Interview with Justin Hales – Founder and CEO, Camplify
When Justin Hales looked to relive his childhood, no one could have imagined it was the first step on a journey to starting an international business. Justin’s parents used to take him on caravan holidays as a child, but with no easy hire options available, taking up the hobby as an adult wasn’t feasible. So, he founded Camplify, the Airbnb of RVs. Two years on, Camplify have an office in the UK and with year on year growth, it’s proof that necessity really is the mother of all invention.
The sharing economy has exploded in recent years. Companies like Airbnb and Uber are some of the most well known in the world. They have no stock, property or vehicles and are thriving. By connecting people, they have revolutionised the way consumers interact with each other, disrupting several industries along the way.
Camplify follows the same business model, with a focus on RVs (caravans, camper trailers, campervans and motorhomes). Our online platform allows people with RVs to rent them out to people looking to hire them. Camplify provides everything the two parties need: rental contracts, all payment services, management of the security deposit, communication methods, customer verification and rental management procedural processes. With Camplify, owners get to make some money while holidaymakers get to explore the country.
I’m born, bred and educated in the Hunter, and I’m delighted to have started a company here too. Having attended the University of Newcastle, I moved into the tech sphere with roles in sales, account management and as business development manager.
I have fond memories of family caravan holidays as a child, however after an accident on the road my parents sold their caravan and the memories ended. As an adult, I found that buying a caravan wasn’t an option – and discovered that average caravan in Australia is used for just six weeks a year, meaning that for 46 weeks they’re sitting unused. In 2014, I founded Camplify and I continue in the role of CEO today.
Your business and team
Camplify started in Australia but has now moved to the British market. We launched in Australia in 2015 and the UK in 2017. By 2018, we had access to the largest rental fleet of RVs in Australia and the UK.
In 2016, Camplify had 250 listings. This has now grown to over 1800 in 2018. We expect growth to continue over the coming years. Camplify now employs 20 people in Australia and another four in the UK.
In 2015, Camplify emerged from the NRMA Slingshot Jumpstart Accelerator Program, which helps tech companies launch. Our partnership with NRMA continues to this day, giving us access to many parts of their business. In 2017, we received a major cash injection from Apollo Tourism and, as of mid-2018, we have raised $2.5mil in funding.
As someone who grew up in the Hunter, it’s a region I love and it was the obvious place to start a business. One of the biggest perks of starting up in Newcastle is access to a great source of graduates from the University of Newcastle. Costs here are also lower than somewhere like Sydney, and Newcastle is an easy place to live and work.
Your biggest challenges
For innovators from Newcastle to be taken seriously and raise money, you need to break out of the local pool and get among the community in Sydney. Thankfully there are easy ways to do this thanks to the start-up hub in the city.
Camplify is looking to grow in Australia and the UK. A big move in Australia will be to launch cabins and glamping, while in the UK we’re looking to build key relationships and increase our hires. We’re also planning to launch in new markets, in Europe and closer to home, currently setting our sights on France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.
More info www.camplify.com.au