Cloud of goods: a phoenix from the ashes
This is a story of hope, resilience, patience and faith. This is a story of a stubborn entrepreneur and his startup team who refused to give up to the Covid-19 pandemic. I am Punsri Abeywikrema , founder and CEO of Cloud of Goods and this is my story. In December 2019, Cloud of Goods was operational in 10 cities covering major tourist destinations from the west to east coast, to deep south of America providing rental equipment to travelers all across America. Cloud of Goods made travel goals a reality as we quickly became a prominent rental platform heading towards a bright future. News began to circulate of Cloud of Goods being the “Uber for Vacations” and we set about sealing deals with our investors to raise the Series A round of funding to scale the already proven business model. We heard snippets of reports about a new virus impacting China but life continued as usual in America, completely unaware of the brewing global pandemic. I was traveling city to city, pitching to investors, a future in which Cloud of Goods changed the world was closer than ever. We were to be a great force behind realizing the United Nations Vision 2030 Sustainable Development Goals 11 and 12. As we stepped into the year 2020, we had no doubt it was going to be the year we rocked the world, with our company on track to post a net profit by April 2020.
Cloud of Goods Orlando FL warehouse - 2019
Suddenly the virus we knew so little about engulfed the bright future in the making for Cloud of Goods as travel in the US slowed in January 2020. We missed our revenue targets and just as our dream seemed to be slipping away things began to recover in February as people became immune to the Coronavirus news. We posted better than expected rental bookings in February.
Happy travelers who rented scooters and wheelchairs from Cloud of Goods
At the recovery of CoG, I decided to pay a visit to our team in Sri Lanka. I arrived at the end of February and I was to return in mid March. We were unaware of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic would take on the world. Business gradually began to sputter out week over week. Countries were racing to shut down travel, lockdowns became the new normal and even marshall law was being imposed in some countries as the magnitude of the pandemic imploded life in America and all around the world.
That night, I went to bed uncertain of what the future held for CoG only to wake up to a shattered dream. My worst nightmare came to life when I received a call informing me that the website credit card processing had been blocked due to excessive chargebacks. The company came to a tough decision to let go of our inventory out on rent, considering the health of our drivers over collecting our equipment. All delivery operations were stopped, simultaneously bringing the realization of my dreams to a creaking halt. The Cloud of Goods bank account had dropped to a whopping balance of zero as well as my personal bank account. My life had collapsed.
We were left with no funds to pay our drivers and called a company meeting to inform them of the company’s collapse and our inability to pay any of them. The days following were consumed by an onslaught of phone calls from infuriated employees who could not get their last paycheck or customers demanding refunds. For the first time in my life I was called “a thief”, “a fraud” as the reputation of CoG took a toll on social media.
The world was in a disarray amidst the pandemic, my life was destroyed. I found myself sitting in front of my computer for hours trying to piece together the recovery of CoG. Every avenue was blocked, the world was closed, I could not even find a job.
Whilst my world descended into chaos I decided to find myself a single focal point to invest all my energy in, in an attempt to save us: IncubateLabs, my software development company based in Sri Lanka which was also badly impacted but I knew I could revive it. I explored every avenue searching for projects for IncubateLabs. By mid 2020, IncubateLabs returned to profitability and we had grown our team from 5 to 20+ employees within 3 months amidst the pandemic. By October 2020, we rebranded IncubateLabs as iLabs and moved into a new 4-story office with our workforce reaching 50 employees. The future seemed to be in our favor.
Meanwhile, the world around us had adapted to the pandemic, news about a potential vaccine had given humanity hope and we began to receive a stream of messages asking us when CoG was planning to re-open. Website traffic began to rise and I began to explore a new CoG launch with a pivot. Yes, IncubateLabs was profitable, but not nearly enough to rebuild the fallen startup Cloud of Goods in its original shape. So, I decided it was the time to accelerate the company to our original long term vision, an equipment rental marketplace, in which many suppliers would provide the rental equipment instead of us owning the inventory.
Cloud of Goods had built a strong brand over the years and we were going to leverage our brand equity to entice customers whilst partnering with local rental businesses to fulfill those orders. Using the profits of IncubateLabs, I assigned a dedicated team to rebuild the CoG tech platform with a goal to enter 2021 with a new CoG.
We relaunched on January 1, 2021 receiving orders within hours. Our newly acquired artificial intelligence, search engine optimization, data engineering, and content marketing capabilities would make Cloud of Goods grow much faster than the pre-Covid era growth rate. 11 months into our re-launch, we are now partnered with over 50 local rental businesses, having expanded to 90 cities across the United States and we just launched our first international city, Cancun Mexico.
Amazing growth of Cloud of Goods in 2021
Our journey has been a rollercoaster with countless ups and downs, but having endured these challenges Cloud of Goods is more resilient than ever. We know the years to come hold many triumphs and failures but rest assured we will continue to shape our vision into a reality. “Praise and blame, recognition and disregard, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow, come and go like the wind. Rest like a giant tree in the middle of them all” -- Buddha