on Jul 7 2014
Camperoo is a marketplace for kids camps. We help parents discover the best camps for their kids and camps find new customers. We acquire camps by giving them the software they use to run their business. Eventually we’ll be the marketplace for all child activities.
Child camps and activities is an industry still trapped in the old world of paper registration and word-of-mouth marketing. It's like travel and restaurants before TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Yelp existed. Parents spend an extraordinary amount of time looking for programs for their kids, filling out paperwork to enroll them, and then going through the process again the following year when the kids want new activities. We hear stories all the time of parents compiling spreadsheets of different camps to compare them, email chains discussing the camps with other parents, inconvenient paper enrollment, the list goes on, and they’re all headaches. I learned about how painful this is by founding and running my own chain of summer camps.
The camps lack software tailored specifically to their needs, and because kids want different activities as they grow older, camps need to find a new set of customers each year without knowing how to manage online customer acquisition.
We streamline the discovery and enrollment process for both camps and parents, making it easy to discover, sign-up, and manage all of a child’s activities online.
Camperoo simplifies the entire discovery and enrollment process starting with browsing. Parents enter their zip code on the homepage, along with their child’s age, and any specific interests they have. Then a list of offerings is presented along with extensive information on each camp or activity. When chosen, parents can enroll right there online and finish the transaction in just a few clicks. Each activity or camp is posted to a schedule parents can use to coordinate activities with friends.
The current process is extremely painful. It’s all antiquated from discovery to registration to payment. Camperoo streamlines everything.
I started Camperoo as a result of owning my own technology summer camp. With 13 different locations and no software available that met my needs, the business quickly became difficult to manage. Products like salesforce were too complicated, and not tailored to our specific needs. Camps have high customer turnover since as kids grow up, their interests change. We needed a better way to reach new customers and manage our internal process. We built Camperoo for ourselves, to bring in new customers online and mange operations for our camp.
Camps always need to acquire new customers for two reasons: one is that kids are constantly changing their interests, and two they’re all getting older. A good camp will tell you that merely 30-50% of their customers come back year after year. Camperoo establishes a relationship with parents when kids are toddlers and guides them through activity and camp enrollment year after year as the grow older. When kids grow out of one camp, Camperoo is there to give parents the best way to find a new camp, and camps the best way to acquire new customers.
Most camps have rudimentary websites, and old fashioned payment systems. We provide the entire online experience for them, allowing camps to make the sign-up process as easy as possible. They’re also poor at marketing online and rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. But word-of-mouth is moving online, Yelp is your restaurant recommendation, and Camperoo is the same for camps. Camp owners should concentrate on their craft whether it be teaching ballet or soccer - while Camperoo will get them their customers.
After building the first iteration of Camperoo for use at my own camps. I was surprised by how much everyone in the industry needed a similar solution. No one had a good solution to the customer aquisition and managment problem. A handful of large camps have built their own solutions, and spent far too much money without really solving it. They are good at running camps, not building software. Coming from a software development perspective of solving problems rather than just providing features allows me to help camps really think through their problems and provide the best solutions.
Feedback from camps using Camperoo made it evident to me just how big this can be. Owners who aren't always tech savvy tell me they didn’t know how easy it could be without all the paper,. They’re saving thousands of dollars with Camperoo's lower acquisition costs and getting a better service. Parents tell me how much time they’re saving and how easy Camperoo is to use. As this feedback multiplied I realized that it could be more than a solution for myself and friends, a solution for camps and families everywhere.
For parents our competitors are offline word of mouth, Google searches, Yelp, and similar sites. For camp owners there are a number of small business software suites geared towards summer camps, none of which provide a full solution. Currently most camps use paypal and a PDF for their online registration. We’re competing with a variety of fragmented solutions, and it’s up to us to show how Camperoo solves it all.
We understand that at the core of camp is the relationship between parents and camps, and campers and their counselors. Our software will foster these relationships enabling a great experience for everyone. Camperoo provides the extra soft touch beyond just an online registry. By allowing parents and counselors to add notes and photos of kids, and encouraging them to share amongst other users we are creating a community online that will be the hub for all camps and their customers.
We are starting with camps because it is a large ticket item. In the short term we plan to expand into other activities besides camp, some are already on our platform. After-school activities like music lessons, karate, and club sports teams. The broader vision includes everything a child participates in outside of school.
The ultimate goal of Camperoo is to see your child’s whole life - from their early years all the way through college. Overtime we become the record of your child’s entire activity history. Over the years we track experiences they have throughout all their activities. We keep track of photos, counselors, friends and give parents a birds eye view of their child’s life, how it was formed and over time learn which activities facilitate the most positive growth.
Discovery is rooted in our database of location specific activities, and then bolstered by our growing review bank. As soon as our reviews number in the thousands they will be released on our site and be that extra variable that helps a parent’s decision.
Kids like all kinds of different activities. For examples a kid who enjoys technology camp may not like soccer because they’d rather be inside typing than outside playing. The data we are gathering on children and their interests help us identify the correlation in interest between different activities, and soon we will start to recommend activities accordingly. For instance fencing camp is strongly correlated with technology camp, one is physical and the other not but we can confidently recommend fencing camp to a child who enjoys technology. This is not neccesarily intuitive, and we are the only place with access to that kind of data.
We take a commission on sales generated through our marketplace. Most camps we talk to have no idea how much money it takes them to acquire a new customer, but it is generally close to 20% of the revenue they receive from each camper. When we tell owners that we’ll take care of new business while they focus on the camp experience - they’re more than happy with that deal.
We need to get more supply on board - more camps on our platform. This calls for a market by market approach, building critical mass in target markets first, and then expanding nearby. We’ve started with a few big cities, but there is a big opportunity to focus on overnight camps nationwide.
We need to build supply in the markets we are in and expand to after school activities. We also need to build out features that help parents better manage their kid’s activities. This will require another engineer and a small sales team to onboard more camps.
We give our software to camps for free. Those camps sign-up their own customers, who create Camperoo accounts. We can then cross-sell other activities to those customers as their children grow and their interests evolve. Approximately 30% of our users come from camp partners while 70% come from SEO and SEM optimization.
Getting really good supply, the best camps in every market. Really getting enough great activities on the platform for our parents to choose from, and ensuring our vendors deliver a great camp experience.
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