We sold Campground Booking (after five years of building it from the ground up!)

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After starting this podcast, I started another project, a software company called Campground Booking, that I’ve shared updates on the show over the last few years as we brought our product to market, brought on early customers, and then last summer raised our very first round of funding.

Some of those updates have been good, but I honestly feel like most of them have been me commiserating either with Alyssa or myself or another guest just about the challenges and hardships of building something from scratch.

And I can honestly tell you it has hands down been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

Today I have a fun update to share.

Campground Booking has been acquired.

Fancy way of saying I sold my company!

Acquisitions can mean a lot of things. It can mean a company was running out of money, or having just a meteoric rise and cashed out, or simply that it was the right time for founders or the business to have an exit from the outside. And to me, whenever I read a lot of these headlines in the past, acquisitions have always looked like a really sexy topic. Instagram sells to Facebook for a billion dollars or Disney acquires Marvel—great move by the way.

But the reality is that these are just the tip of the spear of acquisitions of every shape and size happen every single day for a million different reasons and for a million different price points.

Today, I really want to share some of my experience with selling Campground Booking, why I did it, and what it means for the business and myself moving forward.

First, who acquired Campground Booking? If you’re an RVer, you’ve likely heard of good Sam. Good Sam is an RV membership that covers items like roadside assistance, travel assistance, RV insurance, and a number of other products including a network of over 2,000 campgrounds where you can get camping discounts while on the road. We joined Good Sam back in 2014 when we first bought our RV actually heard of them through my grandpa who has RVed for many years. It’s who we insured our first RV through over the years.

Alyssa and I have done a number of projects with the team at Good Sam on their blog and they’ve also been a sponsor of our RV entrepreneur Summit. So we had a relationship with the company for quite some time.

But earlier in January, I received an email from one of our contacts in the business connecting me to a gentleman named Will who wanted to talk about Campground Booking. As it turns out, building a campground reservation product has been on the Good Sam roadmap for quite some time. They were interested in the platform we created and how it could potentially tie into their existing campground and RV or network.

The more we talked, the more our roadmaps and goals were aligned. And we were kind of striving in the same direction.

I originally thought the conversation was going to be around kind of a partnership with the Good Sam. But then Will said, “what if we acquired you instead?”

Selling the company was not on my roadmap for 2021. We recently closed around a round of funding this past summer, we brought on more team members, and we had quite a bit of financial runway in the bank to continue operating through the end of the year.

But the more I sat down to think about it, the more excited I became about the idea of being acquired by Good Sam, really for two primary reasons from a business perspective.

First, impact and reach.

When I co-founded Campground Booking with my partner, Paul, our hope was to bring a product to market that we could get into the hands of as many campgrounds as possible. With the network as established as Good Sam, which has been operating for over 50 years, I could see a path that massively accelerated our ambition and aim for why we started the business in the first place.

Second, the right partner.

Good Sam has over 2 million members and 2000 campgrounds who are part of the network. As I thought about who could really be an ideal candidate for partnership with Campground Booking, Good Sam felt like one of the best possible fits.

We could take our booking platform and connect it with as many of their parks as possible and also create a better booking experience for their 2 million RV members.

So as of today, I’m excited to announce officially on the podcast, that Campground Booking has been acquired by good Sam.

And to share a little bit more light on this process because selling a business is different for every sale and can be overwhelming to say the least.

I was talking with my friend Kevin just saying that I want to talk about this deal. There are some things I can talk about and some things I can’t talk about because Good Sam is a publicly-traded business. And one of the things that he shared with me was that when a lot of times companies get acquired, you hear about those business reasons, the ones I just shared, but you don’t really hear about the personal reasons why as an entrepreneur, you would sell your company, and really just to be able to open up the hood on this personal side.

Because as Michael Scott would say, business is always personal. It’s the most personal thing in the world. I love that quote.

Business is always personal. It's the most personal thing in the world. - Michael Scott Office | Meme Generator

So for me, here are some of the personal reasons why I felt it was the right time for me to sell and why to get Sam.

First of all, it felt right.

I genuinely wasn’t planning to put this as my very first reason because it sounds very soft. But it was the first thing that came to my head when sitting down to share my thoughts. Since I started working on Campground Booking, this was actually the fifth opportunity I had to sell the company, which I’ve never talked about publicly.

Other scenarios didn’t feel like the right time or something with a buyer felt out of alignment. In this scenario, I genuinely felt that it was the right call just kind of a gut instinct. Over the years, I’ve tried to do a better job of trusting myself. And while this sounds like a very high-level, mushy reason, I really stand behind it.

Secondly, our daughter, Ellie is almost two, and I’m okay with minimizing my risk as an entrepreneur in this upcoming season a life. Since Ellie was born in 2019, I don’t feel like she has gotten the amount of attention I want to give her.

If something happens in the company, I’m the last line of defense. And for me that carries quite a bit of weight. I’ll still be running the business inside of Good Sam moving forward. But since accepting the deal, I felt significantly lighter. I have a lot more people and resources in my corner. And I felt this opportunity would give me the mental bandwidth to give more of myself to being a dad.

And lastly, I felt it was a win for not only myself but my co-founder, Paul, our employees, our customers, and our investors. (I guess this is a hybrid personal business reason.)

Paul and I sat down for a pizza a couple months ago and just talked through this opportunity and whether or not we wanted to pursue it. We discussed how, over the last five years, neither of us had taken a salary or paid ourselves up until the fall of 2020. And we wanted to feel like this deal could cover the time risk and sweat we put into this business and the value that we created in the product.

We also wanted to respect the fact that we had taken on investors who need to be paid back. And at the end of the day, this deal checked all those boxes. I didn’t want anyone to get the short end of the stick.

So what does this mean moving forward?

As of last week, for the first time in seven years now I am a full-time employee, which is very weird to say. I will continue running the business inside of Good Sam along with our entire team that we had on before this deal came to be. Ee will also be hiring several more team members in the coming months.

And like we’ve done in the past, we’d love to find people in the RV community. So if you’re looking for a position in sales, customer service, or your developer, please reach out to me at [email protected].

And we’re not just hiring for development roles, we’re going to be hiring quite a bit. So even if you’re not a developer or techie, we are looking for positions and we’d love to hire people who are living and breathing in the RV space.

I think if there’s one major takeaway from me, for this whole experience, it’s the reassurance of why this podcast was started in the first place, which was the premise that you don’t have to choose between a meaningful career or fulfilled life. You can pursue both and I genuinely believe that. My co-founder Paul and I spent the better part of the last five years building this company and traveling full time in our RVs amidst crappy internet and campgrounds in the middle of nowhere.

There’s really no one way to build a business and if somebody tries to tell you that the only way to build a business is raising tons of money or sitting an office or bootstrapping, I think if what I learned in this process is accurate, it’s that there’s no one path. We’re kind of all figuring it out as we go along. And sometimes just by chasing your curiosity moving into an old RV can lead to some really cool opportunities.

Thank you so much for reading and being a part of this journey.  I just wanted to share this update since I’ve documented the process of Campground Booking from the very beginning through some of the hardships and now it’s not really the endpoint, but it’s kind of a new starting point in a lot of ways and I wanted to be able to share that with all of you! Thank you.