Boatbound is a peer-to-peer boat-sharing company that allows water enthusiasts to rent everything from a 10-foot inflatable to a 150-foot mega yacht complete with a captain. It’s often called the Airbnb for boats, but Chris Fox, the director of business development, says the comparison falls short in a few key places.
Reflections magazine: How has the recent transition to Seattle been for Boatbound?
Chris Fox: The move to Seattle has been great. When we were deciding to leave San Francisco, our main goals were to get the best of both worlds when it came to tech and boats, and Seattle was almost number one on both lists. It’s a fast-growing city with a unique vibe and tons of opportunity for outdoor exploration. Our team loves everything about the city, except maybe the rain at times.
RM: What has been the biggest challenge for Boatbound?
CF: The hardest part has been bridging the tech gap in an older industry. Online booking has been around in the travel industry for more than 20 years for certain sectors like airfare and hotels; however, it is relatively new for boat and yacht charters. You also don’t see five to 10 companies that truly dominate the industry, so there is a longer adaptation period when a new product enters the marketplace. •••
RM: Speaking of Seattle, in your opinion what makes it a unique place to explore boating and the water?
CF: The Northwest is very diverse when it comes to boating, which is why it has been our fastest-growing market over the past two years. A lot of places generally only have one or two different options for boating, but with Seattle there are dozens. You can wakeboard on Lake Washington, cruise around Lake Union, sail the Puget Sound, fish for salmon or simply explore the San Juans. The array of activities transfers over to the number of boats needed, which is why we have more than 250 boats in the Northwest.
RM: What have you learned about boating communities across the world? What are the hottest markets right now?
CF: There is a common language between boaters, and no matter where you are in the world the camaraderie remains constant. South Florida will always be the charter capital. There is always something in season; if it’s not yacht season, it’s most likely tournament-fishing season. Outside of Florida, Charleston is one of the cities that will often break the top five, which is impressive given its size when compared to big cities like Miami, Chicago or Washington, DC.
RM: It’s easy to describe Boatbound as a water-based Airbnb. Is the company sick of that association?
CF: Yes and no. The sharing economy is still relatively new, so when people hear “Boatbound is the Airbnb of boats,” it points them in the right direction. The problem is that when people hear this they assume we only offer bed and breakfast accommodations on boats and don’t realize that we specialize in the entire charter experience. For example, you will sleep on a fishing boat and there’s also a strong chance you will return home with a cooler full of fish.
RM: Boatbound now has a few competitors. What sets it apart from the field?
CF: Our two main points of differentiation are the peer-to-peer insurance policy and our owner/operators. Owners are always the backbone of any sharing economy platform and we have some of the best owners in the industry. As for insurance, we partnered with BoatUS to create a peer-to-peer policy that is very hard to surpass.
RM: It’s been said the marine industry is declining as younger generations are hesitant to invest in it. Do you think this is true, and do you think Boatbound can help it stay afloat by providing a way to offset cost?
CF: The marine industry we see today is very different than the one from 25 years ago. There have been new sectors like paddleboards, personal watercraft, and kayaks that have exploded while older traditional avenues have slowed down. When it comes to Boatbound, all generations are realizing that recreational boats don’t always have to be seen as a negative asset. In the past, you generally never purchased a recreational boat with the expectation of turning a profit. Now if you rent your boat twice a month, the boat basically pays for itself.
RM: What advice do you have for boat owners who are thinking about registering their boat but can’t get over the anxiety of lending it to a stranger?
CF: It can be a bit tense in the beginning, and the most important thing to remember is that as an owner you are always in complete control. You can ask as many questions as you want until you are comfortable approving the rental. Even if you have some last-second doubts on the day of the rental, you can cancel without any harm to your profile. When you combine the control and the peer-to-peer insurance policy, it helps make the entire process a bit easier.
RM: What’s in store for the future of Boatbound? Do you think this type of business model has legs in other industries (possibly private jets, etc.)?
CF: The sharing platforms can be used for a variety of water activities: kayaks, surfboards, windsurfing. At the moment, we are focused solely on boats and yachts. We started out with mostly day charters, and our next step is to expand internationally and grow our voyage charter and experience segments. We have realized that people want to boat for longer periods. Renters are looking for the four-day fishing excursion or the three-day catamaran cruise that includes snorkeling and scuba diving.
RM: Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?
CF: The reason our platform does so well is because we have something for everyone. Our boats range from 10-foot inflatables to 150-foot mega yachts with a full crew. If you don’t have any experience or would prefer to sit back and relax, there are a number of captained rentals available. On the other hand, if you are looking for a smaller boat without a captain to cruise around Lake Union, we have many to choose from as well.
For more information, visit boatbound.co