In 2012, I launched Boondockers Welcome, a platform where RVers can find hosts who will let them camp on their property for free while traveling.
My co-founder is my mother, who has been RVing since 2000 and had previously self-published some travel guide e-books and had a devoted audience. I had a background as a computer engineer, and learned web development while building the first version of the site.
We were completely bootstrapped. The team was just the 2 of us until 2019 when my mom retired and I hired someone to take over customer support, newsletters, blog posts, and social media, and we had a short stint with an engineering co-op student from the local university in early 2020.
In 2012, the site launched as a Drupal CMS site with some custom modules. We continued with that stack until 2017 when we launched a totally rebuilt version using Django.
The platform functions as a two-sided marketplace for hosts and guests to connect, but we charge an annual membership rather than per-night. Guests are free to stay with as many hosts as they like during the year. Hosts do not earn any money for letting guests stay.
Our initial business model charged $25/year for an annual guest-only membership, or $20/year if you were also able to host. We had originally assumed that all hosts would be RVers themselves who would also want to use the system as guests on their own travels.
As it turns out, many people loved hosting and wanted to continue long after they stopped RVing. We changed our business plan at the same time as our tech stack to allow hosts to join for free. "Guest Privileges Subscriptions" were $30/year, with 50% off for hosts, or free with credits earned after hosting other members. In 2019 we increased our prices to $50/year.
In May of this year, we were acquired by Harvest Hosts, another alternative camping platform for RVers. They had raised $37M in VC funding a few months earlier. At the time of our sale, we had over 2700 hosts and 12,000 guest members. Almost half of our members were also Harvest Host members, so it was a very well-suited pairing.
Our purchase was all cash, with 85% up front and the remainder paid out monthly over a 6 month transition period, during which I have stayed on as a consultant. That transition period finishes up in a few weeks.
Being an Indiehacker was not something I set out to do, I often call myself an "accidental entrepreneur". But now I know I'm an Indiehacker for life.
Ask my anything!