Two more executives depart StreetEasy

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.

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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.”