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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 8, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Trulia boss on moving into Zillow’s neighborhood — coincidence?

Trulia isn’t trying to psych out its rival Zillow, Trulia co-founder and Chief Executive Pete Flint insists.

 

It was just coincidence that Market Leader, the Kirkland company Trulia bought today for $355 million, happened to be in Zillow’s neighborhood.

“The company could have been based anywhere,” Flint said. “We’re just huge fans of the company and the product and the team. The location is less relevant.”

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Still, the move into the Seattle market adds a frisson to the deal, which moves San Francisco-based Trulia into a lead position in the competitive and growing market for online real estate services.

In an interview, Flint (pictured) said the deal “absolutely” puts Trulia ahead of competitors such as Zillow.

“This gives us an unrivaled set of tools for the real estate industry — incredible scale in terms of premium subscribers,” he said.

No layoffs will result from the deal and it’s likely that Market Leader will grow in Kirkland, he said. Trulia employs about 550 and Market Leader about 250.

“This is all about growth. This is about how do we continue to invest in both teams, not about how do we cut costs,” he said.

Both Trulia and Zillow built consumer real estate sites with big audiences, which enabled them to sell professional services to real estate agents. Both have also been building up their service offerings through acquisitions.

Also coincidentally, the leaders of both companies previously built and sold online travel sites. Flint was an early leader in lastminute.com, a European online travel company sold to Travelocity. Zillow’s chief executive, Spencer Rascoff, co-founded travel site Hotwire.com, which was acquired by IAC.

Zillow founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink also came from the travel business – while at Microsoft they built Expedia, which Barton led and Frink managed after it became an independent company.

Expedia was one of several big consumer sites envisioned by Microsoft in the mid-1990s. Shortly after Barton launched Microsoft’s travel portal, Ian Morris started Microsoft’s real estate portal, called HomeAdvisor.

Microsoft’s interest in consumer vertical Web portals dwindled after Expedia’s success and the dot-com crash, and HomeAdvisor never took off .

But Morris did just fine. He ended up as chief executive of Market Leader, the stock of which is up 13 percent today.

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