Barqo: The Airbnb For Boats

Barqo: The Airbnb For Boats

They say if it flies or floats, renting is cheaper. Boats are expensive assets that are typically only used occasionally. In addition, the carrying costs are also high. Insurance costs, marina fees and maintenance expenses add up. As a consequence, renting is often a cheaper option. And that just got a lot easier thanks to boat sharing platform Barqo.

I recently spoke with co-founder Floris van Hoogenhuyze to find out what this platform is all about.

What is Barqo?

Barqo is the first European boat sharing platform, founded in The Netherlands. We have a few competitors in the US and now also a few in Europe but they are not really focussed on peer-to-peer sharing like we are.

How was the idea behind Barqo created?

In February 2014 I was discussing the fast growth of Airbnb and their valuation with my room mate. As we were talking, a boat sailed by and we had a “eureka” moment as we wondered why there isn’t a sharing platform for boats yet. We figured the potential market would be huge.

When did you guys start out?

We started in February 2014. Right away an extra co-founder joined us and our current CTO came aboard.First we built a pre-registration website and we run it by friends and family. Soon enough an entrepreneurs magazine picked it up and ran an article about us. From there it’s been a rollercoaster as a lot of local and national media picked it up. 

Even before we went live, we already had tons of people who wanted to use our platform and list their boat. We realized that we had to speed up the development of the site as there was so much interest, both from potential users as well as providers.

How can users list their boats on the platform?

As a boat owner it’s very easy to sign up, it works similar like Airbnb, we took a lot of inspiration from them. You can create an account for free, either with your email address or by connecting to Facebook. You can then register your boat by choosing the type of boat you want to list and adding your location. The next step is to add a title and description of your boat and adding some details, like the brand, capacity and size. Of course you can include pictures and finally the pricing and availability.

If you’re looking to rent a boat, after creating an account you can browse the boats that are listed and choose how long you want to rent it for, a few hours or several days. You can then contact the boat owner, discuss the details of your trip, arrange for a skipper if you don’t have the proper certifications to steer a boat, pay for your trip and you’re off.

Airbnb hosts are often concerned about the safety of their property. I image that’s the same for boat owners, do you have an insurance policy in place that covers potential damage and theft?

Absolutely, safety has been a big priority from the moment we started the platform. We talked to several Dutch insurance companies and we went live in August 2014. It’s a unique system as we created our own insurance with four different risk barriers.

How is it determined if there is damage to the boat?

The owner checks the boat with the renters before the boat is rented out and also upon returning the boat. We also have deals with several large marinas in The Netherlands so the marinas can do the checks as well.

How much can boat owners expect to make?

We always tell owners that they should look at it as a way to cover costs, such as insurance, marina fees, maintenance etc. But some boat owners are actually making more than that.

It also depends on your location. In The Netherlands the demand is fairly seasonal as not many people want to rent boats in the winter. However, in other parts of the world like Asia and the Caribbean, it’s more of an all year round thing. Right now our focus is still local, but we’re planning to go international in the future.

How does the payment system work and what are the fees?

Barqo has an integrated payment system in place. When you book a boat, you pay right away and the boat owner get’s paid less than a day after the start of the rental. We charge a 15% service fee so the boat owner receives 85% of the payment.

I imagine the pictures are the most important part of a listing. Are you planning to provide professional photographers like Airbnb does?

No we are not planning that, but we did experience that pictures are very important. In the beginning, we automatically approved every single listing that was created but that didn’t work well. Now we are more selective with the listings we approve and we help owners create good listings that will attract bookings.

Do you have a cancelation policy?

We do, it’s similar to Airbnb. We do want to discourage cancelations from the owner’s perspective though and in the future cancelations will lower a boat owner’s rating.

*If you own a boat or want to rent one in The Netherlands make sure to check out Barqo. If you’re not in The Netherlands, keep an eye out as they will be expanding internationally soon!