Gett inks deal with Curb Mobility to bring yellow cabs to its enterprise-focused on-demand ride-hailing app

Gett, the ride-hailing startup that has been carving out a niche for itself in a crowded and competitive market for on-demand transportation by focusing on enterprise accounts and connecting people with rides in some 1,500 cities leveraging a number of third-party fleets, is adding another partner today as it continues to double down on its business model in the wake of corporate travel slowly coming back online.

Gett has inked a deal to integrate Curb Mobility to integrate yellow taxis into Gett’s app, which will now cover some 65 cities across the US. The news is coming at a time when Gett is looking to expand its service to meet more demand: it notes that rides currently at around 80% of the levels they were in Q1 2020, just ahead of Covid-19 really descending on the western world.

From what we understand, the deal does not involve any investment between Gett — which has raised around $865 million to date (including most recently closing a $115 million round) and was last valued at $1.5 billion in 2019 — and Curb — which is a part of Verifone, after the payments hardware company acquired it in 2015.

(If you think it sounds odd for a payments hardware company to own a taxi fleet app, this is only part of Curb’s business and is in fact also a hardware player: in addition to Curb providing a way to hail yellow taxis — it app covers some 50,000 cabs and 100,000 drivers — the company also builds hardware for cabs and fleet operations, including metering apps, payment terminals, and those interactive screens for passengers that let them pay for rides, watch news and advertisements and more.)

To differentiate its service from the very highly capitalized Ubers and Lyfts of the world, Gett has been building out a two-pronged strategy that covers both how it scales, and the services that it provides to its users.

On the scaling front, Gett has been moving away from managing fleets of contractor drivers in the US for some years now: back in 2019, after slogging it out for years against Lyft and Uber in its primary New York metro market, Gett effectively shut down its main fleet operation in the region and instead inked a deal with Lyft. That has become a template of sorts that the company has been repeating in other cities outside of the U.S. where it doesn’t have substantial market share. (For example, Ola is another Gett partner.) In some cities where it has a larger footprint, like London and Moscow, Gett works with drivers directly.

Partner fleets made up one-third of Gett’s business in the first quarter of this year, but as Gett brings on more to its network, it expects partner fleets to cover the majority of its rides by the end of this year, the company said.

On the service front, Gett has made a big bet on building a platform that integrates with businesses at the back end to make it easier to order rides and for them to reconcile more easily with a businesses expense management and accounting software. Gett’s big pitch to would-be customers is that this software makes it less expensive and significantly more efficient to hail a cab using Gett compared to the alternatives — for starters users can compare different prices from different providers — and it gives users significantly more choice.

“Today’s partnership cements Gett’s position as a technology platform focused on corporate Ground Transportation Management (GTM), where spend is worth $79.6 billion globally,” said Dave Waiser, CEO and co-founder of Gett, in a statement. “In recent years, we have become the GTM category leader, serving over a quarter of Fortune 500 companies.”

On the part of Curb, it gives drivers using its software another link through to an app that might bring in more business at a time when riders have more choice than ever before, covering not just other on-demand car apps, but eco-friendly, exercise-ready, and traffic-busting options like e-bikes, scooters and shared rides. As the profile of the average corporate user changes and gets younger, that too will change the expectations many of them will have for what constitutes a preferred set of ground transportation options, depending on the situation.

“As cities across the U.S. prepare for the return of international travel, our partnership with Gett will create new income opportunities for local drivers and ensure Gett’s business users have access to the same safe, reliable transportation options trusted by locals,” said Amos Tamam, CEO at Curb. “By integrating with platforms like Gett, we’re aiming to make taxis more ubiquitous online by opening up new digital avenues for today’s consumers and businesses to find and book taxis.”

India’s Razorpay raises funds at $3 billion valuation ahead of Southeast Asia launch

Six-year-old Bangalore-based fintech Razorpay topped a $1 billion valuation late last year, becoming the first Y Combinator-backed Indian startup to reach the much sought after unicorn status. In less than six months since, the Indian startup has tripled its valuation and is preparing to launch in the Southeast Asian markets.

