P.J. Tezza
P.J. Tezza

P.J. Tezza: California Is Probably the Biggest Market for Camper Vans in the World

P.J. Tezza of ModVans.

Tell us about yourself?

I have 20+ years experience in start-up and early stage technology companies. For the last 5 years, I have been CEO of ModVans.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

How long and difficult building a startup will be! Many start out thinking after 1-2 years, you’ll be working 40 hour work weeks and have plenty of money.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

I am a big believer in lean startup. You have no idea if you’ve found product/market fit until you have delivered your product to paying customers.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Wow, this is a tough question! ModVans has been extremely difficult. Building a big, complicated hardware company is way more challenging that b2b saas.

But ModVans has been very rewarding and we’ve had a lot of fun and success. I’m not really sure I’d go back in time and warn myself not to do it if I could.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

My current work/life balance is terrible! But that is OK because working hard with incredible focus is one of the things that makes a startup successful.

You should think long and hard about founding a startup if you aren’t in a good place in your life where that can be OK for several years.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

ModVans is a combination of personal need and lean startup. The “prototype” was a van that was built by the founders to meet their desire for a single vehicle that could handle both daily living and adventures.

When they realized that no company had want they wanted, they decided to build one for themselves. Two years later, they decided to test the market using lean startup principles.

They presold 10 vans, taking orders with deposits, using only a website and photos of their van.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Our key to success is our ability accurately track consumer preferences, then work hard and smart to be the first to deliver the right combination of style, features, technology, and quality at an affordable and competitive price point.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

When your product has good enough product/market fit, sales becomes as simple as answering questions from prospective customers. Sales is so much more fun when you don’t have to “sell”! Use lean startup to find the magic product/market fit.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?

There is a lot of engineering talent coming from local schools. Southern California has a strong manufacturing ecosystem. California is probably the biggest market for camper vans in the world!

What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?

Cost of living for our employees is too high. Our employees want to own homes and this is difficult or impossible even though we are one of the highest paying manufacturing employers. This issue is pushing us to leave CA.

We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?

We have had employees leave to move to less expensive states. Many of our employees want to leave CA.

It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?

ModVans is fortunate that many smart and hard working people want to work in the automotive industry. Right now, we can’t pay big salaries, but we are still able to attract talent.

Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?

Yes. Wee have looked at many other states including Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Nevada is currently the top of our list.

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

We are currently building 6-7 vehicles/month. In five years, we plan to be building more than 200 vehicles/month and have made the transition to fully electric vehicles.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

The quickest way to learn more about ModVans and get involved is to invest in our Regulation Crowdfunding investment campaign at https://wefunder.com/modvans

Follow ModVans on Twitter or Linkedin.

Joseph Farruggia

Joseph Farruggia: Los Angeles Is a World Class Business City That Rivals New York

Permanente Live Webinar on Strategic Uses of AI in Health Care to Feature Thought Leaders from Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic, Salesforce, Verily, and Google