lead aggregator & job interview with lowermybills
the lead aggregator business model is pretty cool. it works like this, generally: the free service works by enabling the consumer to enter particular information, which is then used to match the customer with the companies that will best meet the customer needs. lead aggregators typically offers savings across categories such as home mortgage, home equity loans, purchase loans, debt consolidation loans, credit cards, auto loans, insurance and cell phones.
basically, lead aggregators such as fastfind and lowermybills are passive collectors of pertinent information used to qualify or disqualify a customer from receiving the service they are seeking. lead aggregators are paid by the company, not the customer, and their payment is based on either volume of qualified leads and/or quality. here's an example:
joe mortgage wants to buy a home. he goes to a lead aggregator because it's easy, free, and they effeciently broker or matche the customers with the appropriate servicer. joe mortgage fills out the online forms, typically 4 or 5 screens, the 5th screen asking for the social security card. then, through some matching algorithm that is set-up by the servicer and the lead aggregator, the consumer (joe mortgage) is rendered servicers willing to service him. that's it.
what is cool about this model is that if a consumer fills out 4 of the 5 forms, the lead aggregator gets $x. if the consumer fills out the 5th form, then the lead aggregator get more, because the 5th screen typically allows the lead aggregator to better qualify the consumer via credit reporting checks with the social security number. it's a passive, efficient, and easy model. also, from what i learned (read experience below) -- companies in this space are cash cows.
i interviewed with lowermybills back in 2005. they are based in santa monica. i interviewed for a director-level position, reporting to the vp of product. the vp of product was a really cool guy who recently joined lowermybills from overture (yahoo!). i liked him; a recruiter from lowermybills found me on linkedin. it sounded interesting enough and i wasn't happy working at kaiser permanente, so i agreed to interview.
i woke up really early in the morning, knowing that i'd catch the infamous los angeles traffic. i got on the road on the interstate 15, then to the 10, then on to santa monica. all in all, the drive really sucked. i got stuck in traffic and i arrived in 3.0 hours from the san diego area to santa monica. i arrived sweaty and smelly and i didn't look like interview material, for sure. i pressed on anyway and walked into the building. in that office park, red bull, edmunds.com, and hbo are housed. pretty cool. i walked into the building and sat in the lobby. minutes later, i met my hr guy, he gave me a mountain dew, then i met the vp of product. he gave me the run down on the business and the recent acquisition by experian. interesting stuff. i then proceeded to speak with 5 people that day. nothing remarkable at all. people were nice, but they weren't stellar. one guy came in -- a marketing guy -- and i had to silently chuckle: he walked in the interview room with really tight jeans, a thin, tight shirt with chiffon, fluffy sleeves. his hair was dark, curly, and very styled. he sat in his chair with flair and style. i felt like throwing up. he was a cheese ball and his interview questions were lame. this was a guy who didn't know much of anything, but he looked fancy.
my last interviewer was the vp of product. he said the day went well and that he'd like me to come back to meet with the senior team and the ceo. i proceeded to talk salary and i named my price -- i erred toward the really high end of the scale. he said it was high, but we could negotiate that later.
i then went home and plugged through the traffic.
one day after, i called the vp of product and declined the 2nd round. i told him that even with the high salary, i couldn't support my family (wife + 5 great kids) in santa monica. we looked at homes there and the price we paid for our house in the temecula/san diego area would've bought us a 3 bedroom condo in santa monica. it didn't seem worth it to me.
key takeaways from this experience: i learned more about the lead aggregator model; i made some friends at lowermybills.com; i learned once again that los angeles traffic really sucks.