Here are some quick observations. This one of those deals that’s easy to over-analyze.
I’m hearing a lot of talk about how shocking this acquisition is given Zillow’s long-held aversion to getting into the business-to-business software game.
It is true that the company has embraced a strategy of feeding its data and leads to existing industry software vendors through APIs rather than building its own applications. They have even mocked both Move and (pre-acquisition) Trulia for selling “bloatware” to agents and brokers. But I think it might be more accurate to say that Zillow had a long-held aversion to crappy software. dotloop is not crappy software. It’s really elegant, useful, nicely designed software. It’s no Market Leader – and that’s a good thing.
Still, it is a bit of head scratcher. My friend Greg Robertson over at Vendor Alley tweeted earlier today that this doesn’t seem like a deal that a “media” company would make, and he’s right. If “Zillow sells ads, not homes” is the company’s industry-calming mantra these days, buying a company that deals with the guts of the real estate transaction seems a little off strategy.
Which gets me to the politics. Man, could this get any more fraught??
There will be brokers livid that Z acquired a company used by several hundred thousand agents – their agents – to do transactions. I view most industry conflicts these days as battles for agent affection – portals, brokers, brands and tech vendors vying to have agents play in their sandbox.
dotloop is now Zillow’s sandbox. There will be blood.
On the other hand, I suspect Zillow’s message on this will be that dotloop is a natural extension of their mission to help agents acquire business. With dotloop, they can now manage that business. That’s true, and can be stated sincerely. But the conflict and politics will ensue nonetheless. If you’re a Zillow-loathing broker, this isn’t going to cool your jets.
I do think Zillow’s going to make a big effort to leverage dotloop as broker benefit. dotloop has a really nice broker dashboard and my hunch is Zillow will be giving it away to broker partners. They started giving free public record data to MLSs earlier this year; dotloop is where brokers could get finally some love. I like that.
But then there’s the data. Transaction data. Contracts. PII. signatures. If you think Zillow accessing listing data is a hot potato, you ain’t see nothing yet. Paranoia about this will be high.
Lastly, I want to say that Austin Allison is someone I admire greatly. We got a chance to do some brand and marketing work with dotloop and was always impressed with his vision, enthusiasm, smarts and character. He’s top shelf, and I’m happy for him.