- The former Trulia CEO has watched the Trulia and Zillow Group merger "coming to life."
- Now he's joined an invite-only startup accelerator, NFX Guild, as a partner.
- NFX Guild mentors startups across a range of industries. A current enrollee is GoldenKey, a pay-as-you-go real estate services marketplace.
- He sees the digitization of data and transactions, increased computing power, open-source platforms and blockchain driving real estate innovation.
Pete Flint cooled his heels after selling Trulia to Zillow a year ago.
The former Trulia CEO has served on Zillow Group’s board, also advising and investing in startups at his leisure.
“After 10 years of starting and building Trulia, I kind of needed to recharge my batteries,” he said.
He’s watched “the vision that we outlined at the [Zillow-Trulia merger] coming to life,” he said. For example, Zillow’s Premier Agent app, which recently unveiled new features, is a project that sprouted at Trulia and has blossomed under Zillow Group, he said.
“That was one of a number of opportunities that we identified as part of the merger’s discussions about providing software to the broader base of real estate agents,” he said, in a comment that highlights the key role of the app to Zillow Group’s growth strategy.
But now Flint — who was also part of the founding team of lastminute.com, a company that sold for $1.1 billion — has put an end to his honeymoon. He’s signed on to the startup accelerator NFX Guild, joining Silicon Valley luminaries James Currier, Gigi Weiss and Stan Chudnovsky as a partner.
NFX Guild, an “invite-only” startup accelerator, focuses on fueling growth “predominantly” through what the group’s acronym stands for: “network effects.”
Flint describes network effects as the principle that, in certain businesses, a product’s value depends on its number of users.
Fax machines aren’t useful unless lots of people have them. The same goes for Facebook, Airbnb and Trulia, he said, with the last two becoming more useful with with every listing added.
NFX Guild runs two three-month programs a year for classes of around 20 startups that combine a training curriculum and one-and-one advice from a group of startup founders.
Flint joins NFX as the tech accelerator expands its portfolio of startups from 45 to 65. Depending on their stage of development, enrollees can hand over 3 to 7 percent of their equity to NFX for anywhere from $40,000 to $120,000 in funding.
NFX alumni and enrollees with a real estate focus include brokerage services marketplace GoldenKey (formerly SoloPro), office-booking site LiquidSpace, and Zeus, a furnished-rental site.
NFX has been dishing out funding from a $15 million venture fund backed by NFX Guild partners and leading venture-capital firms CRV, Greylock Partners, Shasta Ventures and Mayfield Fund.
It’s looking to raise a second fund of about $100 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.
‘I’m looking for intros’
“Given that becoming an NFX Guild company is an invite-only process, I’m looking out for intros from my network to great founders and early stage companies, please get in touch,” Flint wrote in a blog post.
NFX is not focused on real estate. It’s sniffing out startups that span a wide range of industries.
Flint said he’s particularly interested in artificial intelligence (AI), fintech (financial tech), transactional startups and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), among other areas.
As a tech doyen who’s observed the industry develop over the last year, what does Flint think are the biggest tech trends shaping real estate today?
Still a Zillow Group board member, he can’t gab too much.
But Flint thinks the digitization of data and the real estate transaction, increased computing power and open-source platforms are combining to “create many opportunities I think both for incumbents as well as the startups.”
Zillow Group has seized on some of these opportunities to steadily improve the accuracy of the Zestimate, he said.
By digitizing currency, payment and authentication, he also sees blockchain, a technology that uses a distributed ledger to prevent tampering, as a source of real estate innovation.
Blockchain has already impacted real estate in countries with limited government involvement in the industry, though he said, “I think we’re way off in the U.S. from employing it in any meaningful scale.”
Having worked with Opendoor founder Eric Wu and Knock founders Jamie Glenn and Sean Black, what’s Flint’s take on these companies?
“I believe that the network effects which are at the heart of the Zillow and Trulia models and what I’m focused on at NFX Guild are core to their resilience and will make them much stronger long-term businesses than newer companies like Opendoor,” he said.
“NFX Guild has done research that the majority of value created by the technology industry over the last several decades comes from companies that heavily exploit network effects.”
“Successful scaling for the newer, more transactional startups like Opendoor and Knock will be down in a large part to their ability to raise capital, given they are purchasing homes,” he added. (Opendoor hasn’t lagged in this respect so far, having raised $320 million in equity and $400 million in debt.)