Razorpay said on Monday it has raised $160 million in its Series E financing round that valued the startup at $3 billion, up from “a little over” $1 billion valuation in the $100 million Series D in October last year.

The new round has been co-led by existing investors Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund — GIC — and Sequoia Capital India. Some other existing investors including Ribbit Capital also participated in the new round, which takes Razorpay’s to-date raise to $366.5 million.

Razorpay accepts, processes and disburses money online for small businesses and enterprises — essentially everything Stripe does in the U.S. and several other developed markets. But the Indian startup’s offering goes much further than that: In recent years, Razorpay has launched a neobanking platform to issue corporate credit cards (more at the bottom of the article), and it also offers businesses working capital.

With the global giant Stripe still nowhere in the Indian picture, Razorpay has grown to become the market leader. And now, the startup plans to replicate its success from the home country in Southeast Asian markets, Harshil Mathur, co-founder and chief executive of Razorpay, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“We are one of the largest payments providers in the Indian ecosystem. We want to take the learnings we have in India to the Southeast Asian market. Before the end of the financial year, we want to launch in one or two Southeast Asian markets,” said Mathur, adding that the new round gives it the valuation to more confidently explore some M&A opportunities to accelerate growth.

More than 5 million businesses in India rely on Razorpay’s technology to process payments. Some of these clients include Facebook, telecom operator Airtel, ride-hailing firm Ola, food-delivery startup Swiggy, and fintech CRED.

Mathur and Shashank Kumar — pictured above — met at IIT Roorkee college. The duo realized early on that small businesses faced immense difficulties in accepting money digitally and the existing payments processing firms weren’t designed to tackle the needs of small businesses and startups.

Solving this issue became Razorypay’s goal, and in the early days about 11 individuals shared a single apartment as the co-founders scrambled to convince bankers to work with them. The conversations were slow and remained in a deadlock for so long that the co-founders felt helpless explaining the same challenge to investors numerous times, they recalled in an interview two years ago.

The stories one hears about Razorpay today have changed dramatically. In a Clubhouse room, known for sharp criticism of products, dozens of developers and startup founders recently recalled their early interactions with Razorpay, and how the startup’s officials helped their businesses start with — or move to — the Razorpay’s system within hours after reaching it out.

Deepak Abbot, co-founder of Indiagold, recently recalled an incident where his startup had missed an alert, and that coupled with a snafu at the bank, resulted in the startup running out of funds to pay customers.

I expected Harshil to pause and think but he said let us add 10 lakhs just to be on a safer side. And while we were chatting @shashankmehta05 sent me a whatsapp that money has been added to our account 4/5

— Deepak Abbot (@deepakabbot) February 8, 2021

Last year, Mathur said Razorpay’s core business — processing payments — was fast-growing and the startup would focus more on building the two new offerings.

Offering an update, Mathur said Razorpay X now serves about 15,000 businesses, up from fewer than 5,000 in October last year. Razorpay Capital is now annually bandying out about $80 million to clients, up from less than $40 million a year ago. The duration of the loan Razorpay provides ranges from three to six months, and the ticket size is typically between 0.8 million to 1 million Indian rupees ($10,730 to $13,400).

Mathur said the startup will focus on further growing this business in the next three years and then look at taking the startup public. “If it was just the payments processing business, we could go public right now. But our ambitions are beyond — to become the full ecosystem for businesses. And on those new sides (neobanking and lending), we are early,” he said.

The startup’s marquee offering has grown 40-50% month-on-month in the past six months. It now plans to process over $50 billion in total payment volume by the end of 2021. The startup also plans to hire a number of people. It currently has over 600 open positions, several in Southeast Asian markets.

Monday’s announcement comes at a time when a slice of Indian startups are raising large amounts of capital at a much frequent pace and increased valuations as investors double down on promising bets in the world’s second largest internet market.

