We have had a long history of making investments in strong marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers. Marketplace startups can simplify otherwise complex, disorganized ecosystems like transportation, hotels, groceries and others, and create wonderful businesses along the way. They do it by adding in search, discovery, pricing, listings, and other features. These startups are particularly compelling to us when these platforms create new income-creating opportunities for people to do what they love.
Many marketplace businesses have focused on connecting people in more urban, dense ecosystems. However, when I met Alyssa Ravasio, the founder and CEO of Hipcamp, I was excited to see a company tapping into a very different and vast ecosystem: the Great Outdoors.
Alyssa’s company has a simple and profound mission: “Get more people outside.” Hipcamp is a marketplace that connects people of all kinds with private landowners to help them enjoy the outdoors, often through camping and other activities they can enjoy outdoors.
The market for camping is huge and growing. According to the 2019 Camping Report by KOA, 62%, or 79M, of US households are active campers, up from 58% in 2014. A lot of this growth is driven by millennials, who make up 41% of new campers and who are drawn to camping as a way to unplug from technology and be physically active. Camping is also increasingly a social group activity, with millennials tending to camp in the largest groups: average group size for millenials camping is 10.7, compared to 8.5 for Gen Xers and 7.9 for baby boomers.
But how we book and plan camping trips, particularly the technology enabling that experience, has lagged behind this growth. For anyone wanting to explore the Great Outdoors — from the hardcore backpacker to the “camping curious” who may never have camped before — the logistics of planning a trip has been a huge chore, from fragmented supply to lack of end-to-end digital booking tools. Travelers want to spend more time in the magical moments, and less time searching for the right campsites — especially when those campsites had already been booked months earlier, lack the accommodations they want, or have grainy photos and incomplete descriptions.
Instead, the best experience would allow for any camper to go to a central, highly organized place to plan their next outdoor adventure — the same as we’ve come to expect from the nearly one-tap experiences for booking travel, food, or transportation. Beyond convenience, consumers also want to stay in the best places, whether in state parks or on beautiful farmland, ranches, forests, and other kinds of open spaces. They want directions to be clear. They want to talk to the locals who can give them the stories and history for where they’re staying. This is precisely the kind of frictionless, highly engaging experience that Hipcamp facilitates for consumers.
For landowners, Hipcamp presents a new business opportunity. There are many people who have beautiful pieces of property but few ways to help pay for the expenses of owning that land, while still preserving it. With Hipcamp, private landowners can design their own listings, set prices, and describe the accommodations and activities — whether that’s birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, and so on. Then, the bookings start rolling in. It’s a unique way for people living in areas far from cities to connect with friendly new people and also generate income to help offset the expenses on their land.
Across the country, Hipcamp is driving a movement where millions of people are finding time to head out to the outdoors on weekends and holidays within their hectic schedules — often for very different reasons. Some are trying to get some “digital detox” escaping from a life of constantly glancing at their phones. Others are doing the opposite — after finding some beautiful photos online of a trail tucked into a redwood forest, they are heading in the same direction, inspired to have a similar experience. Some bring big groups of friends and take a million pictures, and others seek a more solitary experience.
Similarly, some landowners build elaborate glamping set-ups like outdoor bathtubs or kitchens for their listings, while others make it easy to pitch a tent in the most secluded and beautiful spot on their property. There is no one-size-fits-all Hipcamp experience, meaning exploring the Great Outdoors has never been easier.
As the founder and CEO of Hipcamp, Alyssa has the right background of tech savvy and a deep love of getting outdoors. In addition to being a former director of sales and marketing for Revel Systems, the point-of-sale system, she also learned to code in order to build the first database of campsites in California, and she serves on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association Recreation Advisory Council (OIARAC), providing guidance on various recreation-related policy issues.
Alyssa and her team are the perfect group to take this all on — she has packed the team with expertise in travel, marketplaces, and the outdoors. They love the outdoors and are constantly taking time to go camping, both personally and for Hipcamp events! They have taken a disparate and disorganized collection of outdoor activities and locations and built it into a brilliant and organized marketplace.
After getting to know Alyssa and her business (including going on a few Hipcamp trips myself!), I was excited to learn that Hipcamp started to think about the next stage of the company, and the opportunity to work together presented itself. Today, we’re happy to announce that Hipcamp and Andreessen Horowitz are partnering for a Series B investment, and I’ll be joining the board.
We are excited to join them in their adventure, and hope to bring more people into the outdoors!