Make things 1% better every day.
Judd Schoenholtz is the Co-Founder and CEO of Open Listings. Judd and his wife bought their first home in 2011, and he’s been singularly obsessed with fixing the homebuying process ever since. Before founding Open Listings, Judd was Group Director of User Experience at Huge, where he spent 10 years building an unrivaled, global digital agency acquired by IPG and designing products for Dell, IKEA, JetBlue, Vans, Samsung, Target, Fox, Google, and, ironically, the National Association of Realtors. Judd holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia University.
Where did the idea for Open Listings come from?
My founding team were driven to start Open Listings after having frustrating experiences with homebuying. Anyone who’s gone through the process knows that there are countless ways to improve it. Tech-savvy buyers don’t want an agent — they want a home. At Open Listings, it’s not about a specific idea, but a shared mission to make homebuying simple and affordable. The real idea was to convince my co-founders that we needed to quit our day jobs.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My morning starts with a quick run and then breakfast at home with my wife and daughter as we prepare for the day. My office day starts with a couple standup meetings with my teams. Then it’s a mix of prioritization, design, check-ins, writing, recruiting — whatever it takes to move everything forward at OL while covering tasks that don’t have a clear owner. I find that 8 or 9 hours in the office working is the best way to be productive for myself and with the team. Then, I take a couple hours off for dinner and my daughter’s bedtime, and it’s back to work for a few more hours on more focused tasks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
One of our company’s values is to make things 1% better every day. Bringing things to life starts with listening to our users and understanding their homebuying needs and building our product to reduce their friction and frustration. If we do that well, figuring out what to build and when becomes easy. Features and projects go into design and engineering, where we’re able to launch, test, and integrate quickly. Rinse and repeat.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m most excited about the impact that machine learning will have. We’re already using it to improve listing data, recommendations, valuations, and customer support, but it’s just beginning to unlock features.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Morning runs! I realized a couple years ago (and many years too late) that I’m happier, balanced, and productive on my days that start with a run, so I try to fit one in every day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Spend more time paying it forward: meeting, interning, collaborating with other entrepreneurs and startups to gather more experience and expand my network. Now with a company and family, there’s less time to spend out and on extracurricular projects. Get it in when you’re young.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Not sure, what is truth these days?
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Every day, I try to repeat Open Listings’ mission — to make home buying simple and affordable — over and over, and when you’re trying to get everyone focused on on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish, I’d advise that’s something that’s impossible to do too much of.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Build an email list. Email is still a universal and highly visible channel that the average user checks dozens of times each day. If you can get in someone’s inbox and provide value, you can retain them for life.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on, we tried and failed to get accepted into Y Combinator. To overcome it, we took the feedback we got and focused intensely on everything that needed to happen to get in to the next cycle. We launched an MVP, acquired our first 100 users through whatever means necessary, went full time, and moved across the country to work together. Then, 6 months later, we got accepted.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We recently did a small project with a branding firm that didn’t move forward as quickly as we hoped. Afterwards, I wished that there was a Yelp/Glassdoor for agencies where companies can get unbiased reviews on what it’s like to work with outside consultants. I’d love for someone to build this.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a pack of yoga classes for around $100 recently — the perfect antidote to sitting down for most of the day.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Asana! I use it as my memory and to organize my work days and weeks. The teams at Open Listings use it to prioritize and track our work. Less Slack, more Asana.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend Rework from Basecamp / 37 Signals. It’s short, practical advice on how to build products the right way and challenges lots of the dogma that slows technology teams down.
What is your favorite quote?
I can’t memorize quotes, but my favorite toast is “To Bryson!”, who was my co-founder Alex’s father and an awesome, vivacious man.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.