‘We have opened a channel for travel consumers they never knew about before.’
Jane Young and Jeff Cavins sat in a beige conference room at a downtown Vancouver hotel, wasting away under fluorescent lights, an endless PowerPoint and a couple sad Styrofoam cups of coffee between them. Young was there on a marketing contract. Cavins was a member of the board. He shared a look from them that only couples can understand. It said: There must be something better than this.
With 40 years of technology companies under the Cavins belt and a successful advertising agency career under Youngs, the two decided to build a business around their shared passion for being out in nature. He saw an opportunity when he realized that there are more than 20 million recreational vehicles across America, most of which are only used within a few days. He asked himself: How can we create memorable outdoor experiences and make them available to all?
For seven months, the couple traveled across America conducting market research on travelers and RV owners to base their company on.
The shared economy of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb had already laid the groundwork. Why not open it up to RVs?
In 2014, Young and Cavins invested their life savings into the outdoors, sold their homes and jumped into an Airstream Eddie Bauer trailer. For seven months, the couple traveled across America conducting market research on travelers and RV owners to base their company on.
In June, Outdoor raised $90 million in Series D led by ADAR1 Partners, as well as an additional $30 million in debt financing from Pacific Western Bank. The money will be used in large part to accelerate the growth of Outdoorsy’s insurtech business Romley. That same month, the company announced a partnership with glamping company Collective Retreats to expand its outdoor offerings.
The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who build transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve taken a personal approach to your business, spending months in the research phase actually living in an RV and interviewing RV owners and their families across the country. How do you think this has shaped your business?
Jane Young: When we lived on the road, we had to experience that customer experience every day for hundreds of days. So this is where we were able to take and identify what was the biggest pain point on the tenant and owner side and start dealing with them first.
For example, we understood what was most important from an insurance point of view because we could hear the voices of tenants and owners – they consider these things to be their children in many cases.
Owners who are more entrepreneurial-minded treat them more as a business asset, but they both want to know, “What do I get for liability insurance? Comp and collision? Internal damage?” The detailed list of those things became the start of the product roadmap, along with a description of what things should be in order to have a good guest experience.
In what ways have you had to change your model based on how people have used your platform?
Cavins: One thing we learned is that most of the tenants don’t want to run these things, so the owners started doing deliveries, which became very popular on our platform. Sixty percent of all owners will now deliver and set up just for you so you can get to your campsite and everything is done. Your chairs are out, your barbecue is out, your awning is out and you probably have a bottle of champagne in your fridge for you.
When Jen and I were traveling last year, we noticed that most of the American landscape of campgrounds and campsites were overbooked. People just couldn’t close their reservations the way you’d expect in a world of technologically advanced industries, and we thought there had to be something better for camping in terms of customer experience, which really helped us at glamping company Collective Retreats. stimulated investment. .