Riding the RV revolution, Outdoorsy fuels up with $50 million in fresh funding

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Outdoorsy is building for the road ahead. The three-year-old company, which connects customers with underused RVs and other trucks big enough to camp in overnight, just raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from earlier backers Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.

That puts its total funding, in less than a year’s time, at $75 million. (We’d separately reported on its $25 million Series B round last February. It has now raised $81.5 million altogether.)

It’s easy to understand why investors are excited about Outdoorsy, which moved its headquarters from the Bay Area to Austin six months ago, partly to get closer to its base of customers, as well as to take advantage of attractive tax incentives. The company is capitalizing on a global trend of millennials who want to stay overnight at places other than hotels, which can be pricey and based in commercial districts that can’t provide the same experience of staying in a neighborhood.

Yet Outdoorsy is taking things a step further, so to speak. As co-founder and CEO Jeff Cavins notes, even with Airbnbs seemingly everywhere, there remain plenty of places where it makes even more sense to rent an RV and set up a grill, including at a beach, beside a lake or right outside events like musical festivals and car races. That’s saying nothing of traditional camping spots, like Yosemite and Yellowstone Valley.

It’s easier than ever thanks largely to Outdoorsy, too, says Cavins. Earlier on, the company logged serious time with outfits like Aviva, a British insurance company that is not only an Outdoorsy investor at this point but which was convinced by Outdoorsy to create an insurance product expressly to cover RVs as distinct from more accident-prone vehicles with which they’ve long been lumped, like dune buggies.

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The math was easy to grasp, offers Cavins of the argument Outdoorsy made. “Most recreational vehicles really aren’t driven around much. They are used for camping purposes. Some people do cross-country stuff, but most people don’t like driving so much on their vacations, so there isn’t a lot of mobile time with these units.”

Such products have been meaningful for both sides. Outdoorsy says it’s been able to price that insurance for “basically the cost of what you’d pay for a beer each day.” Meanwhile, by offering U.S. and Canadian RV owners up to $1 million in protection, and even more protection for its European users, Outdoorsy says it has managed to sign up 31,000 vehicles to date. These include a mix of traditional RVs, camper vans, towable campers and trucks that are rented for six days on average and that produce, on average, $1,900 in income for their owners over that same six-day period.

And that’s mostly in North America. Outdoorsy thinks that as it expands more aggressively in Europe and Australia and New Zealand, among other places into which it’s rolling, it will have closer to 65,000 vehicles available to rent on its platform by year’s end.

Not that expanding geographically is all the company has in mind. On the contrary, says Cavins, Outdoorsy is evolving into a kind of recreational marketplace, one with many more premium services beyond those it introduced last year, including insurance and roadside assistance. For example, it more recently began inviting customers to finance their vacations through Outdoorsy, which has partnered with the lending company Affirm toward that end. It also now offers trip and travel insurance to offset cancellations. And Cavins says the company is introducing a spate of other new premium services in roughly one month.

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Outdoorsy also is ushering in a new wave of entrepreneurship, by Cavins’ telling. As it stands, vehicle owners set their own pricing, with the help of tools provided by Outdoorsy, and they keep between 75 and 80 percent of what they earn. For some, it’s a nice way to make income when they aren’t using their RV. (It’s especially nice compared with the alternative, which is to pay to keep the RV stored.)

For others of its customers, he says, those rental fees are beginning to produce meaningful revenue. He points, for example, to one customer who he says is generating more than $1 million a year through Outdoorsy. Pushed on this number, Cavins notes that this customer owns between 50 and 55 RVs. But he insists that while “most users start with two vehicles, we have some that get to four, then 20, then they hire their own mechanic and cleaning crew.”

It isn’t always so sunny for RV owners. When it isn’t a holiday, and it isn’t summer, fewer people are looking to rent RVs and the market slows down markedly, admits Cavins. In fact, it’s largely why Outdoorsy is building up a business in New Zealand and Australia. It wants to take advantage of summer somewhere all year round.

Still, he says, the market is hotter than you might imagine. Even in Europe — which doesn’t have the same sprawling freeways of North America — car camping, including via camper van, is becoming a huge part of the culture. “By May, it’s now very hard to get your hands on something to rent.”
Source: TechCrunch

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