Monthly Archives: July 2011

Things Go In Cycles: The Return of Walled Gardens?

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again."

It’s a hot Saturday morning here in Houston, and the sunlight is so strong you can almost feel the weight of it on your skin. Maybe it’s early onset of sunstroke, but I felt like musing on random things. Feel free to skip this post; it isn’t likely to be useful to anyone.

But I’m thinking about Google+ more, about Internet 2.0, and human beings. I wonder if the future — what we might term Internet 2.0 — will simply be a return of the walled gardens of the early days of the Internet. Things go in cycles. The Wheel of Time turns.

Continue reading

Quick Question on Zillow’s IPO


Team Zillow in Times Square for IPO.

As I’m sure you all have heard by now, Zillow has gone public this morning and at least the first day’s worth of trading has been beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Zillow priced its offering at $20 per share, way above the original $12-14 range, and in immediate trading, the stock went as high as $60. It is unknown where it will settle, but… that’s now a game for Wall Street traders.

I did have a quick question for y’all, though, because some of you are really smart folks in the real estate industry. This paragraph from GigaOM:

And all this from a company that has yet to turn a profit. Zillow made nearly $30.5 million in revenue in 2010, but ultimately posted a net loss of about $6.8 million for the year, according to regulatory filings. Ostensibly, the $70 million Zillow made in Wednesday morning’s IPO will be put toward initiatives that will boost the business’ bottom line.

So… what initiatives was Zillow unable to do in the past to boost the bottom line that it will now be able to do with an extra $70 million in funding? How do you think Spencer and team will spend that money to improve profitability?

Marketing? Technology? More salespeople? What would Zillow have to do to become more valuable/extract more money from the real estate broker/agent?

Speculate away! I doubt we’ll get authoritative answers from anyone at NASDAQ: Z since those are forward-looking statements. :) I’m curious what the community thinks these initiatives will be.




Curious Things Are Afoot, Part 3: Google Plus and the New Paradigm

Some people have too much endurance... and time...

In Part Two, we looked at how social might impact real estate, if it is in fact taken very seriously indeed.  All of it triggered by the acquisition of by Move, signaling a major strategic move into social.

In yet another display that the universe has a sense of humor, the announcement came at the heel of Google+ being released to the public. If you have even a passing interest in things social media, you’ve probably been playing around with Google+, reading various opinions about it, and either loving it, or hating it.

Initially, I thought Google+ was evidence that Sergey Brin and Co. had too much money. Since they don’t know what else to do with all that cash, I figure they said, “Hey, let’s just make a Facebook clone; that’s only a $100 billion company.”

But an incredibly clever presentation, done via photos on Google+, made me rethink. And now I believe Google+ might be a sign of something rather visionary. That is a Curious Thing that has strapped on sneakers, so let’s take a look at it.

Continue reading

Curious Things Are Afoot, Part 2: Commodities, Power, and Change

Any excuse to post this picture...

In Part One, we congratulated Ernie Graham and his team at SocialBios for getting acquired. I hope he picked out a nice Lamborghini Reventon in taxicab yellow.

The second Curious Thing that came about just as Move was announcing its acquisition of SocialBios was the confluence of two seemingly unrelated things. Making sense out of unrelated things — that’s what we do here.

First, over on Notorious ROB, I wrote about the terrible June jobs report, and the statement by Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of NAR, that because of “shrinkage” in the real estate industry, most REALTORS would see a bump in their personal income.  That is, pie might be shrinking, but the number of people who want to eat pie is shrinking even faster.

Second, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it would not enforce MARS (Mortgage Assistance Relief Services) regulations against licensed real estate brokers and agents. From the statement:

In recent months, a number of real estate brokers and agents (“real estate professionals”) and their representatives have contacted the Commission to question the applicability of certain provisions of the MARS Rule to real estate professionals who assist consumers in obtaining short sales. In particular, these persons have raised concerns about the accuracy and comprehensibility of the disclosures mandated by the Rule, and the unintended consequences that might result from application of the advance fee ban, in the context of a real estate professional assisting a consumer in negotiating or obtaining a short sale. [Emphasis mine.]

As a result, except for certain provisions having to do with misrepresentation, real estate agents are not subject to MARS rules as long as they are licensed and in good standing, and working on a short sale. Behold the power of NAR.

What the hell do these two things have to do with each other, nevermind with social and real estate? Has Rob finally gone over the edge? Read on, but as always, caveat lector.

Continue reading

Curious Things Are Afoot, Part 1: Move Acquires SocialBios

This is the first part of what I think will be a three-part examination of some rather curious things I’ve been seeing.

First of all, I’m sure other sites will be announcing the news that MOVE has acquired the startup SocialBios. From the press release:

Move, Inc. (Nasdaq: MOVE), the leader in online real estate, today announced its acquisition of SocialBios, an award-winning social search platform. SocialBios allows individuals and companies to create one social hub for their online profiles through interactive ‘About Us’ pages that simplify the discovery of shared connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare and Google without sacrificing their privacy.

The acquisition of SocialBios points to Move’s acceleration into the area of social and its integration into the real estate search experience throughout Move’s online real estate network. As a result, Move will leverage the SocialBios platform and talent to develop products that connect people with real estate professionals based on the commonalities of their on- and offline social networks..

As part of the acquisition, SocialBios founder Ernie Graham and co-founders Ira McMahon and Andrew Van Tassel have joined the product development team at Move, Inc. Graham, who will head up Move’s social product strategy and development team, will work with the Move’s franchise and broker customers to develop social graphing strategies that help them facilitate more connections between their agents and brokers with consumers.

I wrote about SocialBios a few months ago when I met Ernie Graham, and the events of that evening are sealed under a blood oath of secrecy. But suffice to say I thought he is a smart guy, and what’s better, a great fella to boot. SocialBios won the ‘Best Tech Startup’ award at Inman NY earlier this year, and now the founders have gotten fabulously rich (or so one hopes).

So congratulations to Ernie and his team, as they now move into the tightly-controlled PR environment of the publicly traded company. Henceforth, he and his whole staff are going to have to learn how to keep their mouths shut lest they make forward looking statements of some sort. <grin>

But that news alone is not worthy of a post. So what makes this interesting? Read on, but caveat lector.

Continue reading