On March 13, 2020, while Glenn Kelman, chief executive of real online real estate broker Redfin, was riding a bike, he received a call from Henry Ellenbogen, a long-term investor in Redfin, who started his own fund.
At Harvard, Mr. Ellenbogen is fascinated by the history of technology. One big thing he learned, he said, is that technology has evolved in the past from people’s ability and willingness to use it.
“Tell me something,” Mr. Ellenboje asked Mr. Kelman, according to an account of the chief executive on Redfin’s website. “When people start visiting homes through the iPhone, even after this whole epidemic is over, this is one of the best ways to look at homes that, many wouldn’t decide. And if this whole process of buying and selling a home is largely virtual, how will other brokers compete with you? “
Mr. Kelman, a little busy about how Seattle’s generally bustling streets were comfortably empty, said he doesn’t know.
“I do,” said Mr. Said Ellenbojen. “The world is changing in your favor.”
This was not a common view at the time, and it certainly was not Mr. Kellman was feeling. The first confirmed coronavirus death in the United States was in February at a nursing home resident in a Seattle suburb. 29. Within hours, home sellers decided that perhaps they did not want strangers to breathe in their living room and bedroom. Buyers also began to pull out.
For Redfin, that was the beginning of the crisis. Within a few days, it closed its 78 office fees across the country. Its stock crashed, losing two-thirds of its value.
“The intensity of the decline was increasing every day,” Mr. Said Kelman. He agreed to sell Mr. Ellenbogen million 110 million more stock, thinking Redfin may need cash to survive the long drought. In early April, Mr. 1% of Kellman’s agents, who were salaried employees, were flogged. More than 1000 people were affected.