If you order an Uber, you’ll ride in someone else’s car, and if you book an Airbnb, you’ll sleep in someone else’s home. Now, with an app called Swimply, you can stay cool in other people’s pools.
Erin Moriarty, a teacher who lives in Waltham, heard about the swimming pool app when a friend asked her to download it so he could rent her backyard oasis for his wife’s upcoming birthday party. Moriarty decided to give it a try, but she didn’t expect the flood of interest in her backyard that followed.
“I listed my pool on a Saturday, and when I woke up the next day, I had 10 bookings,” she said. “I’m surprised how many people know about the app.”
Over the past few weeks, Moriarty said, she has welcomed groups ranging from small families to parties of 25 people, and soon her backyard will host a gender-reveal party.
Swimply has 43 pools “live” on its platform in Massachusetts, and another 170 are on a waitlist pending approval, according to a spokeswoman. The New York-based startup said it vets potential hosts through background and pool-safety checks, which sometimes happen in person, among other protocols, before they can accept reservations. Swimply jumped into the Massachusetts market in May 2020, and its service is available in 125 other locales in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Bunim Laskin, cofounder and chief executive of Swimply, started the company in 2018 when he was 20 years old. Growing up in New Jersey as the oldest of 12 children, he often had to keep his siblings entertained during the summer, so he would pay a neighbor to use their pool. It was an informal arrangement, but he realized a business could be built around the concept.
Swimply estimates the average owners use their pools about 15 percent of the time.
That leaves plenty of hours in the day for people like Moriarty to make some extra money. Moriarty is putting her Swimply earnings toward pool maintenance costs and upgrades. She has already hung string lights around the pool and added a floating basketball hoop.
Swimply says it offers host liability and property damage protection — up to $1,000,000 and $10,000, respectively — but Moriarty said she’s considering a separate umbrella liability policy that would cover her pool.
Gregory Daniell of Chelmsford saw an advertisement for Simply on social media in late May and was intrigued.
The director of business development for a medical device startup, he said that after about a month of being a host on the platform, he has booked more than 10 groups and generated a few thousand dollars in the process. Some of those funds have gone toward replacing the heater in his hot tub, he said.
“I didn’t know if it would work. . . . I thought it might be weird, people coming to your house, but it has been great, and people are super respectful,” he said.
Daniell allows guests to use the bathroom in his basement, but he’s debating investing in a porta-potty for the backyard.
Swimply employs about 60 people and has raised $11.2 million from investors, including a $10 million round that closed in May, led by Norwest Venture Partners. Swimply’s investors include the former general counsel and chief ethics officer of Airbnb, Rob Chesnut. Companies such as Airbnb, Swimply, and Uber fit into a category dubbed the “sharing economy,” since they connect people to the owners of assets, whether that be homes, pools, or cars.
Daniell said he greets all of the guests who come to his home, shows them where the first-aid kit is, and demonstrates how to use the pool jets and grill. He charges $90 an hour, which he thinks is a fair price, since the backyard is enclosed by tall hedges, apple trees, and blooming flowers.
But he’s seen less expensive pools listed on Swimply, too, which he said might appeal to a more practical user, who doesn’t need amenities such as a diving board or outdoor refrigerator.
“My cousin uses this app for basic pools because he trains for triathlons,” Daniell said. “He doesn’t care what it looks like.”
Moriarty said she initially priced her pool at under $100 per hour, but now charges she rents at an hourly rate of $129 because “it has to be worth it to give up the pool.” She has two sons, Danny, 8, and Billy, 5, who each get $10 when others use the pool, which she considers a sort of inconvenience fee.
Daniell’s son has a similar feeling when he can hear others swimming in his family’s pool, but his parents think the tradeoff is worth it.
“I have a 5-year-old, and he’s funny about it. . . . He asks, ‘Are they gone yet?’ He always wants to be in the pool,” he said. “It is a good lesson in patience.”