If you think boating sounds vaguely appealing but you’ve never actually made it out on the water, a New York City startup called Sailo aims to help.
It’s not the first company to allow you to rent boats from their owners. Early last year, for example, we wrote about Boatbound, a self-described Airbnb for boats. Meanwhile, FishingBooker.com, a service that takes a similar approach to fishing trips specifically, was an Audience Choice winner at this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt.
However, Boatbound and similar services are really focused on renting the boat. Co-founder Delphine Braas argued that for many potential users, this approach leaves out a key part of the equation — someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Maybe you’ve never sailed before, or maybe you want to throw a party without worrying about actually running the vessel. That’s why Sailo helps users hire captains, too.
Braas said this approach makes boating “accessible and affordable for an inexperienced boater,” because you don’t just get the boat, you also get an experienced captain, licensed by the US Coast Guard. Basically, when you visit the Sailo website, you can specify the date, the location and the type of boat you’re looking for. Once you’ve chosen a vessel, Sailo will allow you to pick from available captains who are qualified to operate it.
Those captains, meanwhile, get an additional source of income, and the boat owners get to make money when their vessels would normally be sitting idle at the dock. (Sailo also offers insurance for up to $1 million on each trip.)
The challenge will be building a three-sided marketplace, i.e. making sure that there are enough boats, captains and renters. Braas pointed out that the response from captains and boat owners has been enthusiastic so far, but I’m guessing it’s a little early to say for sure — the site currently touts a selection of 18 boats and six captains, and it’s only starting to bring on renters now.
The team is currently working out of the Columbia Startup Lab in Manhattan, and two of its founders, Braas and Adrian Gradinaru, recently graduated from Columbia Business School. (The third founder, Magda Marcu, has an MBA from Santa Clara University.) Apparently Gradinaru came up with the idea after sailing to Greece with the Columbia sailing club, then trying to hire a boat and captain back in New York and finding the experience overly complicated.
Sailo is currently available in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with plans to launch in Florida during the fall.