Opendoor CEO used scholarship cash to become big landlord

CNBC profile explored the personal experiences that led Eric Wu to found Opendoor, an iBuyer valued at $3.8B

In college, Opendoor CEO Eric Wu was an enterprising, if geeky, young man.

He used money from a scholarship at the University of Arizona to build a small rental empire during the housing boom, he revealed in a new CNBC profile. The article underlined his tech and property management expertise while offering some insight into how he developed a taste for real estate in the first place.

The venture began when he used student aid as a down payment to buy a three-bedroom home near Tucson, Arizona. He then rented out two of the rooms to cover living expenses.

More interested in coding and real estate than partying, he later refinanced the home for cash. Then he used the money for down payments to buy other homes. Wash, rinse, repeat. He boasted a portfolio of 25 homes by the time he graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in economics.

The CNBC profile served as a reminder that the top dog at the leading iBuyer, which is now valued at $3.8 billion, is intimately familiar with the rental market. It begs the question of whether Opendoor might choose to roll out some kind of rental offering.

Also highlighted in the article were Wu’s entrepreneurial chops. Wu co-founded neighborhood and landlord reviews site RentAdvsior in 2008. He also founded neighborhood data aggregator Movity, which launched out of the tech incubator Y Combinator in 2009, according to CNBC. RentAdvisor sold to Apartment List for an undisclosed amount in 2013. Meanwhile, Movity was acquired by Trulia in 2010.

Wu headed up Trulia’s geo and social products until 2013, before moving on to launch Opendoor in 2014.

Wu’s LinkedIn profile also indicates he’s a partner at Resolute Ventures. And according to the social media site, he’s also an advisor for Watsi, a crowdfunding platform “enabling anyone to donate as little as $5 to directly fund low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for people in need.”

Wu credited his interest in homeownership to his mother, who he told CNBC was “the most frugal woman in the world.”

A social worker and single mom, she “really hated wasting money, and [she] believed that renting was really a waste of money, so she bought her first home when I was 2,” Wu reportedly said. “That principle ended up sticking with me.”

Email Teke Wiggin.