October 17, 2018
David Sali, Ottawa Business Journal
A marketer by trade, Spencer MacPherson was making extra money on the side as a real estate photographer when an idea for a bigger money-making venture became as vivid in his mind as a 3D video.
MacPherson noticed that more and more realtors were offering virtual online tours as a means of allowing potential buyers to scope out properties without ever leaving the comfort of their homes. When MacPherson was asked if he could provide such services, he politely said no. But it got him thinking.
“I immediately understood that this type of technology and the digital aspect that it creates can be used outside of real estate in very unique purposes,” the 25-year-old entrepreneur says.
Eventually, he and younger brother Logan, 21, a business student at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, cobbled together enough funds to purchase a state-of-the-art digital camera that uses infrared technology to scan images in 3D. Since launching Point3D Commercial Imaging almost exactly a year ago, they’ve used the high-tech tool to create virtual tours of more than 70 local businesses and other organizations, from museums and art galleries to tattoo parlours and flower shops.
The brothers have almost recouped their initial $25,000 investment and expect to start turning a profit on the self-financed venture by the end of the year. They’ve added a salesperson to the startup’s payroll and aim to beef up their team with more photographers and marketing staff soon.
MacPherson, a graduate of Algonquin College’s advertising and marketing communications management program, still has his day job as a brand manager at Goldwing Autocare – a Point3D client, by the way – but plans to throw himself into the startup world full-time in the next few months. He predicts the enterprise will be a “six-figure business” before long.
Yet as high-tech as the venture sounds, MacPherson says marketing it comes down to good, old-fashioned leg work.
“It really is a sales job,” he notes. “Nobody is coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, we want a 3D tour.’ Typically, we’re actually going to places and saying, ‘Hey, have you thought about doing something like this?’ and they say, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know that was possible, but yes, we would totally be interested.’”
After giving the Bytown Museum the 3D treatment earlier this year, the MacPhersons recently took their equipment to Watson’s Mill, a 19th-century flour mill in Manotick that’s now a working museum. MacPherson donned his waders to film the turbines beneath the building – an area that’s usually off-limits to visitors, who can now feel like they’re right in the middle of the churning waters thanks to digital technology.