Rich Barton and Zillow

Nov 4, 2021

What do Zillow, Glassdoor, and Expedia all have in common?

(1) They all unlock information marketplaces that were previously hidden.
(2) They are $1 billion+ companies (Zillow & Expedia are $10 billion+).
(3) They all share a cofounder, Rich Barton.

“giving consumers access to information and databases that they knew existed because they either saw or heard professionals over the phone clacking away on a keyboard accessing that information” – Rich Barton

Zillow made the tough call last week to halt its algorithmic home buying service. The stock slid nearly 25%. Zillow is currently listing many of these properties at a loss.

Worse yet, Barton came back to Zillow in 2019 and started this program to compete with fast-growing competitors like Opendoor. Ben Thompson in Stratechery puts this decision in great perspective:

Again, Zillow Offers was Barton’s responsibility, so he deserves blame, but at the same time, that makes the fact he looked at the business logically instead of emotionally that much more impressive. Of course the best time to avoid making a strategic mistake is at the beginning; the next best time — and the far more difficult time, given sunk costs — is the moment you realize the decision was wrong.

Even the great leaders make mistakes sometimes, but it takes the best of them to admit it!