Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Au revoir Curt

I got an email from him last week. Long story short, Curt has decided to leave Zillow at the end of the month and reached out to Dan and me. He expressed he loves what he is doing, but kids are gone, and it’s time to work on some other things. “The List” we all have. I was nodding my head as I read his email.

It’s easy to underestimate the impact Curt has had on this industry. He wrote the first web-based MLS system. Full Stop. He’s behind some of the most innovative agent tools in the industry. He helped Zillow become the listing powerhouse they are today. Steve Jobs once said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why even be here?” Curt made a big ole fucking dent in this industry.

I wrote a post about Curt all the way back in 2011 (some of my best writing, if I do say so myself), I thought I would repost again.

I know I will see you again my friend, hopefully, sooner than later.

Curt

He stands over 6 and a half feet tall, he once rode his motorcycle (a Harley-Davidson) from Washington state all the way a Houston, Texas; and back! ( A trip covering over 5,000 miles), this year, he quipped, “I flew”. He lives mostly off the grid, doesn’t own a television, is the current VP of Business Development at MOVE, has a Cary Grant type of accent to his voice (meaning I can’t figure out what country the accent comes from, if any), his name is Curt Beardsley and is in my estimation one of the best minds and speakers in real estate today.

I met Curt in Kirkland Washington back in 1996. Back then I was trying to launch our product, “Lightning“, in the market in Western Washington. I met with a few brokers showing the latest innovation with Lightning. Moore Data had just introduced photos to its MLS software Compass. My business partner Dan Woolley had, for lack a better word, hacked the system so that Lightning could also display photos from the Compass MLS system. A huge feat that raised a lot of eyebrows. I still remember people looking under our table at trade shows thinking we had another computer running Viewpoint (Moore Data’s proprietary MLS access software). One of the brokers suggested I meet with a couple of guys that were doing some innovative stuff, on this new thing called “the Internet”. The broker made the introduction and the next day I went to meet them.

At that time Curt was the co-founder of a company called True North Technology. When I arrived they had a small office with a single “partner’s desk”. Or maybe it was just two desks facing together. His partner was Kevin Knoepp. I showed them Lightning and our ability to display Compass photos. I could tell both of them were impressed. Dan’s hack had brought me some street cred. (Although later he confessed that at our first meeting he never heard anyone curse as much as I did.) We were a small company in real estate technology (IRIS) and so were they. What I didn’t know at the time was that Curt and Kevin were working on what would be the first web-based MLS system.

We became friends, kept in touch, hung out together at real estate conferences, traded stories and tried to grow our respective companies. True North began getting some traction, and starting launching their new MLS system with MLS providers around the country. Not long after that they were acquired by another upstart in the MLS game, GTE. GTE had a MLS software called System 4, led by Errol Samuelson. Serendipity.

Errol is no slouch when it comes to speaking and bringing big ideas to this space. If you are lucky you’ll get to see both of them speak. Any panel in which Curt or Errol are participating leave the other panelists looking like the amateur hour. Curt is a perfect fit for the cerebral Errol and the real estate industry is better for their partnership together.

Curt brings more an academic vibe to his talks. His vibe is one of a well liked professor. If the TED conference wanted someone to talk about real estate I would send Curt. His mix of data and a passion about the idea of a “Home” is very inspiring. This is striking compared to others in the space. An article I read last week in the New York Times quoted Pete Flint, CEO of Trulia; “There was a time when owning a home was a symbol of you had made it. Now it’s O.K. not to own” and continued “I’m in no rush at all to buy”. Pete doesn’t get it. Curt does.

If you have been in this business a long time you can get jaded. To actually listen to someone who inspires you is a tall order. Curt’s mix of idealism and creative energy is a beautiful thing to watch and fills that tall order in more ways than one.”

  1. I too reminder Curt and Kevin in the early days. Jack Johnson introduced Peter Shuttleworth and I to these brilliant men and we were very excited about what they were doing.

    Curt, I am so happy to know you and look forward to hearing what comes next. Empty nester is the best life chapter for Sue and I so far. Good for you and your family on all fronts.

  2. The years working with Curt at realtor.com were the best of my career. From one empty nester to another… “Cheers!”

  3. Thank you all — for all the kind words today. As I told Greg, I absolutely love Zillow. It is one of the best places I have ever worked — but after 30 years in the “industry”, it’s time for me to step away and pursue other interests. I’m not heading anywhere else, at least not in the near term, but am excited to start working through my “things to do when I’m not trying to change the real estate world” list. I leave behind an outstanding team – so I’m sure there will be no slacking off on the shaking up of things!

    For now, I have a few old motorcycles that need to be rebuilt, I may finally learn to weld – and l also hope to use my voice and passion to advocate for causes I believe in. (specifically as an ally for LGBTQ+ rights)

    This whole “pandemic” year has been odd – and saying goodbye without being able to raise a final glass together adds to the strangeness…. So maybe, at some point later this year, I’ll wonder into some lobby bar at some conference – and we can have that final round.

    ‘Till then, it’s my time to leave the stage.

    Curt
    curtbeardsley@gmail.com

  4. A brilliant guy! I wish him the absolute best with his “list.” When the nest empties, we all take a closer look into our lives.

    To your next great thing, Curt!

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