HUNTER caravan-sharing startup Camplify has developed a device that promises to transform the road van industry and boost its own market share.
Launched by Slingshot and partnered by the NRMA since 2014, Camplify’s web platform links holidayers seeking caravans to road van owners keen to rent their RVs.
Chief executive Justin Hales realised early in the startup’s life that a key impediment to its growth was the fact those who wanted to hire an RV had to pay from $500 to $1000 to have an electric brake controller installed in their car by an auto-electrician in order to tow.
Mr Hales asked Tuggerah company ElecBrakes to develop a solution and within 12 months it came up with the wireless brake controller named ElecBrake. The small black box is controlled via Bluetooth and, crucially, is fitted in the van rather than the tow car, allowing greater flexibility as multiple cars can tow in a journey. It is also competitively priced at $450.
“We lost 30 per cent of our hires initially because people were not wanting to pay to fit traditional electric brakes to their cars,” said Hales, whose nostalgia for childhood camping holidays fuelled his idea for Camplify.
Camplify is taking pre-orders for ElecBrake and will distribute it nationally.
The company has 11,000 hirers nationally and has grown from 150 vans last year to 750 at present.
Mr Hales said the company’s attention to being the most corporate operator in its market – offering premium yet flexible insurance and running support programs to help RV owners better promote themselves – had driven its “immense” growth.
Camplify is also poised to enter the UK camping market, striking affiliations with key motoring groups before a May 2017 launch.
“We built the product to scale it so even though we are based in Newcastle we can expand into other countries with minimum effort,” said Mr Hales.
“The biggest thing for us is getting owners on board and then getting them to understand how to provide a service and getting them empowered to run their own business.”