The coronavirus pandemic has millions of Americans shut out of public pools this summer, and that has opened up a huge opportunity for one small start-up. Swimply has been compared with Airbnb and VRBO, because it’s employs a similar strategy, only for pools.
Barely 2 years old, the company has seen 2,000% growth this summer, according to its 20-something year-old co-founders from New York and New Jersey. Prices range anywhere from $15 to $300 per hour, depending on the type of pool, location and additional amenities offered — like restroom access. Some homeowners also have hot tubs by the pool. Swimply will also work with homeowners to provide portable restrooms if they want.
Swimply’s web platform facilitates the booking and payment process and then takes 15% as a fee. Owners are allowed to deny any renter application, as long as it is not based on race or sexual orientation. Owners can mandate the maximum number of swimmers allowed during any rental booking.
“We’ve seen demand skyrocket. We simply cannot keep up,” said Asher Weinberger, co-founder of Swimply. “There are people who are now desperate to get out of their homes. They’re working from home. There’s no school. There’s no camp. What are parents supposed to do with their kids?”
There was concern at the beginning of the pandemic that pools were unsafe, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website states: “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters.” The CDC does, however, say that proper social distancing should be implemented even while in the pool, as well as other safety measures to prevent contagion.
Weinberger, who rents out his own pool on the platform, said once the safety issue was addressed, demand just exploded. The site lists pools in 39 states as well as in Canada and Australia. It initially began with just over a million dollars in seed capital.
“And we were about to close a $3 million round from the Bay Area right when Covid-19 hit, and that took that off the table, but it turned out to be the best thing for us because now we’re profitable, and we’re scaling without venture capital,” said Weinberger.
Swimply co-founder Asher Weinberger next to his rental pool in Valley Stream, NY.
Leroy Jackson | CNBC
All the pools on the site are initially inspected, and renters must sign a waiver that indemnifies the pool owner should any accidents occur. The pool owner can decide how many people are allowed at one time and if alcohol may be brought onto the property. There have been some complaints from neighbors, but Weinberger said owners who don’t abide by company rules are taken off the site. There is also a renter rating on each pool, much like on home-sharing platforms.
Brenda Jones and her family had never done this before, but now she’s hooked. She booked a pool near her home in Valley Stream, New York, for around $40 an hour and brought along pizza, sandwiches and pool toys for the afternoon.
“The pools at the moment, because of the whole pandemic, they’re closed, so we decided to just come over here with the whole playground in it, and we’re having a good time,” said Jones. “We would definitely do it again.”
Right now, not only is demand soaring from people desperate to cool off, it’s also soaring from homeowners desperate to earn extra cash.
“We have hosts that are making $30,000 to $40,000 in a summer,” said Weinberger. “This is not just — rent out your home for $200 bucks a night — you can make $1,000, $2,,000 a day, and that’s real money that’s not just paying for your pool’s upkeep but it’s even paying for your whole mortgage.”
The system is contactless, owners do not have to interact with the guests at all, and there is very little cleanup, as renters have to bring their own towels and toys.
As for competition in the market?
“The beach,” said Weinberger. “That’s basically it.”