This year’s Power Forward Speaker Series featuring Spencer Rascoff was a master class in real estate and the art of navigating pitfalls as a tech entrepreneur.
The ninth annual event was co-presented Thursday by First Commerce Credit Union and the Florida State University Office of Research at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall at FSU. The Tallahassee Democrat is also a Power Forward sponsor.
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For roughly an hour, Rascoff offered insight on a broad spectrum of topics, including: treating employees well, being mission minded, taking time to disconnect and learning valuable lessons early on in his career.
By 23, the Harvard University graduate learned the value of being a strategic risk taker.
He cut his teeth at Texas Pacific Group, a large investment firm that got its start buying Continental Airlines out of bankruptcy and later American West Airlines. It was there he got the idea for Hotwire.com, a discount travel website, prompting him to leave the firm and launch his own company.
“We did a number of things to make sure that this company has survived,” Rascoff said. “The first thing we did was cut and cut deep. We went from about 200 employees to about 150 employees. We didn’t raise more capital. We did what’s called a down round, meaning we raised money from our venture capitalists at a lower price than the prior one.”
Rascoff shared the highs and lows, most notably the impact the Sept. 11 terrorist attack had on the travel-based startup. For a while, no one wanted to fly. Rascoff said major changes were necessary, including layoffs and a hard pivot to hotel booking. It worked and allowed the company to be sold, which offered a path to create a new venture.
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He later co-founded Zillow, a consumer-first real estate website that gave buyers and sellers information that was largely unknown to them at them at the time.
Handy real estate tips
During a Q&A session at the Power Forward event, Rascoff rattled off a string of useful real estate tips:
- The best time to sell your house is in early spring, late February or early March. This gives sellers a jump on other houses that are listed in regular spring.
- A Saturday or Sunday is the best day to list your home.
- Make the listing a whole number, such as 400,000 instead of $405,000
- In California, which attracts many international buyers that include those from Asia, putting the number eight into the price can be beneficial. In Asian culture, the number is considered lucky.
- Remodeling or a meaningful facelift to the kitchen or bathroom can make a listing more attractive
Work culture and ChatGPT
He also touched on how to overcome labor challenges and encouraged companies to look to expand their talent search for remote workers, adding his employees gather in person routinely for quarterly meetings. But, he said, the remote model was in place at his companies before the pandemic and continues to be the optimum choice for him.
“When Zillow was an in-office culture, no remote work, we got very creative about recruiting,” Rascoff said. “Just try to be a little bit creative and sort of fish where your competitors are not efficient.”
Other questions from the audience involved whether to identify a professional mentor and the rise of artificial intelligence, which Rascoff said will become more and more common.
When talking about artificial intelligence, he said “ChatGPT” was the most searched term on Google last week because of a new bot feature coming out of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research and deployment company.
He said major search engines, including Google and Microsoft, are slated to launch Large Language Models or “LLM” into their platforms, which allows artificial intelligence to talk back to the user.
When asked what’s his take on this, Rascoff said: It’s fascinating. It’s going to change everything.
Contact Reporter TaMaryn Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Zillow co-founder shares real estate tips, work culture at Power Forward event