune. That’s how e-Builder came to be. Almost 30 years ago and with the internet just finding its footing, Jon (BDES ’93, MSBC ’94) calculated that he could use the new technology to revolutionize the construction industry. Projects could be better managed, costs could be cut.
The brothers — Jon the creative risk-taker, Ron the pragmatic manager — ended up teaming up and, in time, their tenacity and old-fashioned hard work proved Jon right. But never, Ron (BSCE ’91) admits, did anyone expect e-Builder to end up a $500 million company.
“Never in a million years,” he says. “When Jon started e-Builder I don’t think anyone knew what he was talking about.”
Even Jon had doubts.
“I wasn’t sure it was going to work,” he confesses. “But everybody around me at the university was supportive. That gave me a lot of confidence because they were excited about it.”
Back then, the brothers’ wildest, wish-on-a-falling-star hope was to build the company, flip it for $10 million or so and retire.
“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll start this company and in a year or two I’ll sell it and be rich,’” Jon says. “I was naive. The reality is I was broke for seven years.”
Brothers, Partners, Friends
The Antevy (An-te-v) boys weren’t like most kids in their middle class south Florida neighborhood in the 1980s. While friends were goofing off, Ron and Jon were budding businessmen.
Yona Levy, their mother’s father, owned apartments and a construction company. His grandsons were his after-school and weekend maintenance crew, laborers and occasional rent collectors. Ron and Jon liked working side-by-side. It was comfortable. Their talk would often turn to starting a construction business of their own.
“We got the construction bug early on,” Ron says. “I always loved going to job sites and seeing the progress. That’s how we got on that kick.”
“We thought there was no reason we couldn’t do something similar,” Jon recalls. “Those discussions would come up while we were painting. We must have done 400 or 500 apartments together over the years. You can catch up on a lot of stuff while doing that kind of work.”
E-Builder — their software-based business designed to help construction companies streamline projects — wasn’t exactly the traditional building firm the brothers had in mind back then. But it was close.
With e-Builder, the Antevys had a hand in shaping skylines across America, watching hospitals, schools, homes and sports venues rise from the dirt. The Chicago Transit Authority, California’s Cedars-Sinai, Minneapolis Public Schools, North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport — all those and more than 500 other organizations from coast to coast used their company’s products.
Meanwhile, year after year, after year, the construction industry recognized the Antevys for their ingenuity. So did their alma mater. UF’s annual Gator 100 awards banquet honoring the fastest growing alumni-run companies counted e-Builder on its list over and over again. In 2022, the brothers received Gator 100’s highest tribute, the S. Clark Butler Pinnacle Award for sustained excellence and leadership.
None of that — the projects or recognition — would’ve happened without each other, Ron and Jon maintain. Nor would it have been so sweet.
“We felt tremendous loyalty to each other,” Ron says. “I needed to succeed for him and he needed to succeed for me, more than we needed to do it for ourselves.”
Nothing’s changed. They still enjoy each other’s company — whether it’s on their boat, tapping out tunes on the piano or Friday night meals with their wives, children, mother and twin brothers, Peter and Paul. All of it’s an extension of the hours and hours painting apartments together, mowing lawns and plotting their futures.
“You know how some people you just like spending time with? That’s how it is with my brother,” Ron says. “People would laugh at us because even when we were doing very well, when we traveled together we’d share a room. We were like, ‘We grew up together. We like hanging out. What’s the big deal?’”
Lessons From the Old Country
Like the huddled masses before them — the Irish and German, Chinese and Mexican, Italians, Poles and Swedes — Ron and Jon’s ancestors came to America in pursuit of opportunity. For their grandfather and mother and father, that meant letting lives in Syria and Israel become memories, leaving who and what they’d known for a strange new place.
But there were things from the old country their ancestors clung to. Devotion to family. Belief in hard, honest work. Kindness. The Friday family dinners grew out of those habits.
“It’s a cultural thing,” Jon explains. “That Middle Eastern, Israeli, Jewish culture of staying close, bringing everyone together.”
