The HotPads Story | HotPads

The HotPads Story

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The HotPads Story


HotPads is an early-stage internet company with an interesting story behind our rise. While there are many parallels between our experience and others', there are many facets that make our story unique.

While neither space nor reader-interest allow for a comprehensive account of the many details, what follows is the brief tale of The following story may or may not interest you, but it is the truth... it is HotPads' truth... of how we got to where we are now.

The idea

In December of 2004, after 6 months of being in the "real world" three former college roommates from the University of Notre Dame found opportunity in the pain of searching for apartments. During intensive brainstorming, market research, and endless business plan writing they developed the concept of HotPads, a site that allows users to search by real estate's most important attribute, location, through its map-based search.

Early funding

We believed in our idea and were endlessly optimistic, but recognized it took more than hard work to run a company. Like every startup, HotPads needed angel investors, and our first angels (as often is the case) were our families. They took our word for it and believed in our vision and, without our families' support (not just financially), HotPads would not exist today and we are eternally grateful.

The beginning

We started full-time operations in June of 2005. We hired a brilliant summer staff that helped us develop the site from the ground up, complete market research, sign-up our very first customers, and get our very first users. However, as always, summer came to an end and the brilliant staff returned to their universities, where they juggled school work with working on HotPads. After a few months of conference calls and millions of e-mail correspondence, HotPads officially launched in November of 2005.

The Launch

The launch was chaotic and exhausting; luckily the only casualty was a defunct coffee pot. After months of hard work and little sleep, we finally had a product to share with the world. Everyone's efforts finally came to fruition, with a technologically advanced and innovative service that boasted a total of 6 active listings. Fortunately, this number slowly grew over the next few weeks, and then began to take off.

The lonely/strange/penniless days

For 9 months Matt, John, and Douglas were alone in the office with all others working from their respective colleges and homes. They spent almost all of their hours together and pretty much developed a language all their own.

The first year was also salary-less... all savings were drained and debt accumulated. To say the least, this was a fairly stressful time period for everyone involved.

Angel of Angels

In May of 2006, Reece Duca and the Investment Group of Santa Barbara invested $300k in HotPads. This allowed HotPads to bring the rest of the team on full-time and start to work on a laundry list of developments. This was perfect timing, as most of the HotPadders were graduating from college and would have otherwise had to accept other job offers.

At the time of this investment there were 13,000 active listings on HotPads.

2006 Developments

There was a whirlwind of software developments that took place in 2006 that made the housing search process easier for our renters. We launched area mapping and information; demographic and housing heat maps; political mapping and congressional election search; and school, university, and public transportation points of interest. In so doing, HotPads caught the eye of an upstart venture capital firm, Meakem Becker Venture Capital (MBVC).

Venture Capital

In March of 2007, HotPads brought in a $2 million investment from MBVC. This has allowed us to expand our team and continue to create a unique rental housing search engine and listing service. Outside of the important cash influx, HotPads also gained an entire team of knowledgeable advisers.

At the time of this investment there were 25,000 active listings on HotPads.

For Sale Listings

On November 6, 2007, (two years and three days after going live) HotPads launched a For Sale housing search engine. We launched with over 200,000 listings. Our hope is that by doing both For Sale and For Rent housing, we can help even more people find their next home.

Buy vs. Rent

With both rental listings and for-sale properties on HotPads, we took our housing search to the next level by launching a "Buy vs. Rent" search portal. This allowed our users to browse both rental and for-sale properties that were available given their individual needs and desires. We also launched a really helpful calculator that would help users see whether it was a better time for them to rent or buy a house.


For the first two years, HotPads was run out of a two bedroom townhouse, where Matt and Douglas lived. After the VC investment, there was a need for larger digs. We spent a lot of time looking for traditional office space, but then came to the realization that working from home was pretty sweet. So, HotPads found a 7 bedroom house in Dupont Circle, Washington DC, where 6 HotPadders resided. It was like MTV's The Real World, but a bit more geeky.

Then, as HotPads continued to grow, we realized it was time to find a "real office," so in late April of 2008, HotPads HQ moved into a nice office in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. In June of 2011, the entire team made an exodus to a brand new office in San Francisco. The happy hours are just as fun as in the early days, except now we have 21 people, a shuffleboard, and enough space for the occasional scooter ride.

Zillow Acquisition

HotPads was acquired by Zillow . We continue to build our team and listings to provide the best site on the Internet for you to find a rental property or home that you will love.
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