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Trulia and Zillow – have they strayed from their original missions?



Step into the time machine

In studying the current and forecasting the future, we have to look to the past. We often talk about the current trends of real estate search, but spend little time in retrospect. We thought we would take a look at two of the real estate search giants’ past.

Zillow was founded in January 2005 with a $32 million investment from
Benchmark Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures and launched in 2006 with another $25 million from PAR Capital Management. In 2007, Zillow saw another $30 million in investment from Legg Mason bringing the current total to $87 million. This month, Zillow filed for their $52 million IPO after more than a year of rumors of its coming.

Trulia was also founded in 2005 but for a significantly lower investment with Sarofim Fayez and Kevin Hartz investing $2.1 million in September then Accel Partners, Sarofim Fayez and Thorner Ventures adding $5.7 million to the pot. In 2007, Accel Partners and Sarofim Fayez invested again this time with Sequoia Capital for a combined $10 million and another round by the same partners in 2008 for $15 million with Trulia’s coffers totaling $32.8 million in investments.

Original missions of Zillow and Trulia

There is a lot of noise online about how Zillow and Trulia have gone back on their promise to innovate and that they’ve sold out. One reason is that they both marketed to an early adaptive consumer which is typically into DIY and against “the establishment” (read: Realtors). But did they really go back on their word?

From Zillow’s first blog post ever:

“Zillow began a little over a year ago with a few people in an office, dreaming about how the web might be used to empower everyday people to take more control of the scary, frustrating, and exciting process of buying and selling a home. We experimented with several different ideas early on, but, after talking with many consumers and agents, we landed on the ambitious goal of trying to place a value, what we cleverly call a “Zestimate,” on every house in the country and making this freely and anonymously available to anyone — kind of a “Kelley Blue Book” for homes.”

CEO Rich Barton continues, “Finally, I’d like to make a comment on our business model, which I’ve found helps divine [sic] motives. will make revenues from advertisements on the site. We will always be crystal clear about what is content and what is advertising, just like any respectable content provider, and our advertising will not define our content. However, the beauty of “Web 2.0” is that the content actually does define the advertising. The more relevant the advertising is to what is being done on the page, the more useful it is to consumers. So, we will strive for a high degree of relevance with the advertisements we display. I suppose this makes us a media company, but one that has software development in its bones. We see the process for buying and selling homes as dying for a software productivity application, one that incorporates a huge amount of information, but one that’s goal is to empower people to make better decisions.”

So in summary, Zillow aimed to offer real estate search supported by ads.

From Trulia’s first blog post:

“At Trulia, our objective is to build the leading real estate search engine,” said CEO Pete Flint.

Consumers are performing online real estate searches in record numbers and are more empowered and happier with their experiences than ever before. That said, we think there are many things in the real estate transaction that the Internet will never change. The overwhelming majority of home buyers will still visit open houses and work with agents to give them expert advice, information and help on what is often for many of us the biggest financial decision we will ever make. Everyone at Trulia is excited about helping consumers, agents and brokers to navigate the world of online real estate.”

So Trulia believed the internet could help with real estate search but the transaction would still rely on agents.

These CEOs have issued a variety of opinions since these first blog posts, some quite harsh against Realtors, others with different mission statements but it is interesting to take a step back in the time machine to what was originally said.

Tell us in comments how you feel either of these companies have remained the same, evolved, strayed, OR adjusted since their original statements blogged by their CEOs in 2006.

AG is not affiliated with Zillow or Trulia, nor can we independently verify whether these statements have been edited retroactively. Quotes above are as they appear on their respective websites today.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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  1. Intown Atlanta Real Estate

    April 25, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Zillow has definitely strayed – check out the Inman article about their IPO. Without advertising revenue from real estate agents, they would be severely in the red. Real estate agents, of all people, should know the value of owning versus renting. So why invest advertising dollars into rented space (Zillow/Trulia) when you could invest in something you own, like your own website? Hello agents? By advertising with Zillow/Trulia you are empowering your own competitor!


    April 26, 2011 at 6:22 am


  3. MH for Movoto

    April 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I have to say that I think all the fuss about "staying true" is a little bit silly (and for the record, I think that Zillow HAS stayed fairly true to their original mission). Every single start-up begins as an Idea – and almost every single Idea must change a bit when it makes its transition from Idea to Reality. Why is anyone surprised?

  4. TIna Fine

    April 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Maybe they haven't strayed, but if they keep growing their brand at the expense of brokerages/franchises I think their will be incentive for them to stray! and cannibalize the brokers turf.

