Outdoor Access, a Richmond-based startup with an online marketplace that connects landowners with outdoor recreation enthusiasts, has bagged a $2.8 million investment as the company looks to expand into more states.
The lead investor in the Series A investment round is VentureSouth, a Greenville, S.C.-based angel investor network that funds early-stage businesses based in the Southeast with potential for high growth.
Founded in 2016 by local entrepreneurs Buck Robinson and Jamie Christensen, Outdoor Access manages an online marketplace at www.outdooraccess.com, where landowners can list their property for short-term rentals to outdoor enthusiasts looking for places to hunt, fish, target shoot, relic hunt or camp.
Outdoor Access currently has about 500 properties listed on its site with a total of more than 50,000 acres, and about 3,500 members who rent property.
“We expect that to be over 5,000 by the end of this fall,” Robinson said. The company’s goal is to reach 10,000 members in about the next 16 months.
The investment comes as Outdoor Access, which has been focusing on building its customer base mainly in Virginia and North Carolina, is making a push to get more properties and renters in South Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Texas and Pennsylvania are especially important markets for Outdoor Access because most of its rental transactions have been for hunting, and those two states have the most hunting licenses issued.
The investment will help fund technology and marketing and provides “a path to nationwide growth” for the company, Christensen said.
VentureSouth has a network of 350 high-net-worth individuals in the Southeast that invest in its portfolio. The investment group liked Outdoor Access primarily because of its management team, said Charlie Banks, a VentureSouth managing director.
“What they are doing is novel to the industry,” Banks said. “It is a two-sided marketplace, so we are pretty excited about that. It is a large, addressable market. We felt there is a lot of room for them to grow.”
Since it was founded in 2009, VentureSouth has invested more than $40 million, most of it in the last five years. The fund currently has 43 active investments listed on its website.
Outdoor Access is VentureSouth’s first investment in a company based in the Richmond region, Banks said.
Some investors from previous Outdoor Access capital raises also participated in the most recent round. Richmond-based Trolley Ventures, an investment fund created in 2017 to back promising, early-stage business ventures in central Virginia, had previously invested in Outdoor Access and invested in this latest round, Christensen said.
Outdoor Access makes money by charging a $99 annual membership fee to outdoor enthusiasts who use its site.
This summer, however, the company has been experimenting with a second-tier membership at $29, which offers fewer weekend rental options and is targeted mainly at nonhunters or members such as retirees who aren’t as dependent on having weekend rentals.
Outdoor Access has been seeking to grow at a pace that is manageable and sustainable, its founders said. “We are setting reasonable expectations for ourselves to be able to perform and execute,” Robinson said.
The biggest challenge for the company is keeping equilibrium between supply and demand, Christensen said. The company wants to maintain a balance of landowners and land renters on the site.
“One of the things we are getting better at is balancing that over time,” Christensen said. “That gives us the ability to grow more quickly because we know with more certainty how to make the growth work.”
Outdoor Access isn’t the only Richmond-area company looking to profit by providing land for outdoor recreation.
Aaron Bumgarner, an Outdoor Access co-founder and former CEO who left the startup in 2018, has since created Longleaf Conservation Capital LLC. His new company is looking to buy large tracts of land that it plans to offer for outdoor recreation and for carbon sequestration. In April, the company closed on the acquisition of a 1,400-acre tract of forested land in Powhatan County.