Greg Robertson: We left our jobs and rented some cubicles at the architect’s office. After all, he didn’t have architects working because nobody was doing anything in real estate. One of the premises was that we threw away our PC and we both bought Macbooks.
We were very inspired by a group in Chicago called 37signals which is now called Basecamp. There is this whole vision of Web 2.0 of using Rails and making these simple online apps. We thought that was perfect for real estate.
Dan had this itch he wanted to scratch. Do you remember an app called Delicious? It was a bookmarking app. Dan loved that app and he used to use it all the time. We thought of a social bookmarking app for real estate where you can go to multiple real estate sites and tag the properties of each one of them and they would aggregate together in one feed.
We went to the market thinking that’s a great idea. It’s really innovative – this social media crave that was starting to go off. We actually called the app Dwellicious. We went to market with that and we got some play on Tech Crunch and Mashable. It was all self-funded.
I still have the deposit slip from when we opened our first bank account. I just put $2,500 in. We weren’t set up to be a consumer thing. It was an interesting concept of blending data and using API’s on this. We were learning a lot about developing for the web in this Web 2.0 concept.
Like I said, it’s inspired by 37signals. At one point, we knew that wasn’t really going to go anywhere. Our second idea was a completely online CMA application. I knew how to sell that. The other company was not focusing on that anymore so there was a market for that. I began to blog about it.
Sramana Mitra: What year was it?
Greg Robertson: This was around 2008. We got approached by a company called BHT. They do real estate photography. They had a notion of building an Orbitz for real estate where they would ask a lot of brokers to participate just like the airlines do on their own portal.
They really loved the concept of Dwellicious. They liked the name. They approached us wanting to buy Dwelicious from us. It wasn’t making us a lot of money, so we ended up selling the assets of Dwellicious to BHT. We started working in this Cloud CMA thing. We were reading all the blog posts on 37signals’ website.
We needed a designer at that point. We reached out to someone from Boca Raton. We needed some logos made and some help with UI design. He came over and helped us design our WNR studio logo and product logos.
I came up with the name Cloud CMA. At that point, people really didn’t understand the cloud. That wasn’t used a lot. I had to explain to realtors that the cloud meant the internet or online. Now everybody says cloud everywhere, but back in the day, they thought cloud was because our other program was called Lightning and that’s how people put it together.
We began building and getting ideas and again I was blogging about this stuff. There’s this guy Damian. He helped us with our identity and everything which was very crucial as well.
Right towards the end of 2009, we were showing some screenshots of stuff and we got a call from a MOS executive out of Colorado and she said, “Listen we are building our own MOS system, but we’re just about to start working on a CMA, but I’ve been reading about what you are doing. Would you consider site licensing Cloud CMA to us?”
This is a sight unseen. We have a good reputation in the industry being in it for so long. We began talking and negotiating and we came up with a price. We were ready to launch in January of 2010 and then we got a call from her which was one of the greatest calls. She says, “We’re ready and the price is good. Do you mind if we pay for a full year upfront?” I said, “No, we wouldn’t mind that at all. Thank you.”
We were really stoked because we had a product that we thought was good. We had validation because we had already sold the product to a MOS vendor or organization and they paid us all upfront. That caught a lot of buzz in the industry.
We had some consulting jobs on the side that kept gave us some money while we built the channel for this. We both wanted to get back to California, so I moved out here first and then Dan later. We began to grow and grow. We have a full suite of products now.