  5. Michael Price

    April 27, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I'm clearly with you MH. These days a start up will almost always find itself making changes, sometimes wholesale business model shifts, before settling on a final foundation. It's not uncommon, which begs the question as to why time an energy should be spent on revisiting it all.

    Putting the paddles to dead content in the hopes of generating page views is about as silly as real estate professional seeing Trulia or Zillow as a competitor.

    There exists plenty of new content that could be written about the Realtor.Com, Zillow, Trulia et al race for revenue. The whole idea of business is to "sell out". You make more and celebrate selling it out too. There are stacks of worthless stock certs out there from companies that chose to stick to their original business models, some of them didn't want to be seen as sell outs. Hell, I've been at the helm of one those ships that said "damn the torpedos, my business model is sound". I learned a valuable lesson from it.

    If a company remains true to it's investors, stays nimble, finds the market where it exists and generates revenue (in the black) are they to be condemned for it? I promise you that the huge trade associations and international blue chip brands that do business with the likes of these companies didn't start out their meetings asking to see a dusty copy of their original executive summary so they could skip to the mission statement.

    Let's face it, your attempt at using the wayback bus to find yet another reason to bash Trulia and Zillow clearly was as much a waste of time as writing windbag mission statements.

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Social Media

How this influencer gained 26k followers during the pandemic

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Becoming an influencer on social media can seem appealing, but it’s not easy. Check out this influencer’s journey and her rise during the pandemic.



Influencer planning her social media posts.

Meet Carey McDermott – a 28-year-old Boston native – more widely known by her Instagram handle @subjectively_hot. Within a few months, since March, McDermott has accrued a whopping 26k following, and has successfully built her brand around activism, cheeky observations of day-to-day bullshit, and her evident hotness.

“It mostly started as a quarantine project.” Said McDermott, who was furloughed from her job at the start of shelter-in-place. “I had a lot of free time and I wanted to do an Instagram for a while so I thought, ‘I might as well take some pictures of myself.’”

To get started McDermott, used a lot of hashtags relevant to her particular niche to get noticed, and would follow other influencers that used similar hashtags.

“I definitely built a little online community of women, and we all still talk to each other a lot.”

Like many popular influencers, McDermott engages with her audience as much as possible. She is sure to like or reply to positive comments on her pictures, which makes followers feel special and seen, and subsequently more likely to follow and continue following her account. She also relies heavily on some of Instagram’s more interactive features.

When asked why she thinks she has been able to build and retain such a large base in just a few months, McDermott explained: “I think people like my [Instagram] Stories because I do a lot of polls and ask fun questions for people to answer, and then I repost them”.

But it’s not just fun and games for @subjectively_hot – Carey wants to use her account to make some substantial bread.

“I’ve gotten a bunch of products gifted to me in exchange for unpaid ads and I’m hoping to expand that so I can get paid ads and sponsorships. But free products are nice!”

Additionally, McDermott was recently signed with the talent agency the btwn – a monumental achievement which she attributes to her influencer status.

“Having a large Instagram following gave me the confidence to reach out to a modeling brand. After they looked at my Instagram, they signed me without asking for any other pictures.”

To aspiring influencers, McDermott offers this advice:

“Find your niche. Find your brand. Find what makes you unique and be yourself – don’t act like what you think an influencer should act like. People respond to you being authentic and sharing your real life. And definitely find other people in similar niches as you and build connections with them.”

But McDermott also warns against diving too unilaterally into your niche, and stresses the importance of a unique, multi-dimensional online persona.

“[@subjectively_hot] is inherently a plus size account. But a lot of plus size Instagrams are just about being plus size, and are only like, “I’m confident and here’s my body”. I don’t want to post only about body positively all day, I want it to be about me and being hot.”

And you definitely can’t paint this girl in broad strokes. I personally find her online personality hilarious, self-aware, and brutally anti-patriarchal (she explicitly caters to all walks of life minus the straight cis men who, to her dismay, frequent her DMs with unsolicited advice, comments, and pictures). Her meme and TikTok curations are typically some of the silliest, most honest content I see that day and, as her handle suggests, her pictures never fail in their hotness value.

For McDermott, right now is about enjoying her newfound COVID-era celebrityhood. Her next steps for @subjectively_hot include getting paid ads and sponsorships, and figuring out the most effective way to monetize her brand. The recent spike in COVID-19 cases threaten her chances of returning to the place of her former employment in the hospitality industry.

With so many influencers on Instagram and other platforms, some might find it hard to cash in on their internet fame. But with a loyal fanbase addicted to her golden, inspiring personality, I think Carey will do just fine.

