startups

Dream big and stay humble


Indie Campers campervan rental platforms – rental marketplace for road trips

Please introduce yourself and the Startup Indie Campers to our readers!

Indie Campers is one of Europe’s largest campervan rental platforms, operating as a rental marketplace for road trips. Our 7-year young business started from humble beginnings with 3 vans and two aspiring students in Lisbon (our current Portuguese CEO Hugo Oliviera and his Austrian founding partner Stefan Koeppl). In just seven years and without external funding, with an average growth rate of more than 200% per year, we have been able to achieve a broad reach and shake-up the travel industry, while keeping company ownership between Hugo and the team. We are now operating in more than 15 countries and 40 locations across Europe, with more than 1000 campervans and our customers has had more than 200k nights in campervans.

Why did you decide to start a business?

The business model originated from Hugo’s trip to Australia as a student when he saw the success and freedom of campervan rental in Aussie. “I was working and travelling around Australia in a hired camper van and became completely fascinated by the sense of freedom I experienced” (direct quote from Hugo Oliviera, feel free to use). Back in Portugal, Hugo further developed the concept in his Masters’ thesis and founded the company right after finishing his studies. He wanted to offer young travellers and surfers in Portugal a similar campervan experience to what young backpackers had in Australia at the time. From there it was a bottom-up approach. Starting out by purchasing and renovating a van, before offering it for rental. From day one, all earnings were reinvested to expand the business.

The company was brought to reality with the help of friends and family, creating a dedicated, tight-knit team. Up to today, Hugo interviews every candidate so that they integrate well and the company culture remains strong. The team is now run by a young, humble and entrepreneurial-minded team with more than 20 different nationalities. Teamwork comes above all and, by working together as a team, we overcome short and long-term challenges. Regardless of our success, the mindset of investing resources internally and our agile thinking are still with us in our daily operations today. We always strive to pivot and tailoring our offerings to best meet local demand. 

What is the vision behind Indie Campers?

Our vision is to be the world’s #1 Road Trip provider. By offering a digital platform that is the initial starting point for anyone who wants to go on a road trip across the globe and by offering multitude of different means of travel. Through a seamless online experience, a customer-oriented approach and dedicated support, we aim to be the Airbnb of road trip travel, with the tailored travel options and to fit various customer needs. By doing so, we have a P2P platform in development and are looking to offer a combination between professional hire, peer-to-peer hire and different road trip vehicles from motorcycles to cars with rooftop tents and campervans, supplemented with tailored road trip suggestions and itineraries.

Our mission is to democratize Road Trips by maximizing experience and lowering prices.

From the idea to the start what have been the biggest challenges so far and how did you finance yourself?

The largest challenge since we started has definitely been the past 5 months, in which we had to redefine our targets, offerings and structure to survive the crisis without losing ourselves in the process. (more about this in the remaining questions)

Who is the target group of Indie Campers?

Our target audience is definitely manifold. We started out with an initial appeal to young surfers and backpackers but are now also appealing to their parents and our early travellers are still loyal. Those who were backpacking and travelling a van 5 years ago, now bring their toddlers on a road trip. Now we are as likely to appeal to young adults with kids and have increasing demand from other demographics. The majority of our customers are still 20-30-year-olds, however, we increasingly see that we also the parents of the 20-year-old find it appealing to travel with us and 40+ accounting for about 35% of our customers, and 15% of our customers are over 50.

How do Indie Campers work? What are the advantages? What makes you different from other providers?

Our accelerated growth and success are embedded in our DNA, allowing us to be highly agile in quick innovation to implement improvements in our offerings, user experience or the customer journey. Our team of entrepreneurs, our tech- and solution-driven approach, are the main pillars of our growth. Thanks to a highly motivated but humble team and state of the art technology, we are able to simplify and optimize the operational efficiency of all our areas of activity in an innovative way. 

Our in-house-developed reallocation algorithm automatically assigns vehicles from our fleet to customers, optimizing the movement of vehicles between locations and reducing both operational costs and consumer prices.

