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Ladies and Gentlemen – Meet the Flintstones

In the evolutionary chain of technology, I am somewhere between the Greg Swanns and Dustin Luthers of this world and, well, the Flintstones. Let’s just call me the missing link.

My generation wasn’t born into a world where computers, much less websites and blogs and mash-ups and code, existed. With each new technological advancement, we boomers learned to adapt or face extinction. The majority of us have learned just enough to be dangerous; given enough interest and perceived benefit, we have watched those around us and learned to apply the tools as they were introduced into our society. As for our parents and grandparents, meet the Flintstones. For many (most) of this segment, information technology was introduced too late in their era. My grandmother loves her computer to play Solitaire, but you will never find her converting a PDF to a JPEG or hanging out in a chat room. For all practical purposes, she is a dinosaur. Then there are our children. They have never know a world without personal computers, digital cameras, scanning and faxing. They will not remember a time without YouTube or MySpace except when these things are replaced with more advanced applications.

So, here comes the Redfin segue. Steve and I have been having some lengthy discussions lately about the Redfin model and its potential for broad success. Sure, we are a little short in the recreational-life category, but it has been a topic of discussion because I was recently invited to meet with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman to “chat”. This being the eve of that meeting, it seemed apropos to reflect on the topic.

From my vantage point, this is the $64 question: How will Redfin succeed where so many others have failed? Or, rather, who is their audience? HelpUSell, Zip Realty and other discount business models have had a limited audience at best; they are not, nor do I believe they will ever be, setting the world on fire and achieving significant market share. Of course, Redfin is approaching the issue from a standing-on-their-head perspective. While they pay lip service to the listing side of the equation, their real target is the coop fee and the buyer. I’m no Warren Buffet, but I think it safe to say that they can not survive by capturing only the limited market of card-carrying do-it-yourselfers. As Steve points out, there are simply too few of these to fill the seats and the box receipts would be insufficient to continue producing the show. Therefore, I suspect that they have a long-term vision of success involving preying on the young.

The young, the Jetsons, are more than comfortable with all things web-based and are more than willing to spend hours upon empowered hours at the keyboard. It is too late for the Flintstones, of course. They will continue to shun disintermediation. Which leaves us with the biggest segment of the home buying pool – The missing link.

Where the internet revolution is concerned, I can hold my own, but like most of my peers, I have to balance competing demands. Taking the average home buyer, they could spend their time looking under every Zillow and Realtor.com and Trulia and Oodle rock to find their dream home, and they could learn enough about the dynamics and mechanics and legalities of the process to ensure at least a modicum of protection, and they could associate with a Redfin to facilitate the consummation of their purchase to “save money”. Why won’t they? They have those “job-things”. They have families. They have many obligations, many interests, and limited time. Jeff Turner said it best. He is certainly knowledgeable and capable enough to do it himself, but he doesn’t want to be disintermediated. For me, I could certainly re-roof my home given enough time to research and implement the project; I’m a smart girl. I simply choose not to. I find it a much wiser, much more mature approach to pay someone to do what they do so that I can focus on doing what I do.

Which leaves us with the Jetsons. If I am correct in my assessment that this is indeed the audience to which Redfin wishes to perform, I think they may find some initial applause, but there will be no encore. Our children, teenagers, twenty-somethings are going to one day find themselves with those “job-things” and with families and with social interests… and with limited time.

Why did Glenn schedule a meeting with me? Redfin is coming to San Diego. Why did he think it was important that he tell me personally (immediately prior to his scheduled meeting with the San Diego Union Tribune)? Free marketing, of course. I have dutifully obliged. Now I am looking forward to hearing just how he plans on shaking the very Bedrock of our industry.

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  • 13 comments

    13 Comments so far

    1. [...] See our related post at the Bloodhound Blog. [...]

    2. Dustin January 30th, 2007 11:01 am

      Kris,

      You clearly underestimate yourself as you are clearly thriving in this online world!

      Meeting with Glenn is inevitable a memorable experience… :)

    3. Kris Berg January 30th, 2007 11:03 am

      Oh-oh. Does this mean I need to wear my “fancy” clothes?

    4. ardell dellaloggia January 31st, 2007 10:47 am

      No one in Seattle wears fancy clothes :) It’s the home of grundge where dress casual is considered dressed up. Microsoft and Google employees (and many others) pride themselves on the fact that they can wear shorts and bike to work. In fact most companies here offer incentives for those who bike or take the bus to work.

