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Does Redfin’s high profile hire signal a looming IPO?

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Redfin’s new CMO

Over the years, real estate company, Redfin.com has edged closer and closer to a hybrid between their early days of disruption and the traditional real estate model, with some questioning if their round of hiring last fall paired with a recent alteration of their pricing (which is still discounted compared to most of their competitors, yet less so than in the past) is an indication of the company preparing to go public.

While publicly denying these are signals of the company preparing for an IPO, a recent blog post from Redfin CEO, Glenn Kelman talks about getting a call from a lawyer in reference to companies going public, the lawyer encouraging Kelman to never tamper his mania or worry about becoming a figurehead to appease investors. Kelman reacted by noting, “If you run a successful startup, you will certainly have plenty of people trying to civilize you, with conferences, coaches, books, meetings. When venture capitalists invest millions in a company, they also invest millions in you, which you can take as a compliment, though it’s also a terrible commitment.”

Likening investors’ actions to a house-flipper gutting a house to rebuild it, Kelman notes that “These have been the good changes to the Kelman kitchen. But no one has ever touched the stove or the oven, the source of heat and fire. Sitting in a house constantly undergoing a crazy, half-done renovation, the problem I think the most about is figuring out which parts of myself have to go and which have to stay. And the hardest part of the renovation for many is the part that has to stay.”

To IPO or not to IPO?

It is seen as inevitable that all tech companies that grow to a certain point will file for their IPO, but despite these recent writings of Kelman and a shift in pricing at Redfin, he continues to assert they are not focused on going public.

Even after all of that and denying going public, the company announced today a very high profile executive hire which may or may not signal impending IPO. Redfin has brought on Tom Vogl as their new Chief Marketing Officer, who after earning his MBA from the prestigious Harvard Business School, spent seven years at Conoco as a Strategic Planner, followed by eight years at Dell as a Marketing Director and nearly six years at REI as the Senior Vice President of Marketing.

Kelman said, “And so we interviewed folks for chief marketing officer who had hyped bogus diet pills, doomed websites and dubious financial services, but could never get excited by a hired gun. After every interview, Redfin’s Matt Goyer would shake his head and say, “Doesn’t love Redfin enough.” He reminded me of a Jewish mother-in-law. No one was good enough for his child. But finally Matt and the rest of the team found someone not only good, but absolutely, insanely great. We popped the question, and the rest is history.”

Typically, when a company is making high profile hires to gear up for going public, those hires are seasoned in taking a company public, but Vogl is not known as a hired gun for that purpose, so there is a large chance this is simply a powerful hire for the company, but it could also be Kelman acting untraditionally as he is known to do.

Kelman’s bottom line

Whether you like him or not, Redfin’s leader bucks trends and is enthusiastic about what he does, so it is very hard to read his moves. There may be a forthcoming IPO, or a new chapter in the company’s history, but this particular hire does not offer anyone a crystal ball on the topic.

Kelman’s bottom line is that “at Redfin, what drives you matters. After all, we aren’t just trying to draw attention to a media site. We’re trying to make our case — that real estate can be different, that the Redfin agent you see on our site puts customers, not commissions first — that we’re worth a shot. It’s a great leap of faith for our customers, and, for us, perhaps the greatest marketing challenge on the Internet. If we don’t believe, no one else will.”

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

Business News

Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it

(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.

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Loop Team product page, trying to create an office culture experience remotely.

Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”

Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.

How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.

Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.

The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.

I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.

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Business News

MIT report reveals serious flaws in US unemployment system

(BUSINESS NEWS) In the wake of COVID-19, the US unemployment system is floundering to cover all who need the aid but it comes with serious flaws.

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Stressed couple discussing options during unemployment in dimly lit room.

Last week alone, nearly 1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Now that it’s urgently needed, this safety net is full of holes, leaving many Americans in freefall.

A newspaper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has highlighted several of the critical weaknesses in our country’s unemployment social safety net.

The report outlines how benefits fall short in three major ways: Duration, eligibility, and payment amounts.

The historical purpose of the benefits system was to replace half of lost wages for 6 months while they looked for another job. (The MIT paper even suggests that a more appropriate “replacement rate” would be higher than that.)

As of 2018, unemployment payments only cover Americans for one-third of their lost wages on average.

The income caps for these benefits have stayed fixed while wages have increased over time. That’s bad enough without considering that wages haven’t nearly kept up with worker productivity in the US, meaning those caps haven’t kept up with the real worth of those workers at all.

Compared to other developed nations, the US has lagged behind in public benefits since well before the pandemic.

In 2014, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development compared the duration of unemployment payments around the world. Out of 34 developed countries, the US ranked 33rd— offering less than every country on the list but Hungary.

To quote the research brief for the paper: “Even aside from changes driven by technology and trade, employers’ increasing reliance on contract workers and on-demand scheduling rather than on permanent employees who work predictable schedules has added to the precariousness of many workers’ jobs.”

And those economically vulnerable groups who need the support most are more likely to have jobs that aren’t covered under federal unemployment eligibility.

This includes gig workers (thanks to prop 22), part time workers, and the self employed: People often work these jobs due to constraints like parenthood or disability.

The CARES Act, which passed in April, temporarily allowed certain groups who would usually be ineligible, like the self employed (who are poised to grow in numbers as the job shortage persists) to collect unemployment benefits.

But CARES and HEROES are going to end in December, taking the extensions to unemployment, the eviction moratorium and the COVID sick leave requirements with them.

And instead of extending them, Congress may soon be looking to cannibalize those programs and their unused funds for another round of corporate stimulus spending.

But if the coronavirus relief acts are allowed to expire, nearly 14 million Americans will lose the aid that they provide.

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Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Fueled even further by COVID unemployment numbers, seasonal employment scams are back on the menu. Here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation people are feeling these days, it’s only fitting that employment scams would see a resurgence this holiday season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign–again, in this economy, people aren’t shelling out for packing or wrapping jobs.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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