Clayton Rothschild shares his perspective.
Breakfast tacos and a “cowboy-type” approach: When I spoke to Clayton Rothschild, these two things differentiated his story about CloudPano’s success over so many other entrepreneurial ventures.
“You’ve got to execute on the right things in the right ways with an agile, cowboy-type approach,” he said. Instead of diving into building a product just hoping the market needs it, he says you’ve got to pick up the phone to call customers.
Or in his case, you can schedule a pitch meeting and bring breakfast tacos.
CloudPano’s seven-figure revenue serves as proof that this philosophy is working. Rothschild is quick to say it’s not because his business is novel.
“The reason this got off the ground? It’s not so much about the idea. It’s the execution,” he said. “That’s the secret, in my opinion, to entrepreneurship.”
Where it began
Rothschild, founder of CloudPano (a member company at efactory), grew up with a computer in his room and began designing websites in lieu of playing at recess during elementary school.
Following a short career in accounting in Texas, he found himself drawn into tech consulting. On the side, he tried building a few businesses, but eventually it was friend and co-founder Zach Calhoon’s idea about creating virtual tours that took a toehold and exploded.
“A buddy reached out to me with this idea, and it just so happened that this one is the one that hit,” he said. “It’s totally different than anything else I’ve done.”
Rothschild’s partner, a former drill bit salesman, suggested the winning combination of a sales pitch to Coldwell Banker with breakfast tacos.
“He said, ‘I’ll bring in breakfast tacos Tuesday morning, show the demo, pitch it to the realtors and see if they want to buy it.’”
Out of the 30 realtors in the room, Rothschild recalls that about half signed up to indicate interest. Four ended up paying for the product.
“That was our first validation of the market, which is the first step before you build anything,” he said. “Second of all, it was the boost we needed.”
A story of growth
But Rothschild didn’t quit his day job right away. Instead, he kept building, digging and chipping away, making a $10 profit in the first year. After that, the growth snowballed each month before a major global disruption occurred: COVID-19.
For tech like CloudPano, though, COVID-19 resulted in higher demand for the product. Rothschild took a three-month leave from his other job to focus on CloudPano and see what would happen.
The company saw exponential growth, ultimately resulting in Rothschild quitting his day job, returning to his hometown of Springfield in August 2020.
Amidst stay-at-home orders and mask ordinances, it was not an ideal time for relocating his young family and meeting people. But he has been happy to rebuild and add to his network.
“Entrepreneurship is such an inherently emotional process,” he added. “So that’s also part of execution – having resilience, hope and optimism, too.”
CloudPano allows people to build virtual tours and get a feel for a space through an online or mobile experience. And CloudPano has had huge success, building major integrations with Realtor.com, Apartments.com, Zumper.com and most recently Zillow.com.
“My software lets people make those tours,” Rothschild said. “Photographers pull out their phone, stand in the middle of the room, rotate around, capture the space, click OK, go to the next room and they then chain those different scenes together to create a 3D model of that physical space.”
Currently, CloudPano has about 200,000 properties on the platform, with incredibly rich data available for each. This is the gold standard, helping the company to further set itself apart.
This data is in high demand and has many potential applications for growth, like e-commerce, construction and automotive.
While Rothschild is innovative, he’s not impulsive, and he doesn’t want to jump onto the next new thing just because he can.
“If you have customers paying you money, you have some kind of product market fit. And if you have not saturated that market yet, then don’t distract yourself with a completely different line of business.”
He said, that’s another part of executing well.