Silicon Valley’s Best Pandemic Ever

On March 13, 2020, Glenn Kelman, the chief govt of the net actual property dealer Redfin, was biking to work when he obtained a name from Henry Ellenbogen, a longtime investor in Redfin who had began his personal fund.

At Harvard, Mr. Ellenbogen majored within the historical past of expertise. One huge factor he realized, he has stated, was that expertise is developed properly prematurely of individuals’s potential and willingness to make use of it.

“Inform me one thing,” Mr. Ellenbogen requested Mr. Kelman, in keeping with an account the chief govt posted on Redfin’s web site. “When individuals begin touring properties by way of an iPhone, received’t plenty of them determine, even after this complete pandemic ends, that that is only a higher strategy to see homes? And if this complete course of of shopping for and promoting properties largely goes digital, how will different brokerages compete with you?”

Mr. Kelman, a bit preoccupied by how Seattle’s usually bustling streets have been eerily empty, stated he didn’t know.

“I do,” Mr. Ellenbogen stated. “The world is altering in your favor.”

This was not a basic view then, and it actually was not what Mr. Kelman was experiencing. The primary confirmed coronavirus demise in america was a nursing house resident in a Seattle suburb on Feb. 29. Inside hours, house sellers determined that perhaps they didn’t need strangers respiration of their front room and bedrooms. Patrons started to drag out as properly.

For Redfin, that was the start of a disaster. Inside a couple of days, it shut down its 78 places of work across the nation. Its inventory plunged, shedding two-thirds of its worth.

“The magnitude of the decline was growing day-after-day,” Mr. Kelman stated. He agreed to promote Mr. Ellenbogen extra inventory for $110 million, considering Redfin may want money to make it by means of a protracted drought. In early April, Mr. Kelman furloughed 41 % of the corporate’s brokers, who have been salaried workers. Greater than 1,000 individuals have been affected.

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