One of the good fortunes of doing the work I do is the delight of the unexpected: An unanticipated experience yields a new sight. A surprising situation creates an opportunity to learn. An act of creativity yields an unintentional connection. The key to finding the unexpected is to be open enough that you recognize the benefit as it materializes before you.
I had one such unexpected experience recently. After a post I wrote here last month, one of the founders of a new start-up I mentioned, Hipcamp, reached out to me to say thanks. I’d initially discovered them through a new start-up recognition network, Product Hunt (the subject for a future post, I’m sure). Eric Bach, the co-founder, and Alyssa Ravasio started Hipcamp last year as a “discovery engine that empowers people to discover and book epic campsites.” Because of my childhood growing up in Australia and camping with friends and family and as a Boy Scout, I was intrigued by Hipcamp and wanted to learn more.
But I also thought it would be great to explore the founders’ journey and the journey of a start-up as it grew. I have a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship—which is good, because that’s how I choose to make my living—and following the progress of this company seemed like an opportunity too good to waste. Eric and I connected after he reached out to me, and what follows arose from our first live conversation. The plan is to revisit Eric and Alyssa as they progress on their founders’ journey to explore their experience and share some of their lessons.
Eric did a great job of connecting my experience to the story of his company. As we were getting started, he asked whether I had any camping background, and what was it. After I told him, Eric shared the story of Alyssa and her none-too-satisfactory navigation of existing methods for booking camping sites.
“The research process involved piecing together critical bits of information from various state, national and county websites, then cross-referencing this with Flickr, Yelp, ReserveAmerica and Google. It was a total mess, and she almost gave up more than once.
Fifty Chrome tabs and a few painful hours later, Alyssa persevered and discovered Andrew Molera Campground in Big Sur, a good choice because it was close to the ocean and didn’t take reservations.
The story was interesting, but really not surprising or intriguing—both elements which are usually drivers for a compelling narrative about founding a business. Then came the hook, the reason why Hipcamp came into being and is not just another booking site:
But upon arriving, she learned that Andrew Molera was home to an amazing point break wave and the majority of campers also had their wetsuits and surfboards. Alyssa loves to surf, but since there had been no mention of surfing in the entire state parks website or park brochure, found herself woefully unprepared.
The passion of a founder is hard to match. While the camping experience is not a new one, we now have higher expectations for what that experience could be. Given our fast-paced lives, maximizing how we spend our leisure time is increasingly important. Hipcamp meets a need to present and reconcile not just location data but a whole range of attributes that would make for a more complete understanding of the camping experience at a specific location before booking. To deliver that requires a complete and thorough assessment of every possible camping location.
Read more: New Life For Old Experiences