Digital Booking Sites

The new breed of travel startups that wants you to borrow a boat this summer

@SamShankman

Jul 11, 2013 2:42 am

Skift Take

Boat sharing avoids many of the regulations that make the sharing economy especially difficult to disrupt in the housing and auto industries, leaving quality and safety as the predominant determinants of success.

— Samantha Shankman

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Karan Jain  / Flickr

Boats moored to the marina in Tarifa, the southernmost tip of Spain. Karan Jain / Flickr


There’s a new breed of travel startups that wants to connect boat owners and occasional renters.

The sharing economy has spotted its latest marketplace and startups from around the world are working become the homepage of the peer-to-peer boating industry. It’s an industry built on the basis of providing renters with cheaper rentals, better boats, and a more personalized experience and owners with a new source for customers or just some extra cash to offset ownership costs.

The marketplace is ripe for development. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, 37.8 percent of the U.S. adult population, or 88 million people, took part in recreational boating for at least one day over the last year. This was the largest number of people that had gone boating since the NMMA started collecting data in 1990.

The organization also launched Discover Boating, a campaign designed to grow participation and awareness of boating in an effort to increase new boat sales.

Boating synergy

The recreational boating industry’s call to get more people on the water resonates with the goals of peer-to-peer marketplace.

BoatBound enjoyed early support when it launched on AngelList and its followers grew to the hundreds within a few days. The startup’s inventory is touching 1,000 boats although only a few hundred listings will be rolled out each week.

“One of our early goals and mission is to make boating more accessible,” says Boatbound founder Aaron Hall. “I hope that we can change boat ownership so that people don’t see owning a boat as money thing.”

BoatBound is just one of 17 boating startups listed on AngelList. Among the most notable of the competitors are Incrediblue and GetMyBoat; however, no two startups are tackling the market with the same business model.

Getting a grasp on the industry

The recreational boating industry has a total economic impact of $121.5 billion in the U.S. each year; this includes $51 billion spent on some 12.4 million registered boats.

One of the biggest obstacles to bringing the boating industry into the sharing economy is listing individually owned boats. A large percentage of boats listed on these websites, a number that’s been difficult to calculate, are owned by small and medium rental companies in brick-and-mortar shops.

The rental companies quickly increase the startups’ inventory. GetMyBoat’s rapid growth rate — the site launched in January and has already grown to 9,000 listings worldwide — has been questioned by other industry players.

GetMyBoat would not break down which percentage of its boats were listed by individuals and which were posted by rental companies. Bryan Petro, Head of Product at GetMyBoat, tells Skift that peer-to-peer is the company’s fastest growing segment.

BoatBound is taking a slower approach in an effort to maintain a peer-to-peer market. The startup currently has 1,000 listings; Hall says 99 percent of those are individually owned.

The difference between individual listings and company listings is not always clear.

Antonios Fiorakis, co-founder of Incrediblue, which operates primarily in the Mediterranean, explains to Skift in an email, “depending on the legislation of each country, some owners are required to have a company in order to rent out their boats, even if they own only one vessel.”

Differentiators

Payments and insurance are other differentiators among the emerging competitors.

Renters complete booking payments directly on BoatBound, Yachtico, and incrediblue. BoatBound also includes insurance in the total rental cost.

Other sites are not booking platforms as much as aggregators of rental options. On sites such as GetMyBoat, bookings are completed with owners and insurance is only offered through third-party links.

Several startups have also partnered with BoatUS to ensure on-the-water towing is available to renters whether they forget to fill up on gas or the battery stops working.

Regulations regarding insurance work differently in Europe. In the Mediterranean countries where incrediblue currently operates, boats are already covered by rental insurance by law.

Index of boat rental startups

As expected, there is much contention between startups, but all echo the sentiment that the rapid growth of competition validates the existence of a marketplace for such sites.

In the below chart, we’ve excluded startups that have an AngelList profile but no website.

Startup Category Funding Launch Date Rental Locations Number of Boats
BoatBound Peer-to-peer boat rentals $1 million June 2013 U.S. 1000
GetMyBoat Peer-to-peer, charter boat rentals $500K January 2013 Worldwide 9000
incrediblue Skippered yachts, boat rentals $129K + Raising January 2013 Worldwide 400+
Yachtico Skippered yachts, boat rentals $1 million January 2011 Worldwide 15000
Fun2Rent Peer-to-peer, charter rentals for boats, trailers, jetskis Raising September 2012 U.S. 30
aBoatTime Yacht charters $1.76 million February 2012 Europe
BnbBoat Peer-to-peer, charter boat rentals April 2013 Worldwide
BoatforRent.com Peer-to-peer, charter boat rentals April 2013 Worldwide 2700
Fun2Boat Boat rentals $45K January 2013
IntersailClub Skippered yachts May 2012 Worldwide

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