Indian startups social commerce Meesho, fintech firm CRED, e-pharmacy firm PharmEasy, millennials-focused Groww, business messaging platform Gupshup and social network ShareChat attained the unicorn status earlier this month. TechCrunch reported last week that SoftBank is in talks to invest in Zeta and Swiggy.

*Razorpay offers a number of value-added services such as automating vendor payments, real-time reconciliation and analytics, managing subscriptions, GST invoicing, designing and creating websites. The startup has also developed an app-based substitute for payments terminals (also known as POS) as well as pay-by-link for enabling offline commerce.

Once VMware is free from Dell, who might fancy buying it?

TechCrunch has spilled much digital ink tracking the fate of VMware since it was brought to Dell’s orbit thanks to the latter company’s epic purchase of EMC in 2016 for $58 billion. That transaction saddled the well-known Texas tech company with heavy debts. Because the deal left VMware a public company, albeit one controlled by Dell, how it might be used to pay down some of its parent company’s arrears was a constant question.

Dell made its move earlier this week, agreeing to spin out VMware in exchange for a huge one-time dividend, a five-year commercial partnership agreement, lots of stock for existing Dell shareholders and Michael Dell retaining his role as chairman of its board.

So, where does the deal leave VMware in terms of independence, and in terms of Dell influence? Dell no longer will hold formal control over VMware as part of the deal, though its shareholders will retain a large stake in the virtualization giant. And with Michael Dell staying on VMware’s board, it will retain influence.

Here’s how VMware described it to shareholders in a presentation this week. The graphic shows that under the new agreement, VMware is no longer a subsidiary of Dell and will now be an independent company.

Chart showing before and after structure of Dell spinning out VMware. In the after scenario, VMware is an independent company.

Image Credits: VMware

But with VMware tipped to become independent once again, it could become something of a takeover target. When Dell controlled VMware thanks to majority ownership, a hostile takeover felt out of the question. Now, VMware is a more possible target to the right company with the right offer — provided that the Dell spinout works as planned.

Buying VMware would be an expensive effort, however. It’s worth around $67 billion today. Presuming a large premium would be needed to take this particular technology chess piece off the competitive board, it could cost $100 billion or more to snag VMware from the public markets.

So VMware will soon be more free to pursue a transaction that might be favorable to its shareholders — which will still include every Dell shareholder, because they are receiving stock in VMware as part of its spinout — without worrying about its parent company simply saying no.

Consumer agency warns against Peloton Tread+ use, as company pushes back

Almost exactly a month ago, Peloton CEO John Foley wrote an open letter about the the company’s treadmill. “I’m reaching out to you today because I recently learned about a tragic accident involving a child and the Tread+, resulting in, unthinkably, a death,” it begins. “While we are aware of only a small handful of incidents involving the Tread+ where children have been hurt, each one is devastating to all of us at Peloton, and our hearts go out to the families involved.”

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning, telling users to stop using the Tread+. Citing 39 incidents, included the aforementioned death, the CPSC writes, “The Commission has found that the public health and safety requires this notice to warn the public quickly of the hazard.”

Peloton followed up with its own strongly worded statement writing, “The company is troubled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) unilateral press release about the Peloton Tread+ because it is inaccurate and misleading. There is no reason to stop using the Tread+, as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed.”

The commission’s warning includes multiple injuries involving small children and a pet. Specifically, the note calls for users with children at how to cease using the product, a more stern warning than the initial suggestions outlined by Foley back in in March, who at the time told users to keep children and pets away from the system and store the device out of reach after using. Peloton has since added that there have been 23 incidents involving children, 15 with objects and, as the CPSC noted, one with a pet. The company added that it had not revealed the specifics previously out of privacy concern.

“If consumers must continue to use the product, CPSC urges consumers to use the product only in a locked room, to prevent access to children and pets while the treadmill is in use,” the organization notes. “Keep all objects, including exercise balls and other equipment, away from the treadmill.”

