Increased demand by consumers who want to know what to expect before they walk into a restaurant, store or hotel is driving growth at Threshold 360, a Tampa tech company.
Threshold more than doubled its database of 360-degree imagery of locations, or specific places people want to visit, since its public debut at the South by Southwest tech conference in 2017, said CEO Jordan Raynor.
“At the time we launched we had 50,000 locations in our database, which was way more than anyone else other than Google. Now we’re at 125,000 locations across 19 countries, and we just crossed 100 [metro area] destinations,” Raynor said.
Threshold 360 has developed proprietary software that works with most 360 degree cameras in the market, allowing prospective visitors and customers to virtually step across the threshold of a business and look around inside.
“More and more consumers and locations increasingly expect this type of content. It takes out so much of the risk of showing up somewhere new,” Raynor said. “There’s something that still photos, even videos, cannot capture like a 360 experience of a space can capture. There’s that magic moment in which doors appear and you cross that threshold and in that moment you get 85 percent of the information you need about a space — the vibe, the attire, the scope and age of the space, how high end it is.”
The images work, he said, citing a 2015 study by Google that showed that adding a 360-degree experience to a search result doubled the likelihood a visitor would show up.
“”Our own data show that for customers that have some sort of ‘get directions’ call to action on their website … we can see a 96 percent lift in clicks to get directions after adding the content to the website,” Raynor said.
Raynor won’t disclose any financial information, but regulatory filings show the company has raised at least $2.8 million from high profile area investors, including Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Tom Wallace, managing partner of Florida Funders, has made a personal investment in the company. Other backers are Stewart Bertron, co-founder of the former Tradex Technologies; and Jack and Mike Murray, Bertron’s partners at Murray Bertron, a Tampa private equity and venture capital firm.
Bertron and Tampa tech executive Ben Robbins co-founded Threshold 360 in 2015 and spent the first couple of years figuring out how to revamp what used to be an expensive and time-consuming process of creating a 360-degree experience. The company now has proprietary software that’s made it easier, faster and cheaper to create immersive online experiences, said Raynor, who joined in 2016.
“This is what hotels and restaurants need. They need to set themselves apart in the marketplace, and so far I think this is the best way to do that,” said Steven Cook, who joined Threshold 360 Dec. 17 as director of marketing. He previously was deputy commissioner of tourism and marketing for the state of Vermont.
Cook joined as the company expands its customer base. Historically it has focused on destination marketing organizations nationwide – organizations such as Visit Tampa Bay that are responsible for curating and telling the story of places to visit in a geographic market. Now, Threshold 360 is also signing deals with individual hotels.
Hotels have been using 360-degree imagery for years, but the tools have been difficult to use, and the views have been limited to hotel space and not allowed prospective guests to see what was nearby, Raynor said. “We built a propriety mapping product that allows them to have some geographic context and an immersive preview of whatever it is the hotel wants to showcase.”
For instance, the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay in Westshore, a client of Threshold 360, can also display views of The Capital Grille, five minutes away at International Plaza.
Hotels represent a massive opportunity for the business, Raynor said.
The two customer segments – destination marketing organizations, or DMOs, and hotels — complement each other, Cook said.
“The more properties any destination can bring on site the better it will serve the destination itself. Because so many DMOs are driven on a percentage of the rooms and meals tax revenue, the more consumers they can drive to their region the better. Services that showcase the properties and give people a better sense of what a destination has to offer is what really drives that revenue.”
Raynor can see the technology being used in other industries, but Threshold 360 is sticking to destination marketing and hospitality for now.
The company owns the content and licenses it to DMOs and hotels, so it can resell the same content over and over.
“That’s where the business gets really interesting,” Raynor said. “For example, every hotel in town wants to showcase Armature Works. We’ve got four or five customers that are paying for access to Armature Works. So the ability to re-license the content makes this a very attractive investment opportunity for us and our financial backers.”
Threshold 360 recently moved into a former bank branch office on the first floor of 500 E. Kennedy Blvd., the same building that houses Tampa Bay Wave. The company has remodeled the space with sleek furniture, lounge areas and a high-tech vibe. About a dozen of the company’s 20 staff members are usually in the office, with the rest in the field in sales or creating content.
The company has recruited staff members from all over, including Cook from Vermont and Daniel Kraus, the company’s chief product officer, who moved from Berlin. Krause was the first product manager for Nokia’s Here mapping division, which at the time was the only competitor for Google’s Streetview.
“I don’t buy that you can’t build an amazing tech company here. Maybe there was a time when that was true, but we’re recruiting the best of the best to come and joint this team because we’re taking really big swings,” Raynor said.