One of the biggest investors in real estate tech company Zillow is a little known Sydney-based outfit called Caledonia. The investment manager owns 23% of Zillow’s outstanding shares, which in turn account for more than 30% of the firm’s $5.1 billion in public assets. Sure, the Australians like the business model–realtors pay to advertise alongside home data that consumers access for free–and believe opportunity will stem from modernizing the ultimate brick-and-mortar industry. But Caledonia’s big bet on Zillow boils down to something much harder to quantify: culture.
Before you roll your eyes and click away, consider that shares of Zillow Group have more than tripled since its 2011 initial public offering (the S&P 500 is up a relatively meager 100% over the same period) and in the third quarter the company reported a 25% increase in quarterly revenue to $281.1 million, beating analyst estimates. This is not charity, it’s smart business. “Good things happen to good companies,” argues Michael Messara, the Aussie who runs investments out of Caledonia’s New York office. In other words, companies that focus on treating employees fairly and create an environment for people to thrive are better positioned to take advantage of market opportunities: quality employees come and stay saving money in the long run, other companies want to partner and be acquired by them.
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