Swimply lets you swim in a stranger’s pool. It’s less weird than you think

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My hired oasis for the afternoon.

Swim

Summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit here in Austin, Texas, so I often look for places to swim. Fortunately, this city keeps its promises. West of downtown, for example, you’ll find the state’s oldest swimming pool, a city-owned spot called Deep Eddy. Venture further out of town and you’ll land on Lake Travis, a large body of water frequented by fishermen and double-decker barges with slides that revelers can shoot down in the water.

But a swimming option I had never thought of, let alone tried? My neighbors’ back pool, available for rent via a mobile application.

This is the essence of Swim, a Airbnb style service for swimming pools founded in the summer of 2018. After hearing about it, I had to schedule a swim. Flash forward to a Sunday afternoon in July, and I cautiously stepping into a stranger’s shallow pool shaded by tall pecans. An oversized rainbow mane unicorn float was waiting for me.

Swimply is the brainchild of co-founders Asher Weinberger, 35, and Bunim Laskin, 24, who met at a networking event hosted by Weinberger for entrepreneurs in New York City. Laskin, then a student, introduced Weinberger to the idea of ​​monetizing home swimming pools.

The couple pursued the idea by searching Google Earth for houses with pools and knocking on doors to see if people would be willing to rent them. After creating a simple website and seeing thousands of people visiting strangers pools in just a few weeks, they decided to start a business.

Today, Swimply operates in all 50 US states, Canada and Australia, hosting half a million users and approximately 13,000 swimming pools. Weinberger says he sees the service as an experiential “extension of the sharing economy”, delivering what people want, rather than what they need. This contrasts with, for example, transport from Uber or hospitality from Airbnb.

the Covid-19 pandemic marked a big moment for Swimply, says Weinberger. The app had just experienced a winter season with little activity, and the pandemic caused a huge wave of financial uncertainty. “The roadmaps were withdrawn. We had no more money. We didn’t know what it was going to be,” Weinberger said.

As it turned out, people were all set to rent private pools, and Swimply saw nearly 5,000% year-over-year growth from 2019 to 2020, according to Weinberger.

“We have become profitable [and] which attracted venture capital, ”Weinberger explains. “We raised a Series A a few months ago for $ 10 million. The team has grown from two people to almost 70 people. “

Weinberger says Swimply has been able to meet a need on both sides of the market. Not only did the service help those who rented swimming pools pay their expenses during the pandemic, but it provided an outlet for people trapped at home, he says.

Take the plunge

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The brown storage chest was filled with pool toys.

Swim

My rented garden oasis was in a leafy neighborhood in eastern Austin lined with quirky homes of all sizes. It was listed on Swimply as a “plunge pool,” which is a smaller pool intended for wading and lounging, and measured 8 feet by 15 feet with a maximum depth of 6 feet (1.83 meters). At $ 20 an hour, it was cheaper than the area’s full-size pools, which can cost over $ 100 an hour to rent. The average cost to rent a Swimply pool in the United States is around $ 40 to $ 45 an hour, Weinberger says.

When I clicked on the listing I was able to browse through a series of photos of the pool, including some whimsical aerial shots. There was room for reviews, and the place I reserved, with almost 50, averaged five stars. “Clean, private and easy to get to,” wrote one swimmer. Another said, “It was seriously JUST what the doctor ordered.” Another nearby pool did not perform as well, with some guests citing an inhospitable host and a “not ideal, but … doable” request to limit toilet use in the house.

There were also amenities. With Airbnb, I might see a hairdryer, TV, or washing machine, but this ad featured pool toys.

Sean Ables and Bronwyn Towart, my hosts, started renting their pool with Swimply last summer. Since then, they have seen customers reserve the pool for picnics, birthdays and swimming lessons. One person even shot a rap music video, Ables says, laughing when asked if he made an appearance. This gave the couple the chance to meet some of their neighbors without a pool who are eager to escape the Texas heat.

“One of the neighbors came over and used the pool, and I guess they told everyone in their block, because we started having all these people and they were like, ‘Oh , we live in [house number] 1908 or we’re living in 1903, ”Ables said.

Ables said the pair practically only used the pool to cool off after exercise. When they registered their place last summer, in the midst of the pandemic, he said they had received a “crazy” number of bookings. People liked having something safe to do outside of the house.

“They would bring their kids and let them use up all their energy because they had been home all day,” Towart explains.

‘Building bridges’

Weinberger, who hosts their own pool on the platform, says connections are a big part of Swimply.

“At the end of the day, we build bridges between communities, people build friendships in their own areas, and that’s extremely important,” he says.

My listing allowed for a full refund up to 24 hours before the booking start time and had a few house rules (no pets, no smoking, limit music during working hours). It also included access to a toilet, a feature offered by most pools, Weinberger notes.

The app asked me to enter through a door on the right side of the house, which had been left open. Ables was in the backyard and greeted me briefly before leaving me and my boyfriend in the small saltwater pool. The first thing I did was walk over to a large brown storage chest and grab some pool noodles, water guns, and a beach ball. (Yeah, I was gonna get my money’s worth.)

The pool, surrounded by trees, was a bit cool in the late afternoon. So after a few water pistol shots, wading around and a few failed attempts to sit comfortably on the giant buoy, we collapsed into chairs on the deck to dry off.

Backyard buyout

There were a few moments during my stay where my mind went to the people of the house that I didn’t know. I thought about who they were and what it was like to have strangers in their backyard on a regular basis. Were they worried that I would knock over one of the potted plants on the bridge? Take off with the mythical-looking buoy? But for the most part my attention was on swimming and I absorbed what felt like a regular pool day.

When I spoke to Ables afterwards, he told me that Swimply had added insurance to the app this year, which made them safer to rent their space. Weinberger said Swimply has a $ 1 million guest insurance policy and offers up to $ 10,000 in property damage coverage.

After this summer, Weinberger has big plans. The Swimply team goes beyond swimming pools and has a waiting list called Joyspace, where thousands of people are signed up to offer their home gyms, home theaters, private tennis courts and music studios. home.

In the meantime, as August begins and the heat rises in Austin, it’s good to know that a legion of pools are waiting for me on my phone, offering more places than I ever imagined. to escape the hot summer afternoons.


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