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Deal Radar 2008: Zillow

Posted on Thursday, Jan 10th 2008

Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, founders of Expedia, launched Zillow, a real estimate site in Feb 2005. Zillow is known for providing free home valuations called Zestimates, which are somewhat accurate. Zillow also provides house specs, graphing, mapping, and analysis tools. Zillow launched Smart Search along with enhanced Neighborhood Pages that makes it easier for consumers to zero-in on homes. The Company has 155 employees and is based in Seattle, WA.

In September 2007, Zillow raised $30 million financing led by Legg Mason Capital Management, along with prior investors Benchmark Capital, Technology Crossover Ventures and PAR Capital. It has earlier raised $25 million in July 2006 and $32 million October 2005.

So why are investors funneling these large sums of money into Zillow?

Borell Associates predicts that by 2012, newspaper real estate ad revenue will hit $3.2 billion while online real estate ad revenue will surpass that at $3.4 billion. In 2007, total ad spending on real estate dropped 3%, but online advertising soared 25.8% to $2.6 billion due to a shift from print to online. The rate of online growth is expected at around 12% this year and beyond.

Zillow had 4.4 million unique visitors in August 2007. Zillow has over 1 million registered users. The site has more than 70 million U.S. homes in its database and has 50,000 registered real estate agents.

Zillow earns revenues from advertising. The site charges one penny per ad view, i.e., a CPM of $10. Zillow’s partner uLocate, which operates on mobile networks, charges $2.99 / month for its subscription.

Zillow was valued at $350 Million when it raised $30 million in new financing in September 2007. But then we had the housing crash and currently the Company is struggling with monthly visitors falling below 3.5 million and the average stay on Zillow is down 18.6%.

Zillow could be a good acquisition target for real estate sites like Zip Realty or Move, who are struggling to hold on to their lead. Valuation expectations, however, would be problematic, given the amount of investor money in the company. Zillow could also be a good acquisition target for newspaper companies like McClatchy, NYT, etc. who have seen real estate ad revenues dwindle. Other players who could be interested in acquiring Zillow would be new media companies like News Corp. and AOL.

Recently, Zillow signed a real estate advertising deal with 11 newspaper publishers (282 U.S. newspapers). The deal allows local advertisers who advertise on any one of these newspapers to place ad on Zillow as well. Nice move. The roll out will be in the first half of 2008.

In my Web 3.0 thesis, a combination of Zillow (Content, Community) and Trulia (Vertical Search), along with ZipRealty (Commerce) in the Real Estate Vertical (Context) could be very interesting.

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008


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Hi Sramana,

Thanks for the mention. It can be difficult to maintain momentum in a depressed housing market, but wee think we’re on the right track. Our traffic grew 3x in 2007, and our monthly unique visitors were higher than Zillow’s in December according to comScore (you can see it in yesterday’s techcrunch article).

melissa @ trulia Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 8:54 PM PT

If I were a betting man, and I am, I would bet that Trulia and Zillow combined did less than $20 million in revenue last year. In fact, I would bet the under on $17 million combined. There is a huge disconnect in valuation between public .com companies and private .com companies.

MOVE (Realtor.com) is worth $300-400 million market with $100m+ in cash in the bank and $300 million in revenues. They have almost 10% market share in a highly fragmented market. Does anyone really think Zillow and Realtor.com should be worth the same. One company breaks even at $300m in revenues and has 10% market share; the other loses money, has yet to generate much over $10m in a year, and has 2% market share.

Legg Mason’s endorsement and investment means nothing. Bill Miller & Legg Mason also took a position in HouseValues and lost money (they own 20%.) Legg Mason also took a bath on CountryWide and Bear Stearns. They have been overly optimistic on real estate. They are the dumb money when it comes to venture-type investing.

On a pure unique visitors basis: Look at Internet Brands, NameMedia, Marchex, CNET, etc…Internet Brands has 32 million unique visitors per month…6 times that of Zillow. InternetBrands has a valuation of $330 million with $100 million in cash. That means $230m for 32 million uniques: $7 million in public valuation for 1 million unique monthly visitors. Zillow has 5 million according to their numbers. This means $35 million in valuation from a public company perspective. But Internet Brands is profitable.

Zillow has a $87 million liquidation preference with a dividend yield that I’m sure has accrued to over $10 million. Even if Zillow is worth 5 times Internet Brands on a traffic basis, it’s only $175 million. That’s not a lot for 150 person company.

My prediction is 20-50 person layoffs in the 4th quarter when revenues are anemic for the year and the next round of financing doesn’t look rosy. No IPO and a potential down round will cause layoffs late 3rd quarter or early 4th.

billythekid Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 7:55 AM PT