The best pandemic in Silicon Valley history

On March 13, 2020, Glenn Kelman, CEO of online real estate broker Redfin, commute by bike when he was called by Henry Ellenbogen, a longtime investor in Redfin who started his fund. I did.

At Harvard, Ellenbogen majored in the history of technology. One of the big things he learned was that technology was developed well before people’s abilities and willingness to use it.

“Tell me something,” Ellenbogen asked Kelman. According to the account The CEO posted on the Redfin website. “When people start touring their homes via the iPhone, many people decide that this is a good way to see a home, even after all this pandemic is over? And buying and selling a home? How would other brokerage firms compete with you if this entire process was almost virtualized? “

Kelman, who is a little obsessed with Seattle’s normally busy streets being eerily empty, said he didn’t know.

“Yes,” said Ellenbogen. “The world is changing in your favor.”

This was not the general view at the time, nor was it what Mr. Kelman was experiencing. The first confirmed death from the coronavirus in the United States was on February 29 at a nursing home in the suburbs of Seattle. Within hours, the homeowner decided that a stranger didn’t want to breathe in the living room or bedroom. Buyers have also begun to pull out.

For Redfin, that was the beginning of the crisis. Within a few days, we closed 78 offices nationwide. The stock plunged and lost two-thirds of its value.

“The magnitude of the decline was increasing every day,” Kelman said. He agreed to sell the stake to Ellenbogen for an additional $ 110 million, believing that Redfin might need cash to survive the long drought. In early April, Kelman fired 41% of the company’s agents, who are paid employees. Over 1,000 people were affected.

The best pandemic in Silicon Valley history

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