Charting A Sharing Economy Course For Boat Rentals

recreational boats

Entrepreneurs sometimes start companies after careers of launching organizations — and they may want to find an industry that they are passionate about for their next ventures. For Boatsetter Co-Founder and CEO Jaclyn Baumgarten, that interest was boating. Her happiest memories as a kid were “out on the water with my dad and my three brothers,” Baumgarten told PYMNTS in an interview. And she thought it would be amazing “to be able to make that experience available to the masses.”

At the same time, two of her brothers are boat owners, and they were complaining in 2012 that they were going to have to sell their boats because they hadn’t used them once in the entire year. While there are 12 million registered recreational boats in the United States, they only get used an average of 14 days per year. Enter platforms such as Boatsetter, which connect boat owners with those looking to enjoy a day out on the water.

Baumgarten said she “saw an opportunity to be able to help owners offset the cost of ownership” and make an experience that had been unaffordable and unattainable to many people easy and accessible. However, she first had to tackle the challenge of getting insurance up and running for the platform. Baumgarten spent eight months hitting the global insurance market to learn everything she could about the top claim reasons for recreational boating.

Baumgarten showed underwriters how she would build a company and set up operations to mitigate those top risk factors. She finally convinced a maritime insurance company to build the first kind of peer-to-peer marine insurance policy with them. As a result, the captain, renter and owner are protected only during the rental with the platform. Fast forward to today, and Baumgarten said that the company is “the leading destination where anyone can go to have an incredible experience on the water.”

The Platform

Through the touch of a finger on a website, phone or tablet, the platform allows consumers to have a day out on the water – and customize their experiences. If a user is not an experienced boater, for instance, she can have a captain. To make a reservation, users can type in the place where they want to rent a boat (say, Miami) and can select the boat of her choice based on boat length, type, reviews, where they want to be picked up and what activity they want (water sports? sandbar hopping?). Payments are collected, processed and distributed through the company’s platform.

When it comes to the company’s market, Baumgarten says one of its fastest-growing segments are GenXers and millennials. It has, in essence, completely turned the demographics of boating on its head. The average age of a boat owner is 58 years old and getting older. But Baumgarten said, “Our average renter is below 45 years of age.” At the same time, over 55 percent of renters are under 35 years of age, and almost 40 percent of its renters are women. “This is a game changer,” Baumgarten said. She also pointed out that millennials and GenXers are looking to pay for and have experiences as opposed to feeling a need to own an asset. (It’s also historically expensive to own a boat.)

Users can list boats on the platform in one sitting — a matter of minutes. Users who want to list a boat on the platform need to have photos, and they will be asked a series of questions. (The boats may be able to be approved with a quick Boatsetter review, depending on the boat.) They also receive an orientation onboarding call before the first rental to coach them on what to expect, how to communicate and what experience to provide. The company also has team members available all the time to answer questions as well as facilitate the process.  When it comes to benefits of using the platform as a boat owner, Baumgarten said, “This is the best way to be able to offset the cost of ownership.” The owner is also in control, as she decides the price, timing and duration of the rental.

With the help of technology and customization, online boat rental platforms are aiming to build an ecosystem around marketplaces that link owners and renters as they chart a sharing economy course.