There are varying degrees of involvement from marketplace to producer of the actual RV and I was left asking – what is the right balance? Is getting THIS involved the right play?
RVs can be unreliable, wear and tear quickly, and Cabana’s fundamental belief is that you can drastically expand the market from the .5% of the U.S. population that has taken an RV trip to much much more, but only if you redefine the fundamental experience from the ground up.
RVs have a reputation of being primarily for old folks, the scene of unfortunate semi-permanent living situations, or again, for gurus who obsess over the various quirks and lifestyle issues that come with the “RV Lifestyle.”
The bet is that in the same way Uber brought way more people into the “taxi” market by redefining core fundamentals, Cabana will drastically expand the market of RV users to younger millennials and GenZers, weekenders and more.
This rings true for me – I don’t think I would ever rent an RV but I could see me and my gf renting a Cabana to go to a national park or a weekend trip to Vermont.
Being able to put out a differentiated product that potentially drastically expands the market is important …
But How Vertically Integrated Is Too Vertically Integrated?
Redefining the RV aside, it’s also important that they can scale quickly, which is where the difference with Texino and Boho CamperVans comes in – Texino and Boho assemble all their own vans, while Cabana relies on third party manufacturers and only controls the design.
As Cabana refines the design they have a quicker path to market to expand to scale by using existing manufacturers.
Cabana’s bet is the sweet spot is somewhere in-between Outdoorsy/RVShare and custom bespoke vans.
And here again, I’m reminded of Uber – the “easy” way out to add a lot of supply as an early rideshare or taxi app was to plug into the existing supply – taxis. Overnight you could go from zero to 2,000 drivers in a city.
But it neglected the fact that the experience was fundamentally a bad one – 2,000 drivers who won’t pick you up is useless.
At the same time, it wouldn’t have been smart for Uber to go and buy all their own vehicles (though for the longest time that was apparently Travis Kalanick’s idea) – this is essentially the strategy of Carey Limousine, Addison Lee and other traditional players that would buy thousands of vehicles off of Ford and GM every year.
The right balance was something in between – something that changed what was fundamentally wrong with the taxi experience while maintaining as much flexibility as possible.
I see a lot of the same similarities. While Boho Vans and Texino are busy building wood paneling into the walls, and Outdoorsy and RVShare are plugging into existing supply, Cabana is figuring out how to exert more quality control while maintaining as much scalability as possible.