SAN FRANCISCO — Keith Rabois, the fast-talking Khosla Ventures investor and former Square executive, has been carrying around a big idea for 11 years. Now he’s finally ready to act on it.
Under the codename HomeRun, Rabois has assembled a four-person team, including himself and an unnamed data scientist, to upend the residential real estate business with a super-fast way to sell a house.
“My belief is that if you added a frictionless, convenient, simple process, more people would sell their homes,” Rabois said in an interview with VentureBeat at the DEMO Enterprise conference.
The startup sounds like the fresh attempt to rock a substantial slice of the economy with the help of — you guessed it! — big data. Companies like Airbnb, Coursera, and Uber have done this. Now HomeRun could be the next big thing.
The idea for HomeRun cropped up in 2003.
“My friend Peter Thiel suggested that I come up with an idea to innovate in residential real estate,” Rabois said, referring to the PayPal and Palantir co-founder.
“It’s the largest part of the economy unaffected by the Internet. And that was definitely true then, and even with things like Trulia and Zillow, it’s fundamentally true today. But the process of (selling a home) hasn’t been transformed by technology.”
HomeRun’s approach, Rabois said, is simple.
“We have to value the home, sight unseen,” he said. “You can put in your address and we tell you what it’s worth instantly. And we’ll want to buy it from you for that price.”
Underneath the covers, HomeRun will analyze lots of data — some being proprietary, some not — to make an split-second calculation, with minimal human interaction. It’s “pretty complicated stuff,” Rabois said.
To do such work at scale would be vastly more complicated. So, at least initially, HomeRun will focus exclusively on the U.S..
“This can be a $10 billion to $100 billion [business] if we just do the U.S. correctly,” Rabois said. “I don’t want to get distracted. Focus is the most important thing for startups.”
A few things have prevented Rabois from launching HomeRun before this.
“Over the last decade, I considered doing this a few times [but] always got distracted by amazing entrepreneurs talking me into their vision,” said Rabois, who held executive roles at PayPal and LinkedIn before getting involved with Square and Khosla.
Besides being too busy all these years, there’s much more data floating around today than there was in the past –and fleets of servers to crunch it all, thanks to public clouds like Amazon Web Services. And more of the real estate business is online today, which also helps.
“In 2003, I believe, in Texas, transactions in Texas weren’t even available online at all,” he said.
But that has changed, and now Rabois finally has the bandwidth to work on HomeRun, which will be based in San Francisco.
“We’ll be ready to launch something in the summer, maybe earlier,” he said.