Near the closing bell of 2010, Trulia makes a move

Trulia announced today that it has acquired Movity, a still-in-private-beta startup that uses data visualizations to help people determine where to live.

You can see some of their work here and here.

A few quick thoughts on this deal:

    1. This strikes me as a talent acquisition more than anything else. That was my read on the press release, but it’s also likely the Movity guys, moved by fragile visions of real estate disruption, quickly learned that they’d better hitch their wagon to a company that had already fought the hard real estate battles. Moreover, Trulia toyed with creative data visualizations 2007 and 2008 (with Stamen Design, a shop from which one of the Movity founders emerged) and never took it too far. Again, I think this was about engineers, not apps, so don’t expect crazy maps on Trulia tomorrow.
  • This is yet another volley in the escalating online real estate war – a battle of substantive moves, but also, importantly, optics. Trulia announced that it has become profitable a while back. A good chunk of the press release announcing today’s acquisition was dedicated to describing Trulia’s new and expanded headquarters and increased headcount. This sort of stuff is done to shape the story around the online real estate space – a story in which Trulia, rightly or wrongly, has come to play a supporting role. The story – how things look to investors, potential acquirers and the press – is critically important.
  • Whatever specific plans they have for Movity, I am glad to see Trulia show interest in answering one of the big real estate questions: “Can I live here?” No online player can answer that authoritatively. And I think the notion of “lifestyle search,” which has provoked a lot of buzz this year, is off the mark. Better to get a buyer to the inventory based on core parameters (e.g., location, price, beds/baths) then allow them to scope out the cultural, physical and social surroundings. I’d like to see Trulia head in that direction with this.

That’s it for now – gotta get back to work. Congrats to the Movity crew!