For its part, the connected fitness maker adds,

Peloton invited CPSC to make a joint announcement about the danger of not following the warnings and safety instructions provided with the Tread+, and Foley asked to meet directly with CPSC. CPSC has unfairly characterized Peloton’s efforts to collaborate and to correct inaccuracies in CPSC’s press release as an attempt to delay. This could not be farther from the truth. The company already urged Members to follow all warnings and safety instructions. Peloton is disappointed that, despite its offers of collaboration, and despite the fact that the Tread+ complies with all applicable safety standards, CPSC was unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussions with Peloton before issuing its inaccurate and misleading press release.

Why it’s not surprising to see nine-figure AI rounds 

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. If you want it in your inbox every Saturday morning, sign up here

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

This week, Scale AI raised a $325 million Series E. The company, as TechCrunch has written, works in the data labeling space. And it has been on a fundraising tear over the last few years. In 2019 TechCrunch wrote about how the company’s then-22-year-old CEO had put together a $100 million round. Then in December of 2020, it raised $155 million at a roughly $3.5 billion valuation. Now it’s worth more than $7 billion.

Impressive, yeah? Well, as I learned earlier this week, AI startups in general are having one hell of a year. From the start of 2021 to April 12th, there were 442 AI-startup deals in the U.S. worth $11.65 billion, according to PitchBook data. And the recent Microsoft-Nuance AI deal may accelerate things even more.

Sapphire Ventures’ Jai Das weighed in on the AI venture market for The Exchange. He answered our question regarding how competitive the space was in the first quarter by saying that “investment activity in AI/ML startups has been absolutely insane” during the first quarter.

Per Das: “AI/ML startups are routinely getting 5-6 term sheets from top-tier VC firms and they are able to raise their financings at 150-250X of current ARR.”

Chew on that for a moment. We’ve seen public software multiples reach new heights in the last year, but even for aggressive startup rounds, those are some bonkers numbers. Imagine an AI-focused startup with $1 million in recurring revenue being valued at a quarter of a billion dollars. Damn.

But what about pace among AI investing? We’ve heard that the time from a round opening to its closing among many startups has been compressed and compressed again. Das helped explain the situation, saying in an email that “most firms are completing their due diligence way before the financing actually happens,” which means that there is “no need to do any due diligence during the financing.”

That actually makes some sense? If rounds are largely preemptive — something that Das underscored later on in his comments — you have to do pre-diligence. Otherwise you’ll always be investing blind or missing out on deals due to other firms moving more quickly.

This week The Exchange also dug into the broader domestic venture capital market, with a special focus on seed deals, and the super late-stage investments that dominate headlines. A comment on the earlier-stages of venture investing that just missed our piece on the matter came from Jeff Grabow, EY’s U.S. Venture Capital lead.

In his comments on pre-seed, seed and post-seed deals, something stood out to us — a prediction of sorts. Here’s Grabow:

[Q1 2021] was a strong quarter for pre-seed funding when you compare it to prior years, and we expect the overall environment to remain strong given the abundance of capital available and plethora of investable themes that tap into new markets via technological solutions. It paints a rosy picture for the post-COVID environment.

That tracks with our internal estimates. Q1 2021 was so hot for at least American venture capital activity (expect more international coverage soon) that it seems likely that the year itself will be a record in many respects. Provided that things don’t slow too much, records will be broken. And here Grabow flat-out anticipates a pretty attractive climate for venture after COVID-19 is behind us.

So, records will be broken. The question is by how much.

More notes on Coinbase’s direct listing

Not to whomp the equestrian deceased too much, but I have a few more notes for you on the Coinbase direct listing.

Public.com, the Robinhood consumer trading rival, helped The Exchange better understand just how much retail interest there was in the stock. Per its ever-present spokesperson Mo, on April 14th, Coinbase “was the most popular stock on public,” measured by number of transactions. And perhaps more notably, on the same day “social activity (measured by the number of posts) increased by 70% compared to the day prior.”

I do not know how long the consumer trading boom can last, but that’s a pretty impressive set of metrics.

Similarweb also had a few data points to share, including that visits to coinbase.com reached 86.4 million in January. Hot damn. And during that month new visitors bested returning visitors. That data helps explain how Coinbase wound up with the epic first quarter that it did. Now the question is if it can keep up its bull run or, frankly, if consumer interest in trading in crypto specifically will outlast the equities trading boom or not.

