Redfin, the Seattle company that runs a real estate search and brokerage website, is trying its hand at the social sharing game. Today Redfin debuted an interesting new product today called Collections, a feature which lets people create and share groups of photos from homes that are currently listed for sale. The look of Redfin Collections will be familiar to anyone who has looked at Pinterest (or any of its copycats), but the key here is that you can click within any photo and go to the home’s listing on Redfin — and, if you want, buy it. Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman was in San Francisco today, so we invited him to stop by TechCrunch TV and talk a bit more about this new launch and catch up on Redfin in general. In all, it seems like Collections is just one part of a larger push from Redfin before the home selling season picks up again in January. In the video embedded above, Kelman talks about Collections as well as a new mobile home touring feature that is getting some solid traction, and how this all plays into real estate as a “spectator sport.”
Kelman also gave some great details on Redfin’s overall status as a business. The company is on track to log more than $50 million in revenue for 2012, Kelman told us, and currently has some 500 staffers on its payroll, the bulk of whom are actual real estate agents who sell houses exclusively through the site. This model of actually hiring agents and serving as a brokerage sets Redfin apart from sites such as Trulia and Zillow, which display homes that are for sale but leave the actual brokerage and selling of homes for agents to do themselves.
Those major differences aside, Redfin is eyeing a similar strategy in terms of “exits” as Trulia and Zillow have — namely, filing for an IPO at some point as a method of providing a return on its $46 million total venture capital investment. “I do think that this can be an independent publicly traded company. It was built from the start to be that way, we have no ambition to be bought by anybody.” But in terms of timing, Kelman was obtuse: “I don’t know when it’s going to happen, it doesn’t behoove me to talk about that.”
He also made a really interesting point about why he’s built Redfin to operate as an actual brokerage, rather than exclusively a real estate search site. He says this focus on selling a distinct and tangible service has insulated it a bit from feeling the kind of issues that other consumer Internet firms have lately. He said:
“In some way, the media companies’ pain is our gain. We can just get traffic at lower cost as some of the consumer Internet companies in the media space struggle. …When people talk about what’s going on with the consumer Internet, they just assume that the consumer Internet can consist exclusively of media companies. There’s gotta be more to what we’re doing in Silicon Valley than just running ads for other people. The reason I came here was to change the game, to be disruptive, to walk down the street and make traditional industries shake in their boots. And I think if you’re just a media company, it’s harder to do that.”
Watch the video embedded above in its entirety to hear Kelman talk more about Redfin’s social and mobile push, where the real estate market as a whole is at the moment, and also to watch him get caught with a personal phone call during our interview (apparently he’s a stickler with making sure his own staffers have their phones off during meetings, so it was kind of fun to see him mess up — so, sorry Glenn, we left it in the final video.)