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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

You should apply to be on a board – why and how

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

Australia vs Facebook: A conflict of news distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a contentious battle for news aggregation, Australia works to find agreement with Facebook.

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News open on laptop, which Australia argues Facebook is taking away from.

Australia has been locked in a legal war against technology giants Google and Facebook with regard to how news content can be consumed by either entity’s platforms.

At its core, the law states that news content being posted on social media is – in effect – stealing away the ability for news outlets to monetize their delivery and aggregate systems. A news organization may see their content shared on Facebook, which means users no longer have to visit their site to access that information. This harms the ability for news production companies – especially smaller ones – from being able to maintain revenue and profit, while also giving power to corporations such as Facebook by allowing them to capitalize on their substantial infrastructure.

This is a complex subject that can be viewed from a number of angles, but it essentially asks the question of who should be in control of information on a potentially global scale, and how the ability to share such data should be handled when it passes through a variety of mediums and avenues. Put shortly: Australia thinks royalties should be paid to those who supply the news.

Australia has maintained that under the proposed laws, corporations must reach content distribution deals in order to allow news to be spread through – as one example – posts on Facebook. In retaliation, Facebook completely removed the ability for users to post news articles and stories. This in turn led to a proliferation of false and misleading information to fill the void, magnifying the considerable confusion that Australian citizens were confronted with once the change had been made.

“In just a few days, we saw the damage that taking news out can cause,” said Sree Sreenivasan, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism. “Misinformation and disinformation, already a problem on the platform, rushed to fill the vacuum.”

Facebook’s stance is that it provides value to the publishers because shared news content will drive users to their sites, thereby allowing them to provide advertising and thus leading to revenue.

Australia has been working on this bill since last year, and has said that it is meant to equalize the potential imbalance of content and who can display and benefit from it. This is meant to try and create conditions between publishers and the large technology platforms so that there is a clearer understanding of how payment should be done in exchange for news and information.

Google was initially defiant (threatening to go as far as to shut off their service entirely), but began to make deals recently in order to restore its own access. Facebook has been the strongest holdout, and has shown that it can leverage its considerable audience and reach to force a more amenable deal. Australia has since provided some amendments to give Facebook time to seek similar deals obtained by Google.

One large portion of the law is that Australia is reserving the right to allow final arbitration, which it says would allow a mediator to set prices if no deal could be reached. This might be considered the strongest piece of the law, as it means that Facebook cannot freely exercise its considerable weight with impunity. Facebook’s position is that this allows government interference between private companies.

In the last week – with the new agreements on the table – it’s difficult to say who blinked first. There is also the question of how this might have a ripple effect through the tech industry and between governments who might try to follow suit.

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