Online real estate veteran Ian Morris first began making his mark on the real estate world about nine years ago when he starting working for Microsoft’s online real estate business. Now, he’s further cementing his role as industry pioneer by helping to take HouseValues public.
That pioneering spirit doesn’t surprise those who have worked with Morris. They say the Harvard Business School graduate is high energy, extremely smart and throws himself into opportunities he feels passionately about.
HouseValues Wednesday filed papers with the Securities Exchange Commission as a first step to go public. According to the SEC documents, HouseValues plans to raise $86.25 million in its initial public offering. The company generated revenues of $25.1 million in 2003 and $20.5 million for the six months ended June 30, 2004.
“The thing that makes (Morris) successful is he is brilliant and extremely focused on analytics,” said WMWorks principal Dick Ward, who worked with Morris at Microsoft. “He has the ability to ignore personal feelings and deal specifically with the business issues that are in front of him at the time. Those are CEO traits, no doubt. He is absolutely razor sharp at those kinds of things.”
Morris joined HouseValues in 2002 as its executive vice president and then served as the company’s chief operating officer before being promoted to CEO after his first year with the company. Under Morris’ leadership, HouseValues has become one of the fastest-growing online real estate companies. The company provides online marketing services to real estate agents and has been growing steadily since its inception five years ago. In May, HouseValues secured $14.5 million in investment funding.
His work has not gone unnoticed by the industry. Morris recently received a special Inman Innovator Award for “Individual Innovator,” which honors pioneers in online real estate, brokerage and mortgages. Morris also was named one of the real estate industry’s “most influential people,” by Realtor Magazine.
And although not formally recognized for it, Morris also has been known for his high-energy approach to everything. He can be squirrelly and neurotic, Ward said, constantly twiddling or twitching, shaking his hands or moving his feet.
“It’s like someone’s got him hooked up to an electric cord,” Ward said.
Before joining HouseValues, Morris spent seven years at Microsoft Corp., most recently as the general manager of MSN HomeAdvisor, the company’s online real estate channel. Brian Mistele, now CEO of Device Works, said not only is Morris obviously very smart all around, but he’s also a great marketer.
“He really understands marketing,” said Mistele, who was Morris’ boss for a time at Microsoft. “He really understands consumers and understands people and great messaging, and gets people really excited about something. It’s a great combination of salesperson and marketing.”
But he’s also full of integrity. Mistele said he’s found salespeople sometimes have a tendency to stretch the truth or to be not quite entirely honest. Not so with Morris.
“He calls it like it is,” said Mistele, who also was a classmate of Morris’ at Harvard. “That always impressed me about him.”
In talking with Morris, however, one finds that he’s extremely humble about his influence. In past interviews with reporters, he has always credited the company’s success to others, especially the agents who use the service.
In addition to his Harvard MBA, Morris holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bryant College. In a previous Inman profile, Morris said his first real job was working as a product manager for Aetna’s 401(k) unit. He said that playing for the Yankees was high on his list of things he dreamed of doing while growing up, and that if he could drop everything for one week, he’d spend that time writing for “Saturday Night Live.”
Running and tennis ranked high on his list of hobbies and interests, as did spending time with his family. That’s a side of Morris most people never see, Ward said. Instead, they only see the “high anxiety, high energy” Harvard Business School grad who is all numbers.
“He is a happy contented homeowner and a family man,” Ward said. “He is very devoted to his family.”
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