GigaOM Mobilize: Zillow Tackling Mobile

This is another posting about GigaOM Mobilize conference in San Francisco.  If you missed the one on Mobilizing the Enterprise.  Check it out.

Alright.  So, I generally like hearing companies talk about mistakes that they’ve made in the past when it comes to mobile, starting up, launching, etc.  It helps me make a mental note of what not to do.  Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, a real estate search engine, took the stage at Mobilize to talk about “Getting to #1 through Mobility”.  What I like about Zillow is that I can take any address and find out what the Zillow market rate is.  Also, the mobile app is great especially when I’m in a desired neighborhood and quickly find out that the homes are out of my price range.  Thanks Zillow for reminding me that I’m dirt poor in the Valley (in comparison to other Valley ballers).

Mobile is the “it” topic at every company.  I keep hearing time and time again, we must think of mobile, we must think of mobile.  Yes, I agree, but how are we going to think about mobile differently from others.  Mobile doesn’t equate to just designing for a smaller screen.  It needs to be injected in all aspects of a company.  At Zillow, they think about mobile in a way that often gets overlooked by others.  For example, all the projectors in the meeting rooms have mobile dongles.  I’ve never seen that before.  Imagine whipping out a phone and showing what the native app or mobile web looks like on the projector.  At my work, I’m happy to find Mac dongles in every conference room.  Baby steps for me.  Another thing that Zillow does is make an effort to have their mobile-friendly emails sent to their users.  I can’t tell you how annoyed I get when I receive email from Yahoo! groups and LinkedIn on my iPhone.  I either can’t read the text because it was too small or the indentation is so bad that there are skinny columns of text.

With a lot of mobile to do, how does Zillow do it all?  When it comes to talent, Zillow realized that it was difficult to find great mobile developers.  So they shifted recruitment to finding great developers who can learn mobile development.  Nice.

Mobile monetization is on every exec’s mind.  People spend a lot of time using their phones so how can companies cash in.  Zillow makes money by connecting users to realtors (e.g., one click call to real estate agent) while providing realtors a subscription advertising platform and premiere real estate agent tools.  However, other companies struggle to find the right balance of good monetization and good user experience.  Companies like Twitter and Facebook, who have locked in users, will provide advertisers different ad products, but they may or may not deliver results depending on receptiveness of the users.  Eventually, advertisers may just take their money elsewhere.

Needless to say, Zillow has a solid business model and I’m excited to see what more they will deliver on mobile.

Zill Stats

  • started in 2006
  • 600 employees
  • 1/2 usage is on mobile
  • 30M users per month
  • 13 native mobile apps – iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Kindle, Windows, etc
  • Users are 3 times more likely to contact a real estate agent than using other sites