An ultra busy dad/CEO/husband in Seattle
Raised in Manhattan in a real estate family, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, spends his days writing hundreds of emails, juggling dad duty, husband duty, and CEO duty, but what interests us most is that Rascoff’s ambition dates back to his teen years, as revealed in his desired career as a kid.
We often revere leaders, but often for their current work, without knowing where they came from, but by knowing what makes people tick, we can not only better connect with one another, but we stand to gain by being able to identify with traits shared with various leaders as a means of inspiring our own leadership paths.
Below is an unedited interview with Rascoff, in his own words:
Tell us about yourself and your work.
I am the CEO of Zillow, the most visited real estate website and most used real estate mobile resource. I helped start Zillow in 2005 because I thought there was a need to bring better tools and technology to the real estate industry, to empower consumers and their real estate professionals with more resources and data. Outside of work, my pediatrician wife and I have 3 young children and a dog.
Walk us through a typical day in your life.
We usually wake up at 5:30am to our 10 month old and from there it’s go go go. I’m focused on getting the kids going in the morning, so it’s all family until about 8am though I secretly check twitter and email while juggling cereal and baby food. I’m at work from 8 until 5 and it’s usually non-stop meetings. I spend most of my day in product meetings discussing what we should build next for Zillow’s customers (real estate agents) and for consumers.
On a typical day I also have at least one media interview and at least one call with a Zillow investor. During meetings and while speed-walking the halls of Zillow, I somehow bang out about 300 emails a day and a few dozen tweets. I also try to spend time on our sales floor where I can listen to our team interact directly with our real estate partners – this is the most interesting and gratifying part of my day.
At 5pm, I’m out the door and off to pick up one or two kids from school. I’m with the kids until 8pm, and then after some time with my wife I usually squeeze in another 2-3 hours of work before crashing around 1am.
Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?
I was raised in Manhattan until I was 12, where my mom was a Realtor with Douglas Elliman. We then moved to Los Angeles where I went to high school. I went to college in Cambridge, MA. I then lived in New York, San Francisco and Seattle. I now call Seattle home, and I’ve been here for 10 years.
How did you get into your current career?
In 1999, I co-founded a company called Hotwire, an online travel website. We sold Hotwire to Expedia in 2003 and I moved to Seattle to work for Expedia. One year later, most of the Expedia management team left together to start Zillow.
What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?
I made a New Year’s Resolution this year not to check email between Saturday 8am and Sunday 8am. I’ve succeeded about half the time so far.
What keeps you up at night?
What tools can you not live without?
iPhone. Email. My assistant.
Tell us something about yourself that most wouldn’t believe unless they knew you.
I get to “inbox zero” every week, and I never go to sleep unless my inbox has fewer than 20 emails in it.
What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
If you could spend one day in the life of another leader, who would it be? Why?
I’d like to be President of the US for a day. I think the pressures of that position must be so crushing, and the intellectual stimulation of the position so consuming, that everything else pales in comparison.
At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?