The introduction of a dynamic pricing system adapts prices to different locations, booking dates, rental duration and occupancy rates to set a fair price for all of our customers.

We are completely focused on digital. This is present in everything we do, from 100% online-driven sales to all communication touchpoints, we use the latest online trends to reach our customers during every step of the decision-making process. This allows for a much faster growth rate than other players in the industry.

In addition, our light business model, based on outsourcing ownership through close relationships with key partners (e.g. Knaus and LeasePlan), allows us to focus our core resources on enhancing the customers’ experience.

How has your company changed with Corona?

We have obviously had to pay much more attention to spendings and costs and making full use of the resources available att all times, especially during the toughest weeks this spring. However, throughout this difficult period, which by far has been the biggest challenge we have been facing, we are proud to say that through the crisis we still stood strong to our belief in putting people first. Both in terms of our employees and the communities in which we operate. The effort from the team has been tremendous, we made a promise to not cut in headcount and through a lot of hard work, this is something we are proud to say that we managed to keep. 

In addition, we worked with charities in Italy, Belgium and Portugal by offering vans to help out as isolation pots, food/supply delivery vehicles to vulnerable communities and assist in testing. In addition, we spent a significant amount of time of planning new features, improving website content and our offerings – in order for us to be fully ready when the market opens. We believe in total that this time really posed as a test to our core value and our ability to be agile and turn around quickly. The huge pick up in orders and morale in the past week is starting to suggest that we might get through this stronger than ever.

How did you adjust to it and what changes have you made?

Our main adjustment, along with many other companies in the industry, has been to effective our offerings, costs and products in order to: enhance flexibility by offering both economical and competitive products to our customers, without sacrificing our quality and our equity. Our solution to this is manifold. For instance, we have included more premium features as prime extras, in order to also offer low-cost solutions to our customers. We have also become increasingly more agile in monitoring local and societal regulations to anticipate demand and react quickly by redistributing our fleet accordingly. One example is the fact that we promptly moved large proportions of our fleet to Germany when Germans were advised to spend summer at home. 

This way we manage to still serve one of our largest customer groups where they live, which already has been proven effective with June being our biggest month of german orders to date. In addition, we have worked on setting up a B2B offering, with solutions and packages for companies in need of flexible housing / integrated travel vehicles or isolation pods. We have also made strong developments in our planned P2P platform, not only from the technical standpoint but in market research and generating lists of interested campervans owners.

Where do you see the opportunity in the crisis?

As mentioned above, the crisis is indeed a massive test for the tourism industry. It questions our core values and agility in terms of making the most of the current situation, enhance work efficiency and work output of everything we do, in order to make it through this as strong as possible. Those who manage to utilise that opportunity will get out on the other side with more knowledge, mindfulness, pragmatism, experience and a stronger moral than ever. So yes, if you manage to use your time to the fullest by being agile in testing, pivoting offerings and be pragmatic there is definitely an opportunity. On another hand, we assume ourselves as being in a bitter-sweet spot in everything. 

We were massively impacted but still being among the first means of travel to pick up demand. We have worked extensively to position ourselves and being able to offer the first means of travel locally, which are showing strong results already. In addition, I do think this crisis at large will change people’s habits and attitudes towards travel. I think there be a shift towards more local, authentic, individual and longer-term travel options (2+ weeks), in the next month or even years. This is not to say that people will not travel abroad, however, the travellers objective might differ, in terms of seeking out unique experience that is more safe and fitting with the current climate.

Indie Campers, where does the road go? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Within 5 years we see ourself as having a presence across most of the European continents with large P2P as well as professional offerings and integration with other travel platforms such as hotels, rental and Airbnb options along the route. Offering an integrated experience from booking to travel app with tips along the way. Thereby being the world largest and most integrated platform for road trips.

At the end: Which 3 tips would you give to future founders?

Dream big, stay humble and hire a team of people that are willing to go the extra mile with you.

More information you will find here

Thank you Lena , Pernille and Melita for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.



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