What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
Sadly, most Americans do not have enough savings to cushion themselves from a loss of income. I am extremely concerned about widespread unemployment due to the recession (depression?) post COVID-19. Consumer spending drives so much of our economy and I don’t see it rebounding anytime soon.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
Since I retired as CEO of Zillow a year ago, I spend most of my time now investing in early-stage tech companies, [including the recently launched, dot.la, which covers the Los Angeles tech landscape]. My investing strategy has changed somewhat since COVID-19. First, I’m focused on companies that will have enough runway to survive a 6 to 12-month period of significantly reduced revenue. Second, I’m interested in companies whose business models and product offerings fit into a COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world. For example, I recently invested in an online learning company, but I’m pulling back on investments in ad-supported businesses.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
I think there will be a pretty deep recession that lasts more than a year. Investors need to be prepared for that. But the good news for startups is that dislocations like this present many exciting opportunities for new products and services. To cite two examples from the companies I co-founded: the 2008 financial crisis accelerated the migration of advertising spend from offline to online, which benefited Zillow, and the post 9/11 2001 travel recession accelerated the migration of travel bookings from offline to online benefitting Hotwire and Expedia.
I’m focused on companies that will have enough runway to survive a 6 to 12-month period of significantly reduced revenue.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
Make sure that your companies have enough cash to survive the downturn, stay nimble, and treat employees and partners fairly.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
In the morning, I try not to look at the news or Twitter until after I’ve greeted my wife and kids for the day. I then quickly check email and put my phone away before we make a family breakfast.
Tiger King on Netflix; Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu; Hip-Hop Evolution on Netflix.
I started rereading Catcher in the Rye this week because my 9th-grade daughter got assigned it for school. It’s fun to reread a classic that you haven’t read in 30 years, especially if your child is reading it at the same time.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
I’m baking a lot with my kids. And I built a killer bedroom fort with my 11- and 8-year-old kids this morning.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Peloton treadmill for the win.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I was planning trips to Alaska, Portugal, Italy, and France when the crisis hit, so I’m anxious to try to get those trips back on the books when things improve.