Coinbase Series D lead investor Tom Loverro, who we’ve mentioned a few times this week, including on the podcast, said that we’re still merely in the second inning of crypto. So expect these topics to keep coming up again and again. And again.

Various and sundry

Trying to actually stick to our word count target for once, here are some final notes on the IPO market from the week.

First, the AppLovin IPO did not go according to plan. After modestly pricing at $80 per share, the middle of its range, the mobile-app focused tech company saw its value fall during its first two days’ trading. It’s now worth $61 per share as of the end of Friday.

The Exchange spoke with AppLovin CFO Herald Chen on its IPO day. Chatting with the finance executive, our read from the conversation is that the company could accelerate its acquisition game more now that it is public. Having a liquid stock means that it can be even more acquisitive than before. And AppLovin claims that it can buy companies, run them through its business process, and juice their revenues per its S-1 filing.

If that bears out, the public markets may be giving the company a bit too hard of a time. It was a bit odd to see a software company struggle post-IPO in today’s climate.

Chen also told The Exchange that his firm didn’t see any pushback regarding its multi-class share structure during its roadshow. The multi-class share miasm is something I’ve written about with our own Ron Miller. The CFO did note that no single person has complete control of the company, even with several different classes of equity with disparate voting rights. That matters, frankly.

We’ll keep tabs on AppLovin as it trades. (Our earlier coverage of its numbers is here.)

Finally, autonomous trucking company TuSimple went public this week, and Similarweb filed to go public. We’re also watching the broader IPO market as UiPath either raises its price range or note. We have a guess on that score.

And just as the week was closing, Squarespace dropped its S-1. Notes here with more to come.

Good vibes and nothing other than the best from here,

Alex

What does it take to create a startup ecosystem?

Say it louder for the people in the back: As tech grows bigger by the minute and venture capital adds dollar signs by the day, a startup hub’s success is not an either/or situation. The next Silicon Valley is a tired narrative, when in reality startups look, innovate and create differently all over the world.

On that note, my colleagues spent the past few months digging into the market in Detroit, Michigan:

While StockX is the startup darling that may have put the region in the generalist spotlight, I soon learned that the sneaker marketplace company wasn’t at all where the city’s story started and ended. Instead, it started a little more at ground level.

Detroit techies consistently point to billionaire Dan Gilbert, the co-founder of Quicken Loans and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the reason behind the region’s startup growth. It made me immediately wonder if all it takes to create a startup ecosystem is deep pockets.

Turns out it’s a little more complicated than that.

Gilbert has poured at least $2.5 billion into rehabilitating buildings in the core of Detroit. Then he invested in the companies that took office space in those buildings, the restaurants that would feed those new families in the area and the retailers that would fill up the side blocks. It wasn’t one check by one billionaire, but instead a measured and consistent approach to try to reestablish Detroit as a city of innovation within the United States.

I think one founder put it best: “there are a lot of people who hate him, but the reality is that, while he wasn’t the only billionaire in town, he’s the only one who heavily invested in Detroit.”

Beyond Gilbert, the vitalization is spread throughout different sectors. There’s a 12-year-old early-stage venture firm that was one of the first to ever bet on mobility as an investment thesis; there’s a thriving garden startup; and there’s a hardware company that, despite remote work, is finding space to scale:

We’ll continue exploring emerging tech hubs, so throw us suggestions as we virtually (and one day physically) road trip across the country.

 

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Tiger Global, IPOs and a few exciting upcoming events. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @nmasc_ to hang during the week.

Tiger Global has a spending problem

This week on Equity, we talked about Tiger Global’s aggressive investment approach and what it could mean for early-stage firms and founders.

Here’s what to know: One of the reasons Tiger Global is feeling spendy is that it just closed one of the biggest venture funds ever. In 2020, the firm closed $3.75 billion in capital commitments. In 2021, it nearly doubled its own record, with $6.7 billion raised for its latest fund.

