Epic Road Trip Planner 2023 Year In Review

Epic Road Trip Planner 

2023 Year in Review

Building in Public

A few years ago, I set out to plan an extended family cross-country road trip, and was flabbergasted at just how annoying and time-consuming it was to do so. It was a chore. It IS a chore. In early 2023, I founded Epic Road Trip Planner on the not-so-novel idea that both planning AND taking an epic road trip could actually be an enjoyable experience -- NOT a chore. 

I firmly believe in building in public, so now that we've got the better part of a year behind us, I'd like to share a bit about how it went and what's next.

Bottom Line Up Front

In 2023, over 15,000 Epic Road Trip Planner users planned almost 20,000 road trips. I genuinely hope you all took every last one of them, and had an absolutely amazing time!

2023 Timeline

The first very basic prototype of Epic Road Trip Planner went live online Monday, March 13. Just a few days later, I took a little trek up to Stemma Brewing Company in Bellingham to attend an event sponsored by Peace Vans, to drink some great beer, listen to some like-minded road trip enthusiasts, and maybe even find a few "friendlies" to invite to try out the prototype.

We indeed got a few excited "friendlies" over the next several weeks, and continued to iterate on the prototype as a kind of private soft-launch beta. 

On April 18, with no marketing, advertising, or press, we saw our first truly organic sign-up of someone who was not in the private beta and was completely unknown to us, which was a pleasant surprise. 

On June 21, we saw our very first organic paying customer, for whom we will always be tremendously grateful...and who will certainly never have to pay for a subscription renewal. 

We finished out 2023 with 15,425 total users, 19,528 road trips, and 41,341 stops, and, qualitatively speaking, a galactic crap-ton of validated learning that we're taking forward in to 2024. 

What's Next?

Revenue for 2023 was essentially immaterial - we're going to fix that in 2024, with three key take-aways that we gleaned from listening to a number of those 15,000 folks. 

The first takeaway is that some folks are just going to come by to "play around" with AI. That's OK. AI is a hot topic, and it still feels kind of magical. While continuing to definitively prioritize privacy and transparency over ad revenue by avoiding the large ad networks, we're going to use a few custom ads, sponsorships, and affiliate referrals to continue to fund some fun stuff that folks can explore without paying anything. This segment, in fact, represents the vast majority of early folks on our standard (free) plan who expressed positive sentiment. We probably can't build a viable business solely on that, especially because I predict that feeling of "magic" will rapidly fade as AI becomes further ubiquitous in so much of our daily lives. Right now, however, that's a lot of pretty happy users -- and that means something.

The second takeaway is that there will always be a need for real human trip planners, and we're going to further embrace that by starting to build some tooling that professional trip planners can use to do their best work. Some of my most meaningful conversations this year were with folks who are using Epic Road Trip Planner in their profession as trip planners. Generally speaking, professional trip planners want and need some very specific things we can deliver, and they're willing to pay for it. When we started out, we guessed this might be the case, but we've now validated it pretty clearly - the largest known discernable segment of our currently paying customers are part-time and professional trip planners. 

Last but most assuredly not least, returning to that not-so-novel idea that both planning AND taking an epic road trip can be genuinely ENJOYABLE and not a chore, it's become clear that we just straight-up have a long, Long, LONG way to go to realize that original vision. It's going to take a ton of hard work. Folks want to play around with the AI and that's pretty cool, and professional trip planners know exactly what they need (and we know how to help them get it), but when it comes to us "do-it-yourselfers" using Epic Road Trip Planner to plan and coordinate our road trips in lieu of using a shared Google doc no one can seem to find, a shared calendar no one can seem to agree on, and an ever-changing massive extended family SMS group chat: 

We're just getting started. 

Let's GO!


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