| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Real estate Web site Trulia.com launched an online rental listing service on Tuesday, hoping it will help increase annual revenue to $100 million within the next few years.
Trulia chief executive Pete Flint said the launch represents a major expansion for privately-held Trulia, which he said was in no hurry to float shares to the public or merge with another company despite having received various acquisition inquiries in recent months.
Flint wouldn't comment on a report in the AllThingsDigital blog in December that the company has been in "on-again, off-again" acquisition talks with Internet search giant Google Inc. But he said the company has received various inquiries in the past six months.
"There has been interest both from corporate companies, as well as from i-bankers wanting to take us public," said Flint, adding that the company was focused on building the business.
The company, which is on track to become profitable this year according to Flint, makes money by selling advertising on the site and collecting monthly fees from sellers who wish to push their listings to the top of Trulia's search results.
Flint said Trulia generates well over $1 million a month in revenue from its free service, which lets Web surfers find information about homes for sale throughout the United States. Trulia has raised $33 million in funding from venture capital firms including Accel Partner and Sequoia Capital.
The market for rental property listings is equivalent in size to its existing homes-for-sale listings business, said Flint, who added that the company expects its revenue this year to at least double from 2009.
Flint would not give a specific timeframe for reaching $100 million in annual revenue but thought the company could get there "in the next few years."
"Certainly within the markets as we defined them, around the for-sale and the for-rent business, we think achieving those revenue goals is very achievable," Flint said.
San Francisco-based Trulia, founded in 2005 as a business school project between Flint and Sami Inkinen, competes with Zillow.com and real estate sites from large Internet portals like Yahoo Inc and Microsoft Corp.
Flint acknowledged the challenges of operating a real estate site amid a sharp downturn in the housing market in recent years, but said that moving into rentals is in some sense a natural reaction to market conditions.
The prospect for appreciation in home values "just is not there as it was many years ago," said Flint, making many potential home buyers open to renting. Still, he noted that interest in home sales continues to grow, with traffic to the Web site increasing 50 percent during the past 12 months.
Trulia's new rental listings service will face competition from sites like Craigslist, whose rental listings are popular in many major cities, as well as Zillow.com, which launched its own rental listings service in December.
A Zillow executive was also quoted in media reports earlier this year stating that the company hopes to go public in 2011. But Flint said that Trulia had no need to raise capital, even though he did not rule out the possibility in the future.
"We could be an IPO candidate in the future," he said.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Carol Bishopric)