Zoopla: The Ocotopus Did It

by on March 8, 2009

In January of 2008, a new property website called Zoopla! started up. With property prices going ever skyward, it wasn’t exactly a surprising launch, but Zoopla! itself was surprising. Like all very good ideas on the web, it was simple and well executed, yet allowed for good, often complex, effects to happen: list every house in the UK and allow their owners to “claim” them, declare their intention to sell, and tune the price with extra data against a global price estimate, itself refined by network effects. Estate agents were (at least in theory) nowhere to be seen. The CEO even gave me a bottle of wine.

I’ve re-visited Zoopla! a few times since then, but today I see they’ve changed. They have, to put it simply, sold out to the estate agents. Gone are the comprehensive listings, the house price algorithm presumably now a figment of the agents’ traditional hype. I learnt in the new year that they’d found a large investor – the ominously named Octopus Ventures. From the press release:

‘Alex Macpherson, Chief Executive, Octopus Ventures, said: “Zoopla.co.uk has the potential to become the UK’s most valuable property asset. It is an extremely compelling proposition…”‘

He was right, but what he did with his £2 million doesn’t make Zoopla compelling in any way at all. They’re just like any other estate agency site now. What a pity – and what a waste of a good idea.

RIP Zoopla – you’re going nowhere now.

Comments

Incidentally, Octopus Ventures pop their T&Cs at you when you deep link to them. Never, ever, trust a company that does that. It’s a sign that they don’t want to understand anything other than short term profits and asset sweating. Hard to imagine a more disastrous investor really.

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