Setting Up Business Next To A River of Money

By the time you read this, I’ll be driving to Burning Man — a 70,000 person arts festival in Nevada.

I want to talk to you about Burning Man because I find it fascinating as a bootstrapper.

Assessing Your Target Market

So, 70,000 people attend each year and according to the Census Data (, specifically the 2016 Annual Population Analysis (, we know that in 2016 39.3% of attendees were ‘Burning Man Virgins’ or first-timers.

That’s 27,510 people or so who are attending for the first time. Keep that in mind: large population of first-timers attending the burn.

There are tons of questions that people have about the burn. I’m coordinating a 60-person camp this year and we have a Slack channel set up and we have first-timers and veterans asking dozens of questions. It’s a constant discussion:

  • What tent should I bring?
  • How will the wind be?
  • Will this costume work?
  • Should I buy these glow lights?
  • Where do I rent a bike?

etc., etc., etc.

TONS of questions about what gear to buy and what to bring. Which brings me to the second point.

Set your business up next to a river of money

This is a (paraphrasing) of a quote I heard on the Tropical MBA podcast a few years ago. Dan, one of the two hosts of The Tropical MBA ( was advocating for setting up business next to ‘rivers of money’ where you saw people spending money.

So, 27,000 new attendees or so each year. Tickets are $400 each. And that’s just the ticket, not the full packing list, including:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Air Mattress
  • Tarps
  • Food
  • Water
  • Drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Costumes

Etc., etc., etc.

I have 79 items on my Burning Man packing list this year. My camp co-leader has 112.

This is perfectly normal.

It’s a river of money. Virgins (and veterans) spend a good amount of money on the burn each year. So a business set up to serve people attending Burning Man (or, specifically, first timers or ‘virgins’) would be setting up shop next to people who are spending a ton of money.

Productized Services on the Playa

What’s interesting is that you can start to see the introduction of productized services — fixed price, fixed scope services — at the Burn.

  • Set up your campsite with a tent, table, chairs, and cooler for you to use for $X
  • Ship you a box of essential supplies (air mask, headlamp, etc.) for $X

People taking the market and building a service or a product to address the needs of the market.

Me? I think the market is ripe for a series of guidebooks on attending Burning Man, aimed at first-time attendees.

Let’s say you’re attending Burning Man for the first time. You know you need a bunch of gear, but you don’t know what to use as your shopping/packing list. And, heck, you don’t know what the recommended products are.

With 27,000 new people attending the burn each year, would some number of those people spend $19-49 on a guide that goes through the top 70 items you need to bring and gives recommendations on which items to buy (and includes Amazon links)?

Keep in mind that people are spending $400 for the ticket to the event and another $200-1,000 on other supplies. Would people pay to save 2-4 hours of research? Probably.

Heck, you could take it a step further: what if you set up a business shipping prepackaged kits of those recommended items to people, at a 25% markup.

Now, no need to even go shopping.

You click and button and a week later a storage tote shows up at your house with all your essentials pre-packaged for you.

When I attend, I attend for fun, vacation, and adventure — but there’s a part of me that’s always listening to hear the pains and problems that different camps or individuals are experiencing.

I’m excited to see what I learn this year.