For Denver residents with private pools, record-setting heat and the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic are certainly casting the luxury of that exclusive water in stark relief this summer. Now those pools are a new frontier in the growing sharing economy.
Tech startup Swimply is offering a platform to democratize the backyard swimming pool and give pool owners a new revenue stream. Consider it the Airbnb of afternoon dips. Denver is one of its emerging markets, executives say.
Users log in to Swimply online or via the company’s app and tap into a selection of private pools in their area, each with availability windows, amenities and hourly rental rates set by their owners.
The website advertises that perspective hosts could earn up to $10,000 a month letting others dip into their underutilized waters. Simply’s cut is a flat 15%, company representatives say.
“We are an online marketplace. No different than an eBay or an Uber,” said Sonny Mayugba, Swimply’s vice president of growth. “As it turns out, there is just an immense desire for this kind of service.”
Swimply vets each host and pool, focusing on safety and cleanliness, Mayugba said. The company relies on an “extremely powerful review system” that allows hosts and guests to rate one another, an approach similar to Lyft’s star ratings for drivers and passengers.
While the company has some mature markets in states like California and Texas, Mayugba says Denver is part of a second tier of cities where the business is starting to catch on and build more of a presence. A look at a map of the Denver area in the app this week showed just over a dozen listings spread between Erie and Highlands Ranch.
Cassie Parks and her husband have been listing their 40-by-20-foot in-ground pool in southeast Denver since June under the name “enchanted pool.” The couple found out about Swimply through Parks’ sister who forwarded her a news article about another Denver area pool owner who made thousands renting out his pool in 2020.
Parks said she brought in $3,600 in extra income in less than a month. That more than covers the family’s $300 per month pool maintenance and upkeep budget and is providing extra cash for vacations and other things.
“For a pool owner, I think I use it a lot but we don’t use it 24/7. It was great to be able to make more money with it,” she said.
Parks has found the platform easy to use, with minimal interactions with guests necessary to run a smooth operation.
“For the most part, we send them a message to remind them this is how you get in, this is where the bathroom is, use anything you want,” Parks said. “A lot of people will ask if it’s OK to bring food. You get a few messages like that but not a lot.”
The enchanted pool can be had for $50 per hour for parties of up to five. Additional guests incur an extra $10 per hour fee each. Parks said she based her pricing on other listings she saw on Swimply. It’s significantly steeper than the $2 Denver Parks and Recreation charges most adults to get into one of the city’s pool for a day, but it comes with privacy, pool toys and access to a full bathroom that is separate from the Parks’ family home.
“There is a freedom in being the only people there,” Parks said. “Just your party, whether it is your significant other or your grandparents and kids. There really are not places where you can have that.”
Swimply was founded in 2018 when CEO Bunim Laskin was looking to find a neighborhood place to swim for his 11 younger siblings. The business really took off in 2020, experiencing 4,000% growth, Mayugba said. COVID-19 played a big role.
“That was sort of the trigger to break the idea out to people with society being told to stay at home and quarantine with your family,” Mayugba said. “Swimply became a great alternative to have a safe outing.”
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The company closed on a $10 million funding round in May, according to a news release. At the time it was serving 125 U.S. markets, with a small presence in Canada and Australia.
Norwest Venture Partners led the funding round.
“Over the past year we’ve witnessed a movement in how people rethink the way we use space and earn a living wage. Swimply is well-positioned to help a lot of people,” Edward Yip, a partner in Northwest, said in a statement.
The sharing economy — people renting out private assets like their homes (Airbnb and Vrbo) or cars (Lyft and Uber) as tools to bring in income — has become big business in recent years. When rideshare company Lyft went public in 2019, it netted a $24.3 billion valuation. In the wake of the pandemic, the company’s market cap is now $18.8 billion.
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