Inman Conference: Online Real Estate Starts to Feel Frothy

Redfin and Our CEO

Inman Conference: Online Real Estate Starts to Feel Frothy

A few Redfin folks went to last week’s Inman Conference in San Francisco; Inman is a big real estate and technology conference. Like all conferences, it felt like an alternate universe: smaller, friendlier, more competitive, shorter-lived.

But this one also felt set in a year of magical thinking, 1999, when San Francisco was at the height of the boom: Trulia dressed up some of their employees in big green foam-suits, like their logo. Terabitz drove people around in Mini Coopers and hired models and acrobatic sign-twirlers to work the sidewalk. A Redfin knock-off bought a booth and sent five people to the show. Behind closed doors, everyone talked about the meltdown in real estate and mortgage.

On the same night we were running a focus group, a real estate website threw a big party and somehow printed the address of our San Francisco office on its invitations. Before we could decide whether to invite everybody in, everybody left.

On a walk through the sunshine of Yerba Buena’s fountains, the great Adam Koval kept asking why each of us cared so much about a site that was such hard work. Later that day, Zillow’s Rich Barton waved from an escalator as he drifted away.

I sat down in a meeting with executives and consultants from a social networking service for real estate consumers and went unexpectedly berserk on hearing that agents would be able to challenge and sometimes remove reviews. (I later apologized, and the entrepreneur graciously forgave me.)

One of the conference’s real estate super-bloggers approached a big brokerage’s CEO to introduce herself in the flesh, stomping off when he seemed to have no idea who she was. “He knew,” she later said. “Oh, he knew!”

Before my blogging keynote, Joel Burslem assured me I had time to go the bathroom. I came back a few minutes later to discover the entire crowd twiddling their thumbs. I began my speech convinced Joel had just told everybody where I had been.

After the keynote, developers in Redfin’s San Francisco office announced “Hell has officially froze over,” because someone on Bloodhound Blog had made a kind comment about Redfin. I visited the blog and read that “I was full of sh__.”

Lennox Scott and Redfin at Inman

(courtesy of whiteafrican on Flickr)

Everyone talked about switching from Google Maps to Microsoft Virtual Earth or back again.

Many people came up to us to say “That this whole conference hates you except me.” This was usually followed by their saying they had only one (friendly!) question, which was usually “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”

And everyone kept asking us why we came to the conference since we obviously didn’t belong there. For the first time, actually, we had thought we did…

(Thanks to Marc Andreessen, Netscape co-founder, for calling out our post on entrepreneurship. Everyone has probably already seen our bonus link, a video of people dancing on treadmills, but we had to be sure…)

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Real estate redefined