Wu founded Opendoor in 2014 and served as the company’s chief executive officer until last year. He said in a statement that he’s leaving to focus on building new things.
The verdict is in — the old way of doing business is over. Join us at Inman Connect New York Jan. 23-25, when together we’ll conquer today’s market challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities. Defy the market and bet big on your future.
Roughly a decade after he founded Opendoor, Eric Wu is now leaving the iBuying giant to focus on building other startups.
The company first announced Wu’s departure Friday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Though Wu will continue to hold an advisory role at Opendoor, he will relinquish his current position on the company board and will no longer have management responsibilities. The changes go into effect beginning Jan. 1.
Wu had been serving as CEO of the company up until about a year ago, when he moved into a new position as president of Marketplace. The new role gave him oversight of Exclusives, the company’s asset-light marketplace that’s designed to connect buyers and sellers without requiring Opendoor itself to actually buy any houses.
With Wu’s departure, Opendoor Vice President and General Manager Merav Bloch will take over management of Exclusives, a project the company described as an ongoing priority.
Opendoor CEO Carrie Wheeler, who assumed the chief executive chair when Wu stepped down last year, will remain in her position.
In a statement, Wu explained his departure as an effort to get back to what he loves doing.
“After ten years, I am called to get back to my startup roots and create and build again,” he said in the statement.
Wu also touted Opendoor’s success over the years, saying that “over 250,000 individuals and families have trusted us to simplify their largest transaction, we have changed an entire category, and we have built the foundation for the next decade of innovation and growth.”
“I’m humbled by this accomplishment and grateful for all my teammates who helped shape the product, culture, and company,” he added in the statement.
Wu’s accomplishments have been significant indeed. Though home flipping has existed as a business model for years, Wu changed the category by bringing big technology, big funding and big scale to the concept. No longer was cash-based flipping something for the small time Home Depot set. Instead, Wu and his company built a user-friendly technology product that feels both modern and streamlined compared to traditional ways of doing real estate. Wu also managed to win the backing of big names such as Softbank, and ultimately inspired incumbent companies such as Zillow, Redfin and many others to copy his business model.
The result was that in the late 2010s and early 2020s, iBuying was one of the buzziest and most feared concepts in real estate. The model routinely prompted discussions about the future of real estate agents, and some observers predicted major percentages of the housing market could ultimately transact through tech-enabled cash offers.
Conditions, however, began to change as the COVID-19 pandemic waned and federal regulators worked quickly to rein in inflation — efforts that sent mortgage rates soaring at record rates. The effect was a significantly cooled real estate market with scant inventory and meager price appreciation, both of which represented challenges for companies that wanted to flip homes quickly and for a profit.
Wu stepped down from his role as CEO right in the middle of the market shift, last year, at a time when it was clear that the heady times of the pandemic had ended but before rates reached their 2023 high points.
The comparatively brutal real estate market of 2023 has taken a toll on Opendoor’s earnings — as it has with most real estate companies — with revenue falling 71 percent year over year in the third quarter. Despite the dip, though, the company managed to trim year-over-year losses between July and September.
Though a slower market has arguably made iBuying a less-buzzy concept, Opendoor has consistently argued that it’s poised to thrive over the long haul. During the company’s most recent earnings call, for instance, Wheeler touted market share gains and improved cost structures, noting that “we believe we have laid the foundation to emerge from this cycle more resilient and well-positioned for continued share gains and long-term profitability.”
In a statement Friday, Wheeler also praised Wu for taking the “radical idea of simplifying life’s biggest and most complex transaction” and transforming “it into a fully digital, streamlined experience on a world-class technology platform.”
“I want to thank Eric for his courage, innovation, and grit over the years,” Wheeler added. “Opendoor would not be here without him and his unwavering commitment to our customers.”