From their grandfather, Ron and Jon learned doggedness. Yona Levy built his businesses from little more than pure will, and despite understanding just a few English words and phrases. He also taught the boys goodness and decency. If a tenant was short with that month’s rent, he’d look for ways to help. And Levy would send whatever he could afford to family he’d left behind in the homeland.
From parents Ovadia and Viktoria, the boys learned to be humble. How to run a business. To appreciate the value of a dollar earned through sweat. Ovadia and Viktoria, like Levy, were entrepreneurs who managed their businesses (in their case, interior design and commercial properties) from the kitchen table.
The brothers relied on those lessons to carry them through e-Builder’s darkest times.
“We just followed what our parents and grandfather had done,” Jon says. “They were hard workers, and we outworked most people. By far.”
When the dreary days brightened, the brothers again looked to a lesson learned from their grandfather and parents: generosity.
Not just toward e-Builder’s employees. When their company sold, the brothers and their wives turned to the University of Florida, too. Ron and Rachel (BA ’98) made large contributions to the Wertheim College of Engineering and Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center. Jon and Melanie gave the naming gift for the College of Design, Construction and Planning’s architecture building and endowed an entrepreneurship club in the college.
“We’re blessed and we don’t take it for granted,” Ron says. “Once you can put a roof over your head and afford to eat and do things for your family, after that it’s just stuff. And the stuff doesn’t give you as much joy as if you can help other people … I’m glad I’m in the position that I can give.”
That Rachel is also passionate about sharing their good fortune made giving to UF even easier, he says. Next, the couple is thinking about starting a charitable foundation. If they do, Ron would welcome the chance to team up with Jon once again on some of its projects.
Jon’s tomorrows, on the hand, are less clear.
“Still trying to figure it out,” he says. “I haven’t really thought too much about what’s next, because if I do — even if it’s just dabbling — I’m going to do what I do, which is throw myself into it. And I really want to have a free and clear mind for a time, and then I’ll do a reset from there.”
After 27 years with e-Builder, all Jon knows for sure is he wants to make up for lost moments he spent without Melanie and his kids.
“My schedule was crazy,” Jon acknowledges. “[Melanie] raised our three kids, and I popped in here and there. I was feeding this baby, e-Builder, while trying to be a good father and a good husband. It’s hard to do both things. So now that we’ve gotten to this side, we can smell the roses.”
It’s a scent, for the Antevy brothers, that’s every bit as nice as that long-ago smell of fresh paint wafting through their grandfather’s apartments.
Born to Be Gators
It seems almost like destiny. That is, if you were to believe in such things as meant-to-be. The sons of immigrants, their father without a high school education, ending up at UF — it’s the stuff of storybooks.
Then again, much of brothers Ron and Jon Antevy’s unlikely journey to the top is like that: their ancestors coming to Florida from the Middle East, their grandfather and parents cobbling together successful businesses in a foreign land, their own rise as innovators in the construction industry.
While the Antevy brothers’ story doesn’t start with UF, the university has a big part in what made it magical.
“For whatever reason, our parents were hell-bent on us going to college,” Ron says. “They were like, ‘We don’t care what you do, but you’ve got to go to college. No excuses. No ifs, ands or buts about it.’”
UF was the sensible choice. It was an in-state school. A cousin was a Gator. Academics were solid. So to Gainesville the brothers went. One to be a civil engineer. The other an architect. First Ron, a couple years later Jon.
“I went to the University of Florida because Ron did. I’d like to think it was something more elegant than that. But it’s because he was my older brother and I looked up to him,” Jon admits. “It turned out that the architecture and construction programs are amazing, but that was dumb luck.”
Luck or not, as with so many Gators, their time at UF ended up being some of the best years of their lives. Here are some of the brothers’ favorite memories:
- Being a deejay at campus parties and at a downtown Gainesville club called Central City.
- Freshman year in Broward Hall.
- Tailgating and attending Gator games with friends.
- Hearing a few songs he wrote on the radio.
- Working weekends at Lake Wauburg.
- Being part of UF’s Fire Rescue Association and driving the Gainesville Fire Rescue mobile command unit in the Homecoming Parade.
- Ice cream socials with President John Lombardi.
- Countless days and nights with friends at the architecture studio.
January 17, 2023