The boat sharing marketplace has experienced consolidation over the past two years. In 2015, Boatsetter and Cruzin announced they were merging companies, under the Boatsetter name with Cruzin’s look and feel. And last month, Boatsetter acquired Boatbound.
With the newest acquisition, Boatsetter will be doubling its inventory and entering new markets.
“Our mission is to make boating available to anyone, anywhere. Part of that effort includes growth expansion, and acquiring Boatbound gave us the benefit of three things: access and new markets, because we had originally been focusing on the South Florida market to really develop and refine our model; it also gave us access to technology expertise; and some additional talent that we’re going to be bringing over to the team,” said Boatsetter CEO and Co-Founder Jaclyn Baumgarten. “I’m thrilled with the growth and the progression we’ve been making, and the adoption that we’re seeing by people in the industry.”
All of the consolidation in this segment has positioned Boatsetter as the leader in the U.S. boat sharing market, which few competitors left with a similar model.
“We have the largest database of U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains, we have the highest quality vessels that you can find, we have full-service concierge and trip specialists to help you plan your float plan or plan an itinerary,” Baumgarten said. “So we’re building out a full service. It’s not just online – it’s also offline to really help create the best experiences that you can get on the water.”
However, with Boatsetter’s plans to expand internationally, there is competition in the markets Boatsetter hopes to enter. While the company’s core market will remain in the U.S., Boatsetter hopes to build a presence in areas with an existing charter market, such as the Mediterranean, the BZIs and the Caribbean.
“There are a lot of burgeoning companies in Europe and different countries that have unique regulatory issues that they’re addressing, and we’re going to start looking, as we expand in key market in Europe and the Mediterranean and looking at possible partners for mergers and acquisitions in new markets,” said Baumgarten.
Boatsetter’s business model is a three-party marketplace. The company can assign multiple captains to its boats for renters to choose from, and each captain has his or her own Facebook-like profile page where the photos and videos of the experience they can offer are housed.
“They can call out whether they’re experts in providing fishing excursions, sandbar hopping, water sports, sunset cruises, things of that nature so you can really pick and design the experience you’re looking for, and you do not have to be an experienced boater to use our platform,” said Baumgarten.
Boatsetter also offers insurance for its customers and on-water assistance through a partnership with Sea Tow.
“No one comes close to the insurance that we offer and the protection that we provide, and we’re making sure that what we offer is fully compliant under U.S. Coast Guard regulations,” said Baumgarten.
Boatsetter has put an emphasis in recent years on curating experiences for its customers, part of which is providing Boatsetter experiences on the Airbnb platform. Among these a “The Ocean is Calling” experience in Miami where customers can train with a professional wakeboarder, a Southern Florida fishing experience with a fisherman captain, a San Francisco-based “Sail Like a Pro” with a professional sailor, and an experience in Barcelona where customers can go out on a catamaran on the bay with a professional chef and make paella and a sommelier for wine tasting.
“That is getting us even broader exposure to people who are traveling to try boating, and they don’t have to be experienced boaters,” said Baumgarten, who sees possible synergies with boat manufacturers and dealers as a result of creating experiences for new boaters. “The No. 1 reason that someone buys a boat later in life is because they had a great experience when they were younger. So we are focusing on just that – creating amazing experiences so people fall in love with the lifestyle. And then it becomes a viable alternative for them to buy a boat, and when they buy a boat they can buy it now thinking that they can offset the cost by putting it into the [Boatsetter] platform.”