Rascoff ’93 takes Zillow public, rings Nasdaq bell

By Michael Sugerman

Spencer Rascoff ’93 has rung both the opening and closing bells of the Nasdaq stock exchange in the last six months. Rascoff is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Zillow.com, the largest real estate database in the country. Last July, the company went public, joining the Nasdaq at $20 per share (stock symbol Z). Zillow’s current market cap exceeds $877.5 million.

After pricing the company’s initial public offering in mid-July, Rascoff and Zillow Chief Financial Officer Chad Cohen ’93 were invited to ring the Nasdaq opening bell.

“The really exciting moment for us was when we officially priced our IPO,” he said. It signified that we’d achieved a level of success and financial stability.”

In the months after making its shares open to the public, Zillow’s profile and capital have skyrocketed, Rascoff said. The company now has more resources to move forward and maintain its relevance in the years to come. To thank Zillow’s biggest advertising partners, Rascoff arranged a VIP appreciation event at the Nasdaq headquarters on Jan. 12. As a result, Rascoff, accompanied by VIP advertisers, was invited to ring the closing bell.

Rascoff, a Goldman-Sachs investment banker out of Harvard University, founded his first website, Hotwire.com, in 1999. In 2003, he sold the discount travel site to Expedia, where he worked for a year.

“By that point I had grown weary of working at a large company,” he said. “I wanted to do another startup, so I started looking at other categories that could thrive via the internet. The real estate industry seemed like a great candidate.”

By 2006, Zillow was up and running. The company compiles data from over 100 million homes nationwide, attaining data from county records. Users can visit the site and search an address; Zillow then provides prices, mortgage quotes and other facts. The company also uses algorithms to produce “Zestimates,” or projected property values. Via Zillow’s iPad and iPhone applications, users have an interactive real estate experience. They can trace neighborhood shapes and pinpoint residential areas with the touch of a finger to find desirable property. Realtors and brokers use the site to list about four million homes currently for sale.

“The goal is to create an information-intensive outlet that helps consumers get the facts,” Rascoff said. “I’ve always been interested in technology, especially when it can be a tool to revolutionize information.”

Rascoff, who was Head Prefect and editor-in-chief of the Chronicle in 1992-93, appreciates how journalism provides others with useful information.

“My experiences on the Chronicle undoubtedly inspired me to pursue websites like Zillow,” he said.

Rascoff said he was also influenced by former Harvard-Westlake debate coach Tedd Woods, who taught him public speaking skills that Rascoff uses to this day.

He also credits English and humanities teacher Philip Holmes and history teacher Karl Kleinz with his writing style.

“They taught me how to make effective arguments in written format,” Rascoff said. “Being able to do so has been critical to my current development and success.”

Rascoff also works with fellow alumni Cohen and Erin Lantz ’97. When he founded Zillow, he invited Cohen, who he had kept in contact with since high school graduation, to be the CFO. and Lantz is the director of Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace.

“A company’s internal management is based on a certain level of trust that can only be attained through years of work together,” Rascoff said. “In employing fellow alumni and former colleagues, that trust is already present.”

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