It was your typical scorching hot, oppressively humid summer day in New Jersey. Bunim Laskin, home from college in Israel, wished that he and his 11 younger siblings could cool off in the swimming pool next door that was rarely used. He asked the owner, and she was fine with it. Bunim agreed they would pay 25% of the monthly maintenance costs. The woman then made deals with other families in the neighborhood. She not only had the maintenance costs paid for, she made a profit. And families in the neighborhood had access to a private pool.
In 2017, Bunim, only 20 years old, built on that idea. He used his bar mitzvah money to launch his website, PoolForU, connecting people who had pools with people who longed to swim in a private pool. He was more successful than he expected: the website soon crashed from the heavy traffic. He went back to college, but he didn’t stay long.
In 2018, Bunim contacted Asher Weinberger, founder of TribeWorks, a non-profit organization that offers advice, support and resources to startups launched by Jewish entrepreneurs. Together they founded Swimply, a user-friendly website and app, the first and only online marketplace for pool sharing. Their five-week pilot program was a huge success. They had pool owners sharing their pools with 10,000 strangers.
Hosts list their pools with details on the amenities and photos, determine the rules renters need to follow (e.g., the number of people), and set the hourly rate. A background check is done, and the pool inspected for safety and hygiene. Swimply partners with two large pool maintenance firms who do the inspections at no cost for the opportunity to meet new pool owners. The host is required to provide toilet facilities, either an outdoor-accessible bathroom, instructions for accessing one inside the home, or a portable toilet (camping models are inexpensive, sanitary and unobtrusive). Prices range from $40 per hour for a regular-size backyard pool to more than $300 an hour for a large pool with breathtaking views, a hot tub, grilling facilities, etc. The highest grossing pool so far has taken in about $12,000 in one summer; more usual is the $4,000 to $7,000 range. Swimply takes 15% of the rental fee as commission.
Swimmers view all the information on available pools, check out user reviews and request the date and hours they wish to use the pool. All the arrangements are made through Swimply. Hosts do not have to spend time answering messages and coordinating dates and times. In fact, rarely do hosts and swimmers ever meet or communicate. Swimmers pay Swimply a 10% service fee. Hosts also leave reviews on how well swimmers have respected their property.
In addition to families who want to cool off conveniently and inexpensively, pool sharing is very popular with observant Muslims and Orthodox Jews who are not comfortable in mix-gender public pools; people with body issues, such as amputees; nudists or those who want the occasional skinny dip; and swimming instructors who want to offer private lessons.
Swimply is now in at least 27 states, Canada and Australia—so far in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. But the Australian market is sure to grow quickly; there are 2.7 million pools and the highest pool ownership per capita in the world. Also, Australians are especially amenable to the sharing economy paradigm.
Swimply is still working out the issue of liability insurance. For now, both hosts and swimmers sign waivers absolving hosts and Swimply of any responsibility in the event of injury. So far, so good—there have been none. Swimply wants to provide a comprehensive, blanket policy and is now gathering data to present to an insurance company.