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Zillow Layoffs- Behind the Scenes and the Future

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Realities of Tech Walk-Outs

My experience in the tech sector is not something I talk about often, but one of my worst memories was watching entire divisions disappearing virtually overnight. Imagine sitting at your desk, a guard and team lead walk up and ask you to pack your desk. Your badge is taken as you pack your things that in some cases may have been already packed while you were at lunch. You are walked out of the building and the door is closed behind you- we called them “locked out.”

The reality is that these companies are very protective of data, and warning of upcoming terminations would only give an upset staffer the opportunity to plot revenge.

This was the 1.0 way of doing business- the early dot.com bubble bursting was the worst and this style of termination was (and maybe still is) common place.

Fast Forward to 2008

Zillow took a more 2.0 approach with their layoffs according to David Gibbons with Zillow, “this is our family, they’re like family that have been with us since the beginning.” David went on to describe how awkward the old fashioned walkouts were when running into terminated employees on the street and how it seemed to create animosity where it wasn’t needed.

Who/What Was Cut?

Although I could tell David (and Drew) wanted tell us more about their personal relationships with the names behind the layoffs, David explained just how personal it was to him instead. He explained that the company is actually very small, and describes the company as three parts- the first of which is product, which consists of engineers, seo, java programers and other dedicated talent. If you’ll remember, in the beginning, Zillow went on a hiring frenzy, snapping up the best of the best- these are no ordinary geeks.

Zillow’s middle division is business where an equal number was cut- the business division makes up the business development, public relations and other mission critical departments, and David makes no bones that Zillow had spared nothing when scooping up the best in its original march to world domination.

The Future is the Sales Department

The sales department rounds off the third section which also took a hit, however, this is exactly the tool Zillow will use to sharpen its game to cut through the recession. Obviously, as a media company, sales will be pivotal in profitability, and Zillow absolutely intends to get more aggressive in explaining its offering to real estate professionals. David says, “we have proven our value in marketing, but not selling.”

My Take

When Zillow decided to take over the world, it’s a known fact that they were aggressive in hiring the cream of the crop to build Zillow, and with these layoffs, David agrees that there is an opportunity for other startups in the real estate space (and otherwise) to take advantage of the talent Zillow parted with today. Headhunters have a golden opportunity to reach out to folks that were loyal a week ago and snatch up even more talent from those waiting to make tough cuts.

I suspect many of those that turned down new opportunities with more established companies may be kicking themselves about now as fears mount in the tech sector of who’s next from sites engaging in fear mongering like Tech Crunch. I would advise anyone in the tech sector that has elite staff to make the cuts immediately and try the ripping the band-aid approach as opposed to the slow drip, or talent may be lost that companies never intended on losing.

The good news in all of this is that we receive every single week more and more releases from startups in the real estate space and often times their expansion means they’re looking for talent that is experienced in the ground-up dynamics of a startup, and the talent many of these firms are canning may end up filling the half full glass of a thirsty venture.

It may not feel good to the folks that were laid off this week, but what is happening appears to be for the better in my humble opinion. A small burst early on of a bubble may be just what the Dr. ordered when you understand that it asks the tech sector to take a deep breath, trim the fat, and look at the long term which should actually help to create more stable and more profitable companies in the end that are stable for these very talented folks.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Rachel Foster

    October 17, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Even though there are layoffs, I still see tons of high paying jobs posted on employment sites –

    https://www.linkedin.com (networking)
    https://www.indeed.com (aggregated listings)
    https://www.realmatch.com (matches you to jobs)

    People that look will find jobs.

  2. Glenn

    October 18, 2008 at 5:24 am

    Benn – truly sorry you had to experience layoffs using this method. However, starting in the mid-70’s a management control was evaluated to determine if resignations or terminations where an indivdual had access to sensitive information, a final paycheck was issued and the employee asked to leave immediately. And there were provisions that the supervisor or manager along with security be present. Personally I don’t like it, but when looking at the business aspects it is the right thing to do.

    Layoffs as Zillow is experiencing is gut turning and emotional for both the employee and the employer.

    Hopefully, Zillow’s staff reduction took place in the right departments – however, when one considers that the finite number of real estate professionals will shrink over the next year, as it did this year, one has to wonder if this statement is a wise one “Obviously, as a media company, sales will be pivotal in profitability, and Zillow absolutely intends to get more aggressive in explaining its offering to real estate professionals.”

  3. Steve Simon

    October 18, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Benn in banking when the Fed’s come at 4:00pmon Friday to take you over there isn’t much notice;
    In politics they ask for the key and your things have already been packed up for you, most have a few weeks, some only days.
    I remember in my younger days a wholesale termination was taking place in a major insurance and financial concern (based out of Fort Wayne Ind.) The bosses from another agency came in to the startled employees amazment and then watched as the unlucky folks had to pack and leave (this was explained later to be done to protect the client information that would have been at risk if any notice had been given).
    The dollar signs and the bailout cures and the media oft change the outdie viewers focus;but rest assured there is terrible pain borne by humans at the bottom of the pile…
    Just my thoughts 🙂

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Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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