Jaclyn Baumgarten of Boatsetter talks about the ‘Airbnb’ boat

Robert Satek knows that owning a boat means spending a lot of money to make money.

He estimates the annual cost of owning his 54-foot Azimut Atlantis yacht, the “Sol,” at at least $ 80,000, including its dockage in Miami Beach.

Satek had seen advertisements for Boatsetter. He figured this was another ad site that would take a big chunk of the change out of his pocket.

But in 2018, after a friend recommended it, Satek decided to give it a try. To date, he has made nearly $ 100,000 on 55 reservations, more than enough to cover his expenses.

“When I realized the money would go straight to my bank and I didn’t have to do much, I knew this was it,” he said.

In an age of disruptive startups, it seems fitting for South Florida to be the home port of the Boatsetter boat sharing powerhouse. Last year, the six-year-old company moved from its Aventura offices to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Today, he rents a sleek, high-ceiling space just east of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts overlooking a bend in the Tarpon River.

“It’s perfect for a startup like ours,” CEO Jaclyn Baumgarten said during a recent afternoon in the Space Boardroom.

Since its launch in 2013 by Andrew Sturner, lawyer turned investor and resident of South Florida for 25 years, Boatsetter has grown into one of the region’s most successful startups.

The concept of boat sharing has proven to be a natural choice for riverside towns. In 2013, several companies embarked on the race to become the “Airbnb of boats”.

One of them was Cruzin, a company based in San Francisco and run by Baumgarten. After years of business development in positions at IBM and Westfield Group, Baumgarten decided she was ready to go it alone. With fond memories of growing up in suburban Chicago with her family and feeling there was still an opportunity for a more reliable boating market than existing options, she founded Cruzin in 2012 as peer-to-peer market. She protected the rentals with a unique three-tier insurance policy covering owner, tenant and deck.

Two years later, it became clear to industry insiders that space was getting crowded. As Baumgarten puts it, a potential investor suggested that Cruzin and Sturner’s Boatsetter should merge to create a more powerful competitor with a national footprint. After spending about 10 days together, says Baumgarten, she and Stturner decided the investor was right. Baumgarten moved to South Florida. The investor sailed elsewhere, but the Boatsetter name stuck, creating a player who suddenly had access to 3,000 vessels.

“We were both shooting in the same direction but had complementary forces,” Sturner told the Miami Herald in 2015.

By the end of the following year, “Boatsetter had raised around $ 15 million in outside investment, making it the main fundraiser among stakeholders in the boat rental market all over the world.

Baumgarten was not yet finished. In 2017, Boatsetter bought out one of its biggest rivals, Boatbound, for an undisclosed amount. Andrew Hall, the founder of Boatbound, said he is still following the progress of Boatsetter, although he declined to comment further.

The acquisition impressed Laura González-Estéfani, founder of TheVenture.City, the Little Havana-based venture capital and technology advisory fund. His company took an undisclosed share of Boatsetter at the same time the Boatbound purchase was announced in August 2017.

González-Estéfani said in an interview that Baumgarten has a unique combination of a true passion for water and a tactical entrepreneurial spirit.

“She’s so good at” spotting new opportunities, González-Estéfani said of Baumgarten.

Today, Boatsetter manages around 5,000 vessels and has over 30 full-time staff, reaching 45 during peak season, when it hires staff at an outpost in Ibiza. To date, the company has raised more than $ 17 million, even more than any of its peers. Baumgarten declined to disclose its income or say whether the business is profitable.

All reservations always take place on the Boatsetter website, although a mobile application is in the works. The owners are controlled by the Boatsetter staff, and the owners have the final say on any potential renter. Boatsetter takes 35 percent of the owner’s rental rate (15 percent for professional boaters) and charges the renter 10 percent.

Baumgarten’s original three-way insurance concept remains the unique feature of all Boatsetter bookings; many rental markets charge extra for this. The subscriber is BoatUS / Geico Marine.

There are still dozens of boat rental markets, so many that the Passenger Vessels Association, which represents boat owners and emphasizes safety, is sounding the alarm bells on illegal rentals.

“The Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) is very concerned about this alarming trend, as such operators of vessels not inspected by the Coast Guard pose a danger to the traveling public who are unaware of the potential risks to the safety of these operators. illegal chartering, ”the group said in a statement.

Boatsetter says it complies with all Coast Guard regulations and will promptly launch any violators.

In the United States, Boatsetter appears to be the market gaining the most momentum, according to Kevin Falvey, editor of Boating Magazine. Falvey said the average boat owner may not yet have a Boatsetter on the tip of their tongue, but if it is mentioned, a boater will have heard of it. One of the reasons is search engine optimization: Boatsetter is the first Google result displayed in the United States for the search term “rent a boat”.

Falvey said trusted boating markets like Boatsetter have three factors working in their favor: The cost of owning a boat exceeds income. People are pressed for time, without the leisure to take care of a boat. And with the rising cost of waterfront properties, marinas are disappearing, pushing up sliding fees.

As a result, boat ownership is less attractive than it once was, which means more people want to charter.

“I think they have made a place for themselves,” he said, “and they will continue to grow.”

Increasingly, Falvey said, future boat owners will look to a service like Boatsetter to test a boat before purchasing it. He gave them the example of an empty nest used to owning a ski boat that now wants to go fishing

This is exactly the type of customer Boatsetter has in mind, Baumgarten said. This is especially the case for a younger and more mobile technology savvy generation. Baumgarten says 79% of its tenants are under 45, 54% are under 35 and around a third are women.

“It’s unprecedented in the industry,” she said. “We are creating a gateway to expose people to the boating lifestyle. “

To beat its competition, Boatsetter casts a wide net, recruits a wide variety of vessels, like fishing boats, and tries to capture smaller, more family-friendly outings than the traditional cruise ships that tend to haunt rental sites. .

At the same time, specifies Julien Geffriaud Boatsetter Chief Growth Officer, the company does not let any boat owner get on the platform.

“We could go into a database and get 15,000 boats tomorrow, but they will be of poor quality,” he said.

Last year, The Economist appointed Boatsetter one of two companies trying to ‘ride the waves’ of the global yacht charter space. The other is Click & Boat, based in Paris, which offers quotes in the United States and maintains access to a larger fleet of vessels but remains largely focused on the European market.

Baumgarten stresses that the quality of Boatsetter’s offerings sets it apart from more quantity-oriented competitors. At the same time, she believes that a company will eventually become a trusted and dominant player on a global scale. It does not exclude other acquisitions.

“Our conscience is far from what it should be,” she said. “We are only scratching the surface.”

This story was originally published April 11, 2019 at 7:08 p.m.

Rob Wile covers South Florida business, technology and economics. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and Columbia University. He grew up in Chicago.

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