Innovation is sometimes difficult to see coming. Ask newspaper executives about what happened to revenue from real estate classifieds when, Zillow and Trulia came along.

Or maybe entrepreneur Rich Barton — co-founder and executive chairman of Zillow and current partner at Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Benchmark Capital — would be the better one to ask. Barton has been on the front edge of innovation in real estate, travel and employment for the last two decades.

He’ll share what he sees coming at Real Estate Connect New York City opening day from the main stage in a presentation titled "What is the Next Big Thing?"

Rich Barton

Before starting Zillow in 2005 (where he served as CEO until 2010, when Spencer Rascoff took over), Barton founded Expedia, now the world’s largest travel site, serving as president and CEO until 2003.

Barton is also co-founder and chairman of, a site where employees rate and review companies, see how salaries stack up, search for jobs and see where people work in their extended Facebook network.

Barton responded to a few questions posed by Inman News:

What technology are you watching closely?

I’m most interested in thinking about how the smartphone/mobile revolution is going to empower consumers around the world. A quarter billion smartphones were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012.

What was your favorite technology of 2012? Anything you consider innovative that stood out?

A very interesting little company that Benchmark Capital invested in last year is called SnapChat. I will talk more about it on stage, but it is a continuation of the Facebook, Instagram photo-sharing phenomenon. It was founded by two 22-year-old kids. Fifty million-plus images are shared on the platform each day.

What’s next for technology as it relates to Zillow and what it does in the real estate space?

Big vectors for Zillow are mobile, rentals, mortgages and professional tools.

How are you advising Zillow to take advantage of technology?

At Zillow, we’ve always had a deep bench of world-class technologists. As we’ve ramped up, adding important visionaries from the real estate industry, having them work together with our development team is to everyone’s advantage. We are technology optimists and aggressively adopt new platforms as they emerge (e.g., mobile, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).

Any technology you think that people may overlook? Anything coming from left field?

Watch what the kids are doing. Be young. Be a learn-it-all.

What trends in consumer behavior do you see as ripe for technology to serve?

People want power. Technology continues to evolve rapidly to give power to the people. There is no end in sight. Technology’s impact on society is only accelerating. It’s a bit nauseating, I know, but I see no end.

Rich Barton will speak at Real Estate Connect New York City this week at the Grand Hyatt New York.

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