Phones are so versatile these days, but I bet you didn’t think your phone would be an effective earthquake detector.
No pool? No problem.
Swimply, an app that allows hosts to rent their pool by the hour, has taken off during the coronavirus pandemic as community pools remain closed for the season and people look for ways to gather outdoors safely.
Swimply co-founder Asher Weinberger said he got the idea for the business after he bought his first home with a pool in 2018. He said friends and family members asked to use the pool, and he wondered how he could schedule their visits and avoid liability.
That led Weinberger to partner with co-founder Bunim Laskin, and they began knocking on doors. Weinberger said they pitched their idea to 80 pool owners and got the door shut in their face by 76 of them.
Yet Swimply launched 13 months later and now has 200,000 app downloads and 6,000 listed pools, Weinberger said. Since the pandemic began, the app has experienced 3,300% growth.
Gina Burnside plays volleyball with her neighbors in her swimming pool, which she rents out using the Swimply app. From left: Dawn Weimer; Chris Freeman; his wife Brittany Freeman; Gina Burnside; and Dawn’s husband Robert Weimer. (Photo: Fred Squillante, Columbus Dispatch)
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“It’s not just the public pools,” Weinberger said. “What we’re doing is we’re replacing lots of other sectors. So, for example, where were people making their birthday parties? Maybe Chuck E. Cheese or places like that, and now there’s nowhere to do that. There are people who do aquatic therapy or physical therapy, people go to the gym, they can’t exercise – looking for a way to exercise, right? We’re not just replacing the public pool. We’re just an entertainment, exercise and just general relaxation venue.”
Weinberger, who still rents out his own pool, even to test underwater drones, said he made $15,000 last month in rental fees.
Weinberger said hosts – depending on the kind of pool and the amenities – could make around $5,000 per month for a pool that might be used only 15% of the time.
Swimply charges hosts a 15% fee and swimmers a 10% fee. Swimply, based in Long Island, New York, and hosts negotiate a price based on factors including pool size, demand, amenities and location. The rental fee generally ranges from $40 to $60 per hour.
Hosts post their pool and its amenities on the app, and swimmers can search for pools in their area by ZIP code and filter searches by amenities and book a time, Weinberger said.
Swimply is advising hosts to cap their maximum guests at eight to ensure safety amid the pandemic.
Gina Burnside has made about $1,000 beyond expenses by renting her pool at her Hilltop home since she joined Swimply on July 30. She has rented it 21 times and has eight more reservations.
She charged $45 per hour to use the pool, which includes a diving board. There also is access to a bathroom.
“I really didn’t realize how many people want to use a pool right now because of the pandemic,” she said.
Friends and family members have routinely used the pool, Burnside said, but she reserves it for herself on weekends.
“Why not have an extra side hustle while I’m working, while giving people the joy of swimming in a pool,” she said.
As for amenities, more than 80% of the listed pools have bathrooms, but if a host doesn’t, the company will work with them to provide portable facilities. Other listings offer additional spaces, such as basements or pool houses, which can be used by visitors and are cleaned regularly.
Entrepreneur David Schottenstein, an investor in Swimply, said he decided to buy in when the pandemic began to worsen.
“I started to think to myself, ‘You know what, this is definitely something that the world is going to need for a long time to come.’ And even without COVID, it made sense in a lot of ways,” Schottenstein said.
He said he was surprised when he learned that his sisters, who live in Brooklyn, New York, already were using Swimply and that Columbus also has lots of people with – and without – pools.
“Columbus is really a fantastic market for them, obviously, spring, summer, mostly because it’s very seasonal, but I’m very excited that it’s hitting my hometown,” Schottenstein said.
Burnside said the end of COVID-19 won’t mean the end of her renting her pool.
“Even without the pandemic, families want privacy and a place to go that doesn’t have a bunch of people,” she said.
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