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Social Media

This LinkedIn graphic shows you where your profile is lacking

(SOCIAL MEDIA) LinkedIn has the ability to insure your visibility, and this new infographic breaks down where you should put the most effort.




LinkedIn is a must-have in the professional world. However, this social media platform can be incredibly overwhelming as there are a lot of moving pieces.

Luckily, there is a fancy graphic that details everything you need to know to create the perfect LinkedIn profile. Let’s dive in!

As we know, it is important to use your real name and an appropriate headshot. A banner photo that fits your personal brand (e.g. fits the theme of your profession/industry) is a good idea to add.

Adding your location and a detailed list of work-related projects are both underutilized, yet key pieces of information that people will look for. Other key pieces come in the form of recommendations; connections aren’t just about numbers, endorse them and hopefully they will return the favor!

Fill in every and all sections that you can, and re-read for any errors (get a second set of eyes if there’s one available). Use the profile strength meter to get a second option on your profile and find out what sections could use a little more help.

There are some settings you can enable to get the most out of LinkedIn. Turn on “career interests” to let recruiters know that you are open to job offers, turn on “career advice” to participate in an advice platform that helps you connect with other leaders in your field, turn your profile privacy off from private in order to see who is viewing your profile.

The infographic also offers some stats and words to avoid. Let’s start with stats: 65% of employers want to see relevant work experience, 91 percent of employers prefer that candidates have work experience, and 68% of LinkedIn members use the site to reconnect with past colleagues.

Now, let’s talk vocab. The infographic urges users to avoid the following words: specialized, experienced, skilled, leadership, passionate, expert, motivated, creative, strategic, focused.

That was educational, huh? Speaking of education – be sure to list your highest level of academia. People who list their education appear in searches up to 17 times more often than those who do not. And, much like when you applied to college, your past education wasn’t all that you should have included – certificates (and licenses) and volunteer work help set you apart from the rest.

Don’t be afraid to ask your connections, colleagues, etc. for recommendations. And, don’t be afraid to list your accomplishments.

Finally, users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. You’re already using the site, right? Use it to your advantage! Finish your profile by completing the all-star rating checklist: industry and location, skills (minimum of three), profile photo, at least 50 connections, current position (with description), two past positions, and education.

When all of this is complete, continue using LinkedIn on a daily basis. Update your profile when necessary, share content, and keep your name popping up on peoples’ timelines. (And, be sure to check out the rest of Leisure Jobs’ super helpful infographic that details other bits, like how to properly size photos!)

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Social Media

This Twitter tool hopes to fight misinformation, but how effective is it?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Birdwatch is a new tool from Twitter in the fight against misinformation… in theory. But it could be overkill.



Twitter welcome screen open on large phone with stylus.

Social media has proven to be a blanket breeding ground for misinformation, and Twitter is most certainly not exempt from this rule. While we’ve seen hit-or-miss attempts from the notorious bird app to quell the spread of misinformation, their latest effort seems more streamlined—albeit a little overboard.

Birdwatch is a forthcoming feature from Twitter that will allegedly help users report misleading content. According to The Verge, Twitter has yet to release definitive details about the service. However, from leaked information, Birdwatch will serve the purpose of reporting misinformation, voting on whether or not it is truly misleading, and attaching notes to pertinent tweets.

Such a feature is still months away, so it appears that the upcoming election will take place before Birdwatch is officially rolled out.

There are a lot of positive sides to welcoming community feedback in a retaliation against false information, be it political in nature or otherwise. Fostering a sense of community responsibility, giving community members the option to report at their discretion, and including an option for a detailed response rather than a preset list of problems are all proactive ideas to implement, in theory.

Of course, that theory goes out the window the second you mention Twitter’s name.

The glaring issue with applying a community feedback patch to the rampant issue of misinformation on social media is simple: The misinformation comes from the community. A far cry from Twitter’s fact-checking warnings that appeared on relevant tweets earlier this year, Birdwatch—given what we know now—has every excuse to be more biased than any prior efforts.

Furthermore, the pure existence of misinformation on Twitter often results from the knee-jerk, short response format that tweets take. As such, expecting a lengthy form and vote application to fix the problem seems misguided. Simply reporting a tweet for being inaccurate or fostering harassment is already more of an involved process than most people are likely to partake in, so Birdwatch might be overdoing it.

As always, any effort from Twitter—or any social media company, for that matter—to crack down on the spread of misinformation is largely appreciated. Birdwatch, for all of its potential issues, is certainly a step in the right direction. Let’s just hope it’s an accessible step.

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