Jaclyn Baumgarten has many fond childhood memories of boating with her family, but as an adult she found it difficult to relive those experiences.
“I still wanted the opportunity to get out on the water,” Baumgarten said. “But I didn’t have the resources to do it alone.” Although she had the means of disposable income, Baumgarten said through her career in corporate real estate that she still felt boating was beyond her financial reach.
In 2012, Baumgarten sold her apartment to raise seed capital for her business plan which is now Boatsetter. The online marketplace is designed as a networking hub between boat owners, renters and captains with an inventory of more than 50,000 boats in 700 locations in the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico and the Mediterranean.
In addition to getting financing, Baumgarten started learning all about both commercial marine and recreational marine insurance and pitching it to insurers. “The biggest obstacle boats faced and had to address was that there was simply no insurance infrastructure for peer-to-peer boat rentals,” explains Baumgarten. “So I went to build it.”
Baumgarten partnered with GEICO and BoatUS to create what she called the first-ever peer-to-peer marine insurance policy in the United States. “Once we passed that hurdle, I knew and saw that my boat rental dream was really within reach,” she added.
When Boatsetter officially launched in 2014, Baumgarten pointed out that it was then that she recognized how limited access to boats for the general public was. Although there were already small boat clubs and local boat rental fleets, there was previously no platform to open them.
“There is a need for something similar for boat owners,” Baumgarten said. “It was a very exciting proposition, but there were certainly a lot of hurdles along the way, no doubt.”
According to Baumgarten, another aspect of Boatsetter is that customers don’t need to have any previous sailing or boating experience to rent a boat; the company has access to a large selection of US Coast Guard licensed captains who can operate a sailing trip.
Through their app or through their website, users can log into Boatsetter and search under subcategory tabs labeled experiences, locations, lakes and boat charters. Based on availability, users select and book to schedule a boat.
When booking, “you will be put in touch with the owner,” Baumgarten said. Users will then receive an email confirming your trip and the location where they can meet the boat. Additional details in the email may include whether drinks will be provided on board or information about what types of shoes should be worn by passengers.
The timing of a booking depends on the activity; the website may display boats that are immediately bookable. But if you are interested in planning a week-long charter in the Caribbean or Mexico, it will take a little more lead time.
In Boatsetter’s early stage, Baumgarten said she literally walked across the quayside with a cool box and approached boat owners to market the company. Today, she develops new business connections with owners through Discover Boating, a promotional campaign of the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.
“We are also working with major marina owners and we will communicate through the marinas that owners are allowed and able to do this activity,” Baumgarten added. Interested boat owners can also register via their website.
Inclusion is also important at Boatsetter. As a female-led technology company, Boatsetter has employees who speak 12 different languages. On the customer side, Baumgarten shared that findings in 2021 indicate that 46 percent of their tenants were women. Also, more than 75 percent of their users are under the age of 45, with the fastest segment being Gen Z, of which more than 51 percent are women.
“So we are definitely creating the gateway to the boating industry and opening up to a more diverse user experience,” said Baumgarten.