When shelter-in-place was first announced in the United States, most companies in the travel space saw bookings drop. Some shuttered. Hipcamp, a San Francisco-based startup that provides private land for people who want to go glamping or camping, found itself in a similar spot (even though its entire sell is about getting you away from crowds).
“Bookings took a precipitous drop as people sheltered-in-place, and we actually encouraged people to cancel,” founder Alyssa Ravasio said in an interview. The startup conducted a round of layoffs back in April, citing “economic uncertainties.” One employee tells TechCrunch that 60% of the company was laid off in two weeks. Hipcamp did not comment directly on the number of layoffs, other than to say the percentage of laid off employees is significantly lower than the 60% report.
Months later, Hipcamp is in a far better spot. When stay-at-home orders lifted, bookings spiked with people eager to get outside, which the CDC says is a safer activity than being inside a place with less ventilation. Ravasio says that Hipcamp has even brought back some employees it originally laid off. The startup is currently hiring.
Off this new momentum, Hipcamp today announced that it has acquired Australia-based landsharing startup Youcamp, marking its first expansion into an international market. With the new business, Hipcamp will acquire Youcamp’s existing 50,000 listings, bringing its total to 420,000 listings.
Hipcamp declined to disclose the financials of the deal at this time.
Youcamp, founded by James Woodford, was born in New South Wales in 2013. Similar to Hipcamp, Youcamp worked to draw urban-based adults to the great outdoors. For its seven years as an independent company, Youcamp racked up listings by working directly with private landowners.
Ravasio says she made her first big international bet in Australia partly because of revenue predictability.
“Expanding to the Southern Hemisphere also helps us account for natural seasonality with outdoor recreation. Between the U.S. and Australia, it’s an endless summer,” the founder said.
The entire team at Youcamp will join Hipcamp, adding five to Hipcamp’s staff, bringing its employee base to a total of 35.
Along with the acquisition announcement, Hipcamp shared that it is officially launching in Canada. The startup already had a number of Canadian hosts, but it will now increase the total by partnering directly with private landowners.
The company declined to share profitability or growth statistics, instead pointing to aggregate usage numbers as some sort of cumulative revenue parallel. To date, Hipcamp has helped people spend 2.5 million nights outside across 6,000 hosts in the United States, Australia and Canada.
In July 2019, Hipcamp got a tranche of new capital from investors, including but not limited to Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, Slow Ventures, Marcy Ventures (co-founded by Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z) and Dreamers Fund (co-founded by Will Smith). The round valued the startup at $127 million.
Hipcamp, which has been dubbed by The New Yorker the “Airbnb of the outdoors,” is more optimistic than it was in March, as shown by this appetite for acquisition. The progress mirrors what we’re seeing out of the actual Airbnb, which has found bookings increasing year over year as people look to stay at properties for local holidays.