The Van X Story

To kick-off our blog series, we sat down with Co-Founder of Nomadx, Inc and Van X—Jason McNamara—to get his perspective on the company, industry and how Van X came to be.

Ok, so what the heck is Van X?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ll skip right to the punchline: we’re about 20 humans that are deeply passionate about helping the outdoor market become more connected. We’re an online business directory focused exclusively on vehicle-based camping and adventuring. Visitors can easily search for van builders, rental companies, camping and travel resources, and DIY products and stores without having to rely on their own search capabilities to find something. We aren’t in the business of competing with businesses, rather we look to give them a podium and an even playing field through our directory.

Van X started as a passion project almost 3 years ago. My son was born and I knew I wanted to make it a point to raise him in the outdoors and through experiences. With a newborn, options are limited but you have to keep trying new things. We rented all types of travel rigs—RVs, travel trailers, buses and vans. As I started to do research, I noticed a common theme. The outdoor market is powered by small—some very small—and medium sized businesses. Access and visibility are huge challenges in any market that is very local and powered by small businesses.

When I got into my first van—a DIY Sprinter 4x4 with a Sportsmobile Penthouse Pop Top—people kept approaching me and asking questions about where they could learn more about vans and specifically about getting their own van. It happened so frequently that I put together my research in a simple document and passed it back to folks, several of whom bought vans from my lame word document. I’m no longer in a van, but an overland vehicle, and people still approach me with questions. This curiosity and inspiration that feeds the outdoor market is why Van X exists. We want people to turn that aspiration into reality by connecting consumers and businesses together.

Wasn’t this challenging to put together?

Yes, 100%. If anyone has ever spent time trying to find anything on the Internet, you understand the pains of research and the generality of search engines. We wouldn’t be anywhere without our team—they each bring a certain skill and passion to the project. My back-of-the-envelope math is that it took our team collectively about 18,000 hours over 9 months to put this site together for the community. That’s the kitchen sink—research, design, branding, marketing, advertising, interviews, meetings with companies, and website development.

This project was often a second or third priority for each team member. We all have day jobs, families, personal lives and hobbies, and then we have this. So many of the team members gave up family time, time with friends, and added extra hours to their work day. We also protected our research and brand by receiving a Copyright on the work and presentation of the work. We’re under trademark review, too.

We’re also actively working with non-profits and community groups to make sure we’re promoting sustainability within the outdoor market and to show our commitment to the planet we love to roam so much. Between the actual work and content for the site, coupled with all the legal stuff that comes with creating a business like protecting our work and establishing relationships, it’s been a heavy lift for every single one of us.

We have a saying on our team: “we never mistake movement for progress.”

Where do you see Van X heading in the next 18-24 months?

First and foremost, we made a bunch of assumptions that we need to test within the market. We’re keeping our ear close to the ground to hear what our visitors and businesses are saying they really need. Hopefully, that’s evident on our website and social media channels with easy access to team members. We have teams monitoring our website chat function, social media channels and global emails regularly...and we’re taking a lot of notes.

Secondly, we just launched with our USA data set. That was very intentional as we didn’t want to boil the ocean at first go. Once we get the bugs worked out of the website (there are always bugs!) and dial in our workload with visitors, we’re going to move to our world data set. For now, we’re focused on vans put our business plan factors in RVs and overlanding. We’re launching our data in purposeful stages so we can manage growth, expectations and traffic.

What advice would you give to visitors looking to find their next van?

Spend time on our site researching various businesses. Exposure alone with businesses and ideas will help shape your own ideas. These are true professionals and all of them work hard to help support their customers. Spend time talking to them, reviewing their products and offerings, talking to their customers and, at the end of the day, make sure they carry your personal views and beliefs. Not every builder will be right for you.

Most importantly, try it out! Rent or travel with various van setups. Get to know what works for you and what doesn’t. Everyone has different needs and opinions—none are wrong. If you own a van already, go on the road with it unfinished and a mattress in the back. All it takes is a trip or two to dial in what you need in your next adventure van.

Money being equal, what’s your dream van setup?

I change my mind daily on this...I can never decide. I’m 6’6” and that means I have to get creative on interior setups. The traditional high-roof vans don’t really work well for me. However, you can’t beat the good old VW camper van setup in a modern van—galley behind the driver, bench that folds to a bed and pop-top. There’s a reason it's been a favorite for decades. Tried and true.

Favorite place to camp?

I like to escape from people so I prefer more private, off-grid campsites. I have a one spot just south of Kings Canyon in California. My other favorite would have to be up and down Baja Mexico.

Most essential gear that you bring van camping?

My knife. Never leave home without it. 🙂

Any last words for the readers?

We want you to get out there. We want you to find your outside, whatever that may be. And we hope Van X helps you do that. What started as a passion project for my family has become a passion project for many—everyone on the team owns part of the company. We want to learn from our visitors on ways to improve and we can’t wait to hear your questions or comments about what you see, need, or hear.