WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO LAUNCH A NEW VENTURE AFTER YOU SPENT SEVEN YEARS AT ZILLOW? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE LOOKING TO FOLLOW A SIMILAR PATH?
I loved my job at Zillow. I had an awesome team, worked on tough problems, and was able to deliver incredible results. But there was just so much that I couldn’t do there. I could see how rough the homebuyer experience was, and I wanted to step in to fix it. But in a big company, there are plenty of obstacles. It was clear to me that a clean slate would be a huge advantage for anyone trying to help homebuyers. On top of that, I also knew that I was built for the founder life. I have always had a deep-seated need for speed, and speed is hard to come by at big companies. The sense of ownership and accountability I’ve always brought to work just makes more sense in a founder role. I needed—and was ready for—a bigger canvas. I wanted to be responsible for a whole company, not just a function or a line of business. I have trouble imagining ever going back.
For those who think starting a company might be for them, I’d say the first step is admitting it. Second, make space to explore the opportunity. It takes more than a few hours a week. Have the conversations, do the research, write the business plans. Third, get yourself a great cofounder like I did, because it is a really lonely road otherwise.
THE NAME “TOMO” COMES FROM THE JAPANESE PHILOSOPHY OF “OMOTENASHI,” THE CONCEPT OF ANTICIPATING AND MEETING THE NEEDS OF A GUEST. WHAT LED YOU TO THIS NAME AND PHILOSOPHY? WHAT DRIVES THE INNOVATION BEHIND TOMO?
There is so much that’s different about Tomo’s approach, but the most fundamental difference is its customer-centric focus. Customer centricity isn’t unusual in the tech industry, but it is completely absent in real estate transactions and, particularly, in mortgages. Homebuyers have to bend themselves around the industry. For something as fundamental and monumental as the purchase of our homes, that's just crazy. We firmly believe it should be the other way around.
As we were exploring this, my cofounder, Greg Schwartz, thought back to a trip he’d taken to Japan and realized how most of his experiences there involved people who were thinking about him and how to make his experience great, rather than expecting him to figure out how to navigate a foreign land. His experience was born out of the Japanese concept of omotenashi. We hope to bring omotenashi to real estate so that we can take the stress out of transactions.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF TOMO IN THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY?
There's a tremendous amount of joy and promise in the act of buying a home. But the process itself is filled with immeasurable work and worry. At Tomo, we're here to minimize these elements so you can focus instead on the life ahead. Imagine a world where you can focus on new paint colors—not nonsensical paperwork. Whatever it takes to make that come true, we'll tackle.
Right now, we’re focused on bringing purchase-money mortgages into the modern age with great digital experiences, amazing local experts to help you along the way, industry-leading low rates, and the complete confidence that you can close on time. This is the type of service we've come to expect in every other aspect of our lives; it's time for mortgages to catch up.
HOW HAVE YOU NAVIGATED YOUR CAREER INTERESTS? HOW DID YOUR EXPERIENCES AT BCG HELP SHAPE YOUR CAREER PATH?
I’ve always sought out opportunities that were exciting, challenging, and difficult for others. For example, I arrived at BCG wanting to work on consumer projects (I was coming from a B2B organization) that were as quantitative as possible, even though I majored in English. This has let me bring all my energy to my work, while having the side benefit of creating a bit of moat for myself. Yes, this approach is hard work, but nothing prepares you to do hard work like spending time at BCG, where every few months you have to ramp up on a client’s hardest and most important problem. And you know, that’s basically what I’m doing that all over again at Tomo. Mortgage is the hardest part of a really sexy category, and we’re doing the hard work that’s required to fix it.
ARE THERE ANY KEY EXPERIENCES, LESSONS LEARNED, OR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
I’m a big believer in the value of constraints. They force you to get creative and prioritize—and maximize your impact by allocating time and resources where they matter most. The best example I have of this is the constraints I place on my time. When I had kids and started going home by 6pm, my impact at work went up, not down. Of course, the danger is that you just keep working after the kids go to sleep, and I initially fell into that trap. A few years later, my boss told me to set an alarm for 10pm every night and to go to bed then—no matter what—because nothing else was worth staying up for. Wow, what a difference that made in my life! I was healthier, happier, and a much better leader. I often wonder how my BCG career would have been different if I’d placed more constraints on my time. Startups themselves have all kinds of interesting constraints, most famously on capital. Part of what makes life at a startup so rewarding is using every last ounce of your creativity to figure out how you can achieve your goals.