I critique Brad Inman’s interview with Errol Samuelson
Ok. So I get this “Newsflash” from Inman offering the inside scoop on why Errol Samuelson left Move, Inc. for Zillow. So I watched it. I knew in advance that it was going to be a puff piece. No hard questions. Just a lot of “How does that make you feel?” softballs answered with “I really love innovation.” And of course the “I love Zillow” references in the typical first few comments to the video.
Oh, you did not see it? Here is a link. Feel free to have at it. I have nofollowed the links just link Zillow so often does on your listings, an indication that I do not trust the source. Accurate assessment. None of this 15 minutes of “I love innovation.” and “The guys at Zillow have vigorous debates!” matters at all. Seriously. Does this move the needle and change anything? Not a all.
So let me try to talk about what does indeed really matter, and let’s see if we can keep the main thing the main thing.
1) Zillow hired Errol and other executives away from Move because their market cap was roughly 10 times that of Move and they have the cash and burn rate to do so. And because buying executives is much less expensive than buying a whole company. Please someone disagree with me on this. I am not saying it is wrong. I AM saying that this is why it was done.
2) Zillow is NOT profitable, but it is awash in investors cash at the moment. Unless they GET profitable, their house of cards is likely to crumble. They NEEDED to have something to show investors and they CANNOT show a profitable company, so they did the next best thing. Buy executives who will tell everyone how cool of a company Zillow is and imply that Move is dead opposite and an old stick it the mud.
3) Errol is a very well spoken and slick PR person. That much is obvious. The fact that he left without any notice from the C-suite of a publicly traded firm makes his lack of morals and ethics is equally obvious. That is not a comment on Zillow. You had to know that they would take a shot at hiring him. The fact that he accepted and HOW he left is a comment on him personally.
4) Errol has added the role of some token software development which is what he spent most of his time talking about. He could be the janitor for all Zillow cares. The purpose in hiring him was to take him away from Move and not because he is some “wunderkind” that will add software development expertise to the equation. Seriously. And let’s be honest. He has NO value as a liason between Zillow and the industry. The industry is SUING him and ANYONE who thinks that Zillow did not think that the industry would have sued him is extremely shortsighted. So again, what is his value to Zillow? Investor Conference call show pony. Period.
5) It is now more apparent than ever that Zillow is LOOKING to make a deal with a big brokerage chain or to BECOME a big brokerage. That is the ONLY way that they can get to profitablility. Errol’s continued reference to the advertising model in the video is an insult. Your market cap is well over 3 Billion of a doggone website. You have virtually NO hard assets. House of cards? Cotton candy? Chinese food? ALL are applicable analogies.
6) Errol, you indicated that you are all about transparency. Were you transparent to your former employer that you were dissatisfied? Were you transparent that sans opportunities to grow you would be leaving? or did you simply screw them over on purpose? I think those are fair questions, sir.
So all in all, it is a nice attempt at a PR spin move for Friday afternoon, but lacks substance. Why REALLY did you leave for Zillow? It is the money. It is always about the money in the end, no? smh. Just my opinion.