      It’s a fabulous society where the dress expectation is khaki shorts and a tea shirt for boys and comfortable shoes for women. I personally like fancy rain boots.

      I’m wondering if meeting Glenn will have the same effect on you that it did on me. We want a full report.

    5. Kris Berg January 31st, 2007 11:16 am

      Ardell,

      We are going to try to podcast the meeting. I’ll report back. (Compromised on the attire – Black jeans, elegant in their simplicity. :))

      And, exactly what “effect” did it have, or would that be giving away too much?

    6. ardell dellaloggia February 1st, 2007 1:38 am

      I don’t want to inluence your thinking in any way. I’ll be happy to compare notes after you do it. But he’s right here you know…not like some “visiting dignitary” to San Diego LOL. Just one of the guys around here. and you know, to me he’s one of the young Geeky Boys like Dustin and Galen and Robbie. It’s kind of cool to be older than everyone :)

      I’ am SO Happy that Greg put the pictue to all Kris’ posts in for me. I missed you. I mentioned it in my interview with Dustin and WaLA…ask and it show be given to you.

      Not that I don’t read some of the others. But being able to click on all of Kris’ without waded through is really getting me back in touch with your writings.

      Sorry for the no visit to SoCal. We opted for the Rockabilly Convention in Vegas April 5-8 instead.

    7. Kris Berg February 1st, 2007 8:00 am

      Ardell, First of all, let me express my amazement at the time stamp on your last comment. When do you sleep?

      Speaking from our shared vantage point of being older than everyone else, my date with the “devil” was absolutely delightful and way too short. All work and no play. Glenn and his marketing Bwana, Cynthia, were charming, fun and (to my surprise, actually) sincerely comitted to their cause philosophically.

      Most importantly, when I mentioned that my children were 14 1/2 and 17 years old, he suggested that I must have had them “very young” (which in fact, they were, but I wasn’t). So straight-faced was the delivery that, for just a second, I almost believed he believed it. Gotta love him!

      The podcast will come next week. In the meantime, I will tell you that I had such a nice time that I did not request a 2/3rd rebate on my bottle of water. I perceived value and was willing to “pay” for it, which leaves us with the inherent flaw in their model. (Okay, they bought the water).

      Glad to hear that you diverted to Vegas. I was started to think I had been stood up.

    8. Kevin Boer February 1st, 2007 5:20 pm

      Kris, I met Glenn at Inman in New York, and he’s a stand-up guy, very sincere, very committed to innovation, and — as evidenced by his time in the ring with Alan Dalton — willing to take the punches.

      I have a different take on Redfin’s future; rather than its current client base abandoning them and going with more traditional Realtors, I suspect Redfin will do a “Charles Schwab” and simply move upmarket with them.

    9. Kris Berg February 1st, 2007 5:24 pm

      Kevin,

      Glenn mentioned meeting you, actually. It seems you and I share a distaste for his Google sidebar ad wording. :)

      Don’t know that I agree with your outcome, but we won’t know until we know. I’ll give him credit for trying.

    10. ardell dellaloggia February 2nd, 2007 12:04 am

      “Glenn and his marketing Bwana, Cynthia, were charming, fun and (to my surprise, actually) sincerely comitted to their cause philosophically.”

      That’s what I was hoping you would see and I didn’t want to convey in advance. As you said, “Gotta love him!”. The Sweet Digs girls who write on the blog are amazing women. Even when I’m “fighting” with them, I just gotta love them. I love Seattle. The people are truly amazing here.

    11. Cynthia Pang February 5th, 2007 6:02 pm

      Hi Kris – thanks for the compliment, I think … isn’t Bwana a masculine term for master?! That would make me Glenn’s boss … I think I like that :)

      Seriously, it was great to meet you and next time we’ll focus more on fun.

      Looking forward to our next get-together,
      Cynthia

    12. Kris Berg February 5th, 2007 7:47 pm

      Actually, Cynthia, in context it makes you the boss or master of marketing. By inference, it undoubtedly makes you Glenn’s master. You go, girl!

    13. 360Digest » Thank you Mr. Kelman February 9th, 2007 5:00 am

      [...] Kris Berg called this the Flinstones v.s. The Jetsons. Redfin, by pandering and selling to Rebel Consumer who demonstrates his nonconformity by his purchasing habits, ensure themselves a clientele by feeding this kind of buyer/seller’s need to be seen as an outsider smashing convention, and Redfin is there helping to feed this delusion funded by a dwindling $8M in venture capital. These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]