And if you don’t believe me, below is a list of just some of the New York-based firms’ recent activity:

Crypto’s Coinbase moment

Cryptocurrency trading giant Coinbase went public this week. The company opened at $381 per share, valuing the exchange at nearly $100 billion. It was a massive exit for the company, which underwent scrutiny last year when it banned politics at work.

Here’s what to know: It’s fairly obvious that Coinbase’s successful IPO was a big moment for fintech and crypto startups, as well as the decentralized finance movement. My colleagues Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim dug into how the crypto ripple effect could look from the perspective of a few venture capitalists. There are too many good bits for me to choose an excerpt, so read it for yourself here, and a take sneak peek below:

So while there is an ocean of bullish sentiment that the Coinbase listing will lead to rising venture capital investment into crypto startups, there’s also some caution to be had; how much of the growing market that Coinbase can capture and control is not yet clear, though IVP’s Loverro was very bullish during our interview about the company’s expanding feature set — things like staking Tezos, or buying Uniswap. Its backers think that Coinbase is well-positioned to absorb future market upside in its niche.

Around TechCrunch

As always, we have a ton of exciting events coming up. Here’s just a taste:

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Pakistan temporarily blocks social media

Republican antitrust bill would block all Big Tech acquisitions

Can the tech trade show return in 2021?

Garry Kasparov launches a community-first chess platform

Seen on Extra Crunch

What’s fueling hydrogen tech?

Billion-dollar B2B: cloud-first enterprise tech behemoths have massive potential

For startups choosing a platform, a decision looms: build or buy?

Building customer-first relationships in a privacy-first world is critical

The IPO market is sending us mixed messages

Best,

N

How one founder build a startup around compassion and care facilitated by AI

In the second episode of our new podcast Found, our guest is Brie Code. Code is the founder and CEO of TRU LUV, a startup based out of Toronto that has its roots in the game industry, but that is taking a radically different approach to designing interactive experiences based on a historically-overlooked motivating paradigm called ‘tend-and-befriend,’ an alternative to the ‘fight-or-flight’ response aimed at by most AAA game studios.

Code’s startup developed #SelfCare, a mobile app that encourages users to explore a variety of interactive experiences that are meant to do more than simply encourage them to engage in competitive behavior either with other players, or with computer-controlled antagonists. The motivation for creating this kind of thing for Code came from recognizing its absence in the existing market, and identifying a huge demand gap that just wasn’t being addressed. Building on her expertise in the game industry engineering interactions for non-player characters (NPCs) and her exploration of academic research on the subject of ‘tend-and-befriend,’ Code set up to build a venture-scalable business to define a new category of entertainment.

TRU LUV’s first touchpoint with users may be its app, but the startup has big ambitions that extend all the way to a larger mission of “healing our relationship with technology.” Chatting with the founder behind that pursuit reveals how deeply that mission runs both with her, and her startup.

We hope you get as much out of this deep and engrossing discussion as we did, and don’t forget to subscribe in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your podcast app of choice. We always love to get your feedback, too so please reach out via Twitter or email, and check back next week for our next episode.

Hear how StockX brought the sneaker scene to Detroit

At TechCrunch’s Detroit City Spotlight this week, I sat down with Rae Witte, the journalist behind the StockX EC-1.

TechCrunch’s EC-1 push allows individual authors to go deep on a particular company. And as StockX has been headquartered in Detroit since its inception, we took the chance to dig into our reporting in front of our friends from Motor City.

Witte has been covering the now-unicorn, and the larger sneaker beat, for a half decade. That experience helped enrich her reporting arc, giving her more insight into the company’s business model, founding story and recent growth.

StockX is a behemoth today, having recently been valued at $3.8 billion in a round that was announced this month.

But even before the company added another billion dollars to its valuation, TechCrunch was impressed at its business progress.

Back when the company was worth a mere $2.8 billion, we called its then-current round of capital “pre-IPO money.”

And, of course, we asked Witte at the end of the conversation when we should expect to see not just an EC-1 from StockX, but an S-1 as well. Soon, we reckon.

