The company raised $1.25 million this week to continue building its database of every private campground and signing partnerships with the small businesses.
A new Washington state startup wants to help outdoor lovers find open campgrounds across the country, from spots near the Great Smoky Mountains to cleared lots in Pacific Northwest forests.
Camp Native launched an online service six weeks ago that lets campers search and reserve campsites all over the U.S. The company raised $1.25 million this week to continue building its database of every private campground and signing partnerships with the small businesses.
The funding came from angel investors and was led by BrokerBin, a computer wholesaler marketplace.
Co-founder and CEO David Woodbury, an avid camper himself, was annoyed with emailing different campgrounds separately to find open sites or taking his chances by simply showing up. Woodbury had started two companies before, and felt his entrepreneur light bulb go on.
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The startup moved from Minneapolis to Seattle in January when the team entered startup accelerator 9 Mile Labs. Woodbury said he was attracted to the outdoors-loving Pacific Northwest, one of the most popular camping destinations in the country.
For now, Camp Native focuses solely on privately owned campgrounds. Public campgrounds are usually easier to find, Woodbury reasoned, and don’t require as much online searching as private sites.
Washington state, for example, has about 80 public campgrounds, and about 100,000 people use the state’s online system every year.
Private campgrounds, which includes RV sites in Camp Native’s case, are pretty much any site not owned by a government agency. The Cove Resort at Fish Lake near Leavenworth is an example, as is Whispering Pines RV Center in Cle Elum.
The focus on private campgrounds is also Camp Native’s play to get ahead of competing websites, such as ReserveAmerica.
“There are as many private campgrounds as there are public, but they are very underutilized,” Woodbury said.
Camp Native plans to eventually add public campgrounds to its site.
The reservation system launched on Camp Native’s site about two weeks ago, and so far the startup has formed agreements with 195 campgrounds. That’s only a small fraction of the estimated 17,000 private campgrounds in the U.S., but Woodbury plans to have his company reach them all in the next six months.
Camp Native is opening a small sales office in Spearfish, S.D., an outdoor-oriented destination near Mount Rushmore. Small businesses come first, Woodbury said, then the company will move on to large agencies that own multiple camping sites.
One of the largest private campground systems in the country, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), uses its own online reservation system.
KOA owns 485 campgrounds in North America, including 16 in Washington state. A representative of the Billings, Mont.-based company said it had not heard of Camp Native.
Campers cannot make reservations for KOA locations through Camp Native’s site, though Woodbury said KOA would be included on a list of larger agencies the startup will reach out to next year.
KOA’s own online reservation system makes up 41 percent of all its reservations and brings in more than $650,000 worth of business every year, a company representative said.
Camp Native is based in Burien and has 11 employees.