Jaclyn Baumgarten has many fond childhood memories of boating with her family but as an adult she found recreating those experiences to be tricky.
“I still wanted the opportunity to get out on the water,” said Baumgarten. “But I didn’t have the resources to do it on my own.” While she had the means of a disposable income, through her career in corporate real estate, Baumgarten said that she still felt that boating was out of her financial reach.
In 2012, Baumgarten sold her condo to obtain seed capital for her business plan that is now Boatsetter. The online marketplace is designed as a network hub between boat owners, renters and captains with an inventory of over 50,000 boats in 700 locations across the United States, Caribbean, Mexico and the Mediterranean.
Along with accessing funding, Baumgarten started learning everything she could about both commercial maritime and recreational maritime insurance and pitching them to underwriters. “The biggest obstacle that boats that are faced and had to address was that there was simply no insurance infrastructure in place for peer-to-peer boat rentals,” explained Baumgarten. “So I set out to build it.”
Baumgarten worked with GEICO and BoatUS, in creating what she referred to as the very first peer-to-peer marine insurance policy in the United States. “Once we cleared that hurdle I knew, and I saw, that my dream for boat rentals was actually within reach,” she added.
With Boatsetter officially launching in 2014, Baumgarten pointed how then she recognized how limiting was boating accessibility was to the general public. While there were small boat clubs and locally-owned boat rental fleets already out there, there was not a platform for accessing them before.
“There is a need for something similar for boat owners,” said Baumgarten. “It was a really exciting proposition but one that definitely had many hurdles along the way, without a doubt.”
According to Baumgarten, another aspect of Boatsetter is that customers aren’t required to have any prior sailing or boating experience to rent a boat; the company has access to a large selection of U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains that can pilot a sailing.
Via their app or through their website, users can log onto Boatsetter and search under subcategory tabs labeled experiences, locations, lakes and boat charters. Based upon availability, users select and book to schedule a boat.
Upon a booking, “you’re going to be put in contact with the owner,” said Baumgarten. Users then will get an email confirming your trip and the location for where to meet the boat. Additional details in the email can include if beverages will be provided on board or information on what types of shoes must be worn by passengers.
The timing of a booking depends on the activity; the website can list boats which are instantly bookable. Yet if you’re interesting in scheduling a weeklong charter in the Caribbean or Mexico, it will require a bit more lead time.
In the early stage of Boatsetter, Baumgarten said she literally walked boating docks with a cooler and approached boat owners to market the company. These days, she develops new business contacts with owners through Discover Boating, a promotional campaign by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.
“We also partner with major marina owner operators and we’ll share communications through the marinas that owners are allowed and able to do this activity,” Baumgarten added. Interested boat owners can also apply via their website.
Inclusivity at Boatsetter is also important. As a female-led technology company, Baumgarten noted that Boatsetter has employees who currently speak 12 different languages.
On the customer side, Baumgarten shared that in 2021 findings points that 46 percent of their renters were women. Also, over 75 percent of their users are under the age of 45 with the fastest segment being Gen Z, of which over 51 percent of them are women.
“So we are absolutely creating the gateway to the boating industry and opening up for a more diverse user experience,” said Baumgarten.