Hit play above to enjoy a behind-the-scenes chat about the company. For more, here’s the EC-1 itself, which Witte absolutely crushed.

 

Outdoor startups see supercharged growth during COVID-19 era

After years of sustained growth, the pandemic supercharged the outdoor recreation industry. Startups that provide services like camper vans, private campsites and trail-finding apps became relevant to millions of new users when COVID-19 shut down indoor recreation, building on an existing boom in outdoor recreation.

Startups like Outdoorsy, AllTrails, Cabana, Hipcamp, Kibbo and Lowergear Outdoors have seen significant growth, but to keep it going, consumers who discovered a fondness for the great outdoors during the pandemic must turn it into a lifelong interest.

Outdoorsy, AllTrails, Cabana, Hipcamp, Kibbo and Lowergear Outdoors have seen significant growth, but to keep it going, consumers who discovered a fondness for the great outdoors during the pandemic must turn it into a lifelong interest.

Social media, increased environmentalism and high urbanization were already fueling a boom in popularity. There was a 72% increase in people who camp more than three times a year between 2014 and 2019, mostly spurred by young millennials, young families with kids and nonwhite participants.

But 2020 was a different animal: After months of shelter-in-place orders, widespread shutdowns and physical distancing, outdoors became the only location for safe socializing. In South Dakota, the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area saw a 59% increase in visitors from 2019 to 2020. In the pandemic year, consumers spent $887 billion on outdoor recreation according to the Outdoor Industry Association, more than pharmaceuticals and fuel combined.

And it’s going to continue to grow. Hiking equipment alone is supposed to reach a $7.4 billion market size by 2027, a 6.3% compound annual growth rate. Camping and caravanning is having an even more drastic moment. Without international travel, vacations shifted from flights to exotic resorts to domestic road trips, self-contained rentals and camping. In 2020, the market for camping and caravanning was almost $40 billion and is predicted to rise 13% to just over $45 billion this year.

After the initial and extreme drop-off in engagement early as national parks closed, private camping sites shut down and domestic travel ceased, many outdoor startups have had a breakout year. Outdoorsy, the peer-to-peer camper van rental marketplace, said it saw 44% of all bookings in the company’s history in 2020.

Campsite booking platform Hipcamp said it sent three times as much money to landowners in 2020 as compared to 2019. And it’s not just experienced outdoor veterans taking advantage of the work-from-home lifestyle: in 2020, Cabana, a camper van rental startup, said 70% of its customers had never rented a camper van or an RV before and another 26% had only done it once.

But a report commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that the most popular outdoor activities were ones that people could do close to home, not the traveling kind Hipcamp, Cabana and Outdoorsy traffic in. The three most popular outdoor activities for newbies: walking, running and bicycling.

But the pandemic did create a small boost for camping, climbing, backpacking and kayaking; fueled by an increase in women, younger, more ethnically diverse, urban and slightly less wealthy people pushing into the outdoors. This class of outdoor startups will need to engage the new demographic shift to capitalize on the pandemic’s outdoor boom because, according to the report, a quarter of those who started new outdoor activities during the pandemic don’t plan on continuing once it’s over.

Startups are increasing accessibility to the outdoors

But getting into the outdoors can be overwhelming: there’s gear to buy, skills to learn, exploring unfamiliar areas and the added stressor of safety. Outdoor startups are working to lower the barrier to entry to help grow their businesses.

“I think anytime you have like 2,000 articles with two dozen tips on how to use a product, that tells me that it is really, really too hard to use,” said Cabana founder Scott Kubly. “To me, that says there’s nothing but friction in this process. If you want to build something that’s mainstream, you need to make it super consistent and really easy to use.”

Kubly said only half a percent of the U.S. population takes a rental van or RV trip each year. Planning an outdoor adventure can be time-consuming — choosing a location, finding an open campsite, planning meals and water, and figuring out dump stations for trash or septic. That planning is multiplied tenfold if you are going for a road trip or backpacking and need to find new places every other night.