For more than three years, Cloud of Goods was thriving as an on-demand service for travelers to borrow everything from golf carts to strollers and, most popular, mobility aids such as wheelchairs, which are notoriously difficult to travel with.
In December 2019, the company was operational in 10 cities covering the major tourist destinations across the United States.
They were entering a bright future — there was talk about Cloud of Goods being the next Uber and Punrsi Abeywickrema, the company’s CEO, was meeting with investors to raise the Series A round of funding to scale the business model as the world’s largest equipment rental marketplace.
But in early 2020, travel suddenly and dramatically slowed in the U.S. due to COVID-19.
Cloud of Goods missed its revenue targets as everyone canceled their travel plans.
They received an urgent call from a staff member in Las Vegas saying that website credit card processing had been blocked by their card processor due to excessive chargebacks.
Cloud of Goods COO Shaun Arora said, at that point, with most of their inventory rented out across the country, they decided the safety and health of their drivers was more important than collecting the equipment.
“We just let go of our equipment and stopped all delivery operations to try to keep our drivers from being exposed to the virus,” he says.
The following day, the Cloud of Goods bank account went negative overnight.
“While the vast majority of our employees and customers were sympathizing with us and understood that we had no options to make them whole, some did not understand that there was nothing we could do,” he says.
It was an extremely difficult few months, and the company wasn’t sure if or how it was going to be able to pick up the pieces. With travel halted and then slowed to a trickle, it felt like Cloud of Goods could become another casualty of the pandemic.
Time to pivot
By October 2020, the world was getting comfortable dealing with the pandemic, news about a potential vaccine gave humanity new hope, and people in the U.S. were starting to get back in touch with Cloud of Goods, asking when they were re-opening.
As they saw website traffic going up again, the Cloud of Goods team decided to explore a pivot to a new business model.
With no cash for inventory, they chose to accelerate the company to its original long-term vision, which was an equipment rental marketplace in which users would provide the rental equipment instead of the company.
Abeywickrema reached out to Scott Melton at Gateway Rentals in Orlando, Florida, and explained the model to him. Cloud of Goods had built a strong brand and search engine traffic over the years. They were going to use these to help new and existing local rental agencies accelerate their growth.
Cloud of Goods executes a unique gig and sharing economy strategy
Cloud of Goods rebuilt the platform to support users like Melton who wanted to start or expand a local rental business. They soft-launched this new gig and sharing economy marketplace strategy on the first day of 2021.
They started getting orders within hours.
Their newly acquired artificial intelligence, search engine optimization, data engineering, and content-marketing capabilities helped Cloud of Goods grow much faster than before COVID-19.
As the first local rental business to sign with Cloud of Goods, Melton already had the experience of supplying wheelchair, scooter, and stroller rentals in one of the most popular family vacation destinations in the world: Orlando, Florida, home to Disney World.
“Being the first partner, we worked through a lot of obstacles, but we got through them very well by open communication addressing any issues and resolving them immediately,” Melton says.
In the midst of his busiest holiday season yet, he says he expects business to continue to grow rapidly.
“The only hold back right now is the supply chain for new products, which is a global issue for everyone,” he says.
Melton says most customers are thrilled to learn they can rent mobility equipment for the theme parks and vacations, and it’s been wonderful to see the relief it brings people when they receive their delivery and know they can enjoy their vacations with minimal hassle.
Arora says filling this gap during a huge increase in demand for rental items has helped them create more jobs for local people and also serve a larger user base.
The pivot starts to pay off
“It’s been a tough 20 months with many ups and downs, but having gone through that, we are more resilient than ever,” Arora says. “Covid has made the Cloud of Goods business model so much more efficient, we are a better unit because of all the turbulence we faced.”
Less than a year into the re-launch, Cloud of Goods has partnered with over 50 local rental businesses, expanded to 90 cities across the United States, and just launched in its first international city — Cancun, Mexico.
“We see a lot of enthusiasm around the concept of products as a service,” Arora says. “As the sharing economy evolves, many consumers are starting to reconsider ownership of goods, and e-commerce and retailers are starting to respond.”
Now that Cloud of Goods has evolved into a marketplace matching potential renters with rental businesses, they plan to become the largest e-commerce platform for rentals in the world. This time, hopefully, without interruption.
Interested in starting a rental business on Cloud of Goods’ platform? If so, click here to learn about setting up your own rental shop.
Editor’s note: this article is part of a series sponsored by Cloud of Goods.