As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Wu, Co-founder and CEO at Opendoor. Eric Wu is co-founder and CEO of Opendoor, a consumer technology company that is reinventing how people buy and sell real estate. Prior to Opendoor, Eric was the founder and CEO of Movity.com, a geo-data analytics company acquired by Trulia.com in 2011. At Trulia, Eric led location, social, and consumer product development.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I had this belief that renting was a waste of money, seeded by my mom who was obsessed with saving and probably similar to many first-generation families. So I bought my first house when I was 19 years old, which turned into 20 houses within a few years. Concurrently, I started building websites and built one that listed college rentals, including some of the homes I owned. I decided early on in my career that I was going to merge the two passions of real estate and technology and solve the consumer problems that exist in real estate.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Not sure if this is interesting but I sure found it entertaining. My mom is a fairly traditional parent and her dream was for me to have two to three letters after my name (JD, MD, MBA, PHD). Unfortunately, I took another path but in an attempt to give her an idea of what I do for a living, I brought her to an Opendoor Open House, our version of an all-hands. I had her come on stage and asked her to answer one question, “What do I do for a living?” Her answer was, “sleep at Home Depot.”
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Every year, millions of Americans sell their homes through an antiquated, offline process that is full of hassle and uncertainty. Moving is a massive life disruption and the stress and cost of real estate cause people to stay in less than ideal living situations for far too long. Opendoor is transforming the trillion dollar real estate industry, rebuilding every part of home buying and selling to make it frictionless and radically simpler for consumers. We’re building an experience that is convenient and hassle-free, the first end-to-end marketplace where anyone can buy, sell, or trade-in a home at the click of a button.
The same way you can hail a taxi, book a flight, or buy a book online, Opendoor will allow you to buy and sell a home online.
How do you think this will change the world?
We believe that if we can create a more liquid housing market, an experience where it’s simple, instant, and low cost to move, we’ll have a dramatic impact on geographic mobility and homeownership rates.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
It was more of an evolution than a flash of insight. I spent the greater part of a decade trying to help bring content to consumers so they can make better decisions when moving. But at the core, the transaction was still broken and the process and experience of buying and selling a home itself hasn’t improved.
Having spoken to hundreds of buyers and sellers of real estate, as well as having gone through the transaction personally over 20 times, I felt customers deserved a better solution. Buying and selling a home should be as easy and simple as buying and selling stock. I decided to go down the path to make the transaction simple and on-demand.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Our focus is on providing the best customer experience at the lowest cost. Not only do we want to make the process of moving frictionless, but we want to make it low cost. This involves building the world’s best home pricing model, building best-in-class logistics and operations for home services, and streamlining all the steps and components of the transaction from home search to home personalization. Our belief is that, in the future, everyone will start their moving journey with Opendoor.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Create momentum and then manage it well. And if you have momentum, do not waste it. This is particularly important for startups facing a variety of threats continuously. Momentum helps with hiring the right talent, which in turn helps you build the best experience and allows you to raise the capital necessary to grow and invest in the future.
- Build a network of executives early that you want to work with. I have hired many people that I originally sought advice from years ago. We hired Erica Alioto, head of people and development, who gave us advice on how to structure our first sales team. We hired Gautam Gupta, whom I asked for help on capital markets when we were first closing our debt facilities. Hiring executives who have the content knowledge and functional expertise, are bold enough to join a startup, and fit with you and your culture is rare and takes time to build.
- Be thoughtful about your early team. Collectively, you plus them will define the culture, strategy, and customer experience. There is a common saying that people will clone themselves 100 times as you grow. I found this to be true.
- Get a coach. Startups are a stressful and lonely journey and having someone to hold you accountable and give you guidance through hairy problems is invaluable. I’ve worked with a variety of coaches at different stages and it’s helped me keep up with the growth.
- Prioritize sleep! Startups toggle between chaos and organized chaos and lack of sleep can drastically change your mood, ability to lead, and ability to make sound decisions.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Invest early in knowledge and networks. They have a tendency to compound similar to the way compound interest works and become very valuable in the later years.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
I would invest in projects and ideas that help us get to a carless future faster. I believe the next generation will not own personal vehicles, and real estate, housing, and the way we live will be dramatically different as a result.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Place an extremely high value on your time and treat it as very scarce. Then invest the scarce time on the things that generate the most value or give you the most happiness.
Take time to celebrate moments and practice gratitude.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
The best advice I’ve been given is to have a growth mindset and learn and improve every day. Seek feedback, and adopt and edit your behavior and habits based on where you find truth in the feedback. And be humble.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.