Pool Startup in New Jersey Uses Tech to Make a Splash
Bunim Laskin says that as the oldest of 12 children, growing up he was tasked with keeping his younger sisters and brothers occupied and entertained. Laskin saw that one of his neighbor’s pool frequently went unused. So, he asked the owner if his family could use her pool. In exchange, he offered to help with the costs of maintaining the pool.
A Start Up is Born
Tech Crunch says in a recent article that fairly soon, Laskin had five other families in the mix with the same set-up: that pool owner had six families covering a quarter of her expenses. As a result, the neighbor was actually making money off her pool. This arrangement formed a business idea for Laskin, and at the age of 20, he founded Swimply — a marketplace for homeowners to rent out their underutilized pools to local swimmers.
Swimply’s co-founder is Asher Weinberger. The Cedarhurst, New York-based start up launched a beta in 2018, starting with four pools in the Garden State.
“We used Google Earth to find houses, and then knocked on 80 doors with a pool,” CEO Laskin recalls. “We got to 100 pools organically. Word of mouth really helped us grow.” The site was pretty bare bones, he admits, with potential customers only able to view photos of the pools and connect with the pool owner by phone.
The first year, Swimply made about 400 reservations and raised $1.2 million from friends and family. In 2019, Swimply launched what Laskin calls a “proper” website and app with an automated platform. It grew “four to five times” that year, again mostly organically.
COVID Doesn’t Sink Swimply’s Business
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Swimply, pivoted to address the pandemic.
“We were the perfect solution for people when the world was falling on its head,” he said. The company restructured its offering to ensure that pool owners did not have to interact with guests. “It was the perfect, contact-free, self-serve experience to hang out and be with people you quarantined with.”
The CDC said it was safe to swim in a pool because chlorine could help kill the virus. That news was a big boon to Swimply’s business.
“On one end, it was a way for people to have a normal day and on the other, it helped give owners a way to earn an income, at a time when many people were being affected financially,” Laskin told TechCrunch.
Pool Company Grows 4000%
Swimply’s business took off in last year. Their revenue grew 4,000%. The company is now announcing a $10 million Series A round. Norwest Venture Partners led the financing, with participation from Trust Ventures and a number of angel investors such as Poshmark founder and CEO Manish Chandra; Rob Chesnut, former general counsel and chief ethics officer at Airbnb; Ancestry.com CEO Deborah Liu and Michael Curtis.
Swimply is now operating its pool business around the country, with two cities in Canada, and five areas in Australia. The company plans to use its new capital in part to expand into new markets and toward product development.
How it Works
Swimply simply connects homeowners that have underutilized backyard spaces and pools with consumers who want a way to gather, cool off, or exercise. Customers can rent pools by the hour (the price ranges from $15 to $60 per hour) depending on the amenities.
“The shifting mindset from younger generations about ownership is a huge contributor to increased growth of the Swimply marketplace,” said co-founder Weinberger, who serves as Swimply’s COO. “Swimming is the third most popular activity for adults and number one for children, and yet no other company has tackled the aquatic space to make swimming more affordable and accessible…until now.”
“People can book and pay through our platform, and only 20% of hosts ever meet their guests,” Laskin said. “We’re enabling a new kind of consumer behavior with what we’re doing.”
Swimply now also offers a complimentary up to $1 million in insurance coverage per booking for liability and $10,000 for property damage.
“Last year, there were some owners who earned $10,000 a month. One owner in Denver earned $50,000 last year and he had signed up toward the end of the summer. He should make over $100,000 this year,” Laskin projects.
Ed Yip of Norwest Venture Partners said when he first heard of the concept of Swimply, he “didn’t know what to make of it.”
But the more he learned, the more excited he became.
“This is the Holy Grail for a consumer investor. We’re not changing consumer behavior, but rather [we] productize the experience and make it safer and easier on both sides,” Yip told TechCrunch.
What also gets Yip excited is the potential for Swimply to move beyond just swimming pools in the future. There’s a big demand from hosts wanting to list hot tubs and tennis courts. He sees Swimply turning into a marketplace for shared outdoor resources. That’s a big market opportunity that adds value on both sides, he explained.