The Real Deal New York

Two more executives depart StreetEasy

December 18, 2013 10:40AM
By Adam Pincus

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From left: Neeta Vallab, John Darby

From left: Neeta Vallab, John Darby

In what some analysts considered a predictable elimination of redundancy, the head of marketing and the head of product management at StreetEasy left the company yesterday, according to their outgoing email messages.

Insiders said their responsibilities were recently limited and yesterday they were terminated. They were the sixth and seventh top executives of the firm to depart or be removed from their positions since Zillow bought the then-34-person company in August for $50 million.

The additional departures, on top of the exit Friday of Sofia Song, the public face of the company and head of research and communications, come as unique visitors to the site are down about a quarter in the past month, more than the normal seasonal decline, according to Internet tracking company Quantcast.

The latest ousted were Neeta Vallab, head of product management, who started with the company in the summer of 2012 according to her LinkedIn page, and John Darby, head of marketing, who joined the firm early this year, his LinkedIn page said. Neither responded to several requests for comment.

Other top executives who left were the chief operating officer and the head of business development. The company’s co-founder and former CEO Michael Smith was removed in a surprise announcement in September, and is now chairman. He was replaced by technology entrepreneur Susan Daimler, general manager of Zillow New York, which includes StreetEasy.

A Zillow spokesperson said the firm does not comment on personnel matters.

Vallab oversaw about a half-dozen people who headed up individual product lines such as featured listings, the StreetEasy blog, the newsletter and others, one insider said. Darby headed up StreetEasy’s marketing efforts through events, advertising on Google and brand awareness earlier this year when the company was expanding into Miami, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, the sources said. Those expansion plans were terminated several months ago.

One analyst who follows Zillow, a public company, said the additional cuts would likely be seen as a positive move to trim costs. The StreetEasy division brought in $3.4 million in revenue in the first half of the year, and was expected to match that in the second half of the year, to bring in about $7 million for all of 2013, the analyst said.

The number of unique visitors to the site is down in 2013 to about 250,000 per week over the past month, from about 350,000 per week during the peak spring and summer months, a decline of about a quarter, an analysis of Quantcast figures by The Real Deal reveals. That compares with last year, when the average for most of the year hovered around 240,000 per week, and dipped about 10 percent in the final weeks of the year. Zillow did not respond to a request for comment on these figures.

A quick reduction in force when a large company buys a smaller one is not unheard of.

“It is unusual, but not that unusual,” said Rajen Tibrewala, professor of management science studies at the New York Institute of Technology. He was not familiar with the details of the Zillow acquisition of StreetEasy, instead he was commenting in general about layoffs and firings after large companies buy smaller ones. “[But] if they are simply buying their contacts and their customer base, if all they are interested in are the eyeballs and don’t pay too much credence to old management, then maybe they are perfectly justified in getting rid of the old people.”

  • Vivienne

    Merry Christmas, now here is your pink slip! Class Act

  • Oouch

    Zillow’s timing was not grand. The NY market is seeing the 3rd straight month of rental inventory up. Sales activity is down. Shoppers are giving up. Inventory is cracked. New development is talking to itself and pretending all is well, hoping things will wake back up in January. Land is too high. Mike has left the building. The soothsayers with soothe and say, but the market will have the final word. It’s not a good thing to be depending on oligarchs and Chinese insider expats trying to bail. I could be wrong, but the advance indicators are all pointing to a market correction. Ask Shvo’s sheep.

  • louis V III

    HOw ManY Execs Did These GUys have??!!?! … No wonder they were hemorrhaging!!!

    • Nick M.

      There’s only the CTO now. They’re cleaning house that’s for sure.

      • justsaying

        Zillow is not profitable, so hopefully StreetEasy’s can plug some holes for them

  • CaveJohnNYC

    I hate Zillow….no more streeteasy for me…

  • *

    It’s out in the open that most users and participants of Zillow dislike their product, factor in their somewhat questionable management, their stock is due for a steep decline. It’s been said before on the internet and it’s a company that’s had fairly soft profits and really been propped up by private capital (that Aussie guy), and I agree with one of the commenters on here, Zillow did pick a poor time to purchase Streeteasy, although the argument could be made that they were perhaps 2 cities away from really becoming a major player in the online real estate game. they had several major MAJOR cities.

  • Oouch

    Zillow walked into a propeller. Consumers flocked to Streeteasy because they were frustrated by the lack of product on the residential market and Streeteasy sold them on the illusion that they would have as much information as the brokers which would somehow give them an “edge.” Other than complaining about price history the only edge provided was to further overcrowd open houses on the bottom side of hot neibs in Brooklyn or Manhattan. It doesn’t change the amount of inventory available. Paying extra for sales history may demystify some trends for consumers but it doesn’t provide them with cash or control of the market. What it might have helped is encouraging some of the overbidding and non-contingent offers that will come back to bite some buyers. Meanwhile, Zillow sees a false revenue trend and a puffed up Streeteasy, walks in and starts to figure out they bought a pig in the poke, so they start to pare down. Don’t hold your breath, Zillow, waiting for the renewals either. Streeteasy puffed itself up by entering into a number of illusory alliances and overpromising consumers while it hired up. Balloons deflate without even leaving a structure behind, they are by definition made of skin and air.

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