Boataffair is a boutique boat matchmaking company, that connects quality boats with the right person. The unique platform enables boat owners and boat seekers to rendezvous online. Their promise is a quality experience for both parties and we enable boat seekers to find the right boat that suits them. I talked to CEO Adrian Walker & COO Natalya Zubova about their innovate start-up.

Society 3.0: What is boataffair?

Boataffair: boataffair is a boutique boat match making company connecting quality boats with the right person. The big promise is a quality and trusted experience for all parties involved. The direct benefit for boat owners is that you find the appropriate renter that suits you while boat seekers find a quality boat. With us, quality boats meet quality people.

We currently offer boats in Greece and Cyprus. We decided to focus our activities on these markets first and to build long-term relationships in this region. We believe that only strong relationships and partnerships can ensure quality and authentic experiences and this is our value promise. It is our goal to establish ourselves as knowledge experts in the region. 

What is the story behind boataffair?

CEO Adrian Walker & COO Natalya Zubova

Our passion for boats, the sharing economy and for designing authentic and beautiful experiences led us to found boataffair. As boat owners ourselves, we realized how little we take out our motor yacht and how this beautiful experience can be easily shared with other passionate boaters. We knew that if there was a fast and secure process with a trusted partner, we would rent our boat out. For this reason, we created a boutique platform with an emphasis on all things quality. Within our team, we speak eight languages fluently and have an extensive network in the start-up and the boating industry. It is our belief that we open up opportunities for boat owners and boat seekers by connecting them on boataffair.

Our vetting process ensures that like-minded people with the same values are connected, boats are used more to their full capacity and boat seekers will be able to enjoy an authentic and smooth experience without having to own their own boat. We named the company boataffair to convey the emotion behind the boating experience – very often boating becomes a life-long affair, and with us, you don’t have to own the boat to experience that.

How do people sign up for boataffair?

We ensured that the process is easy and fast. As a boat owner, you will need to create your profile on boataffair which takes less than 2 minutes. Once your profile has been created you can list your boat – it’s all within 1 page where you can include all the boat specifications, features, the price you wish to receive, description of your boat, location and pictures. It’s that easy – the whole process from the point of registration to creating a listing will take no more than 10 minutes.

We offer a special guide to boat owners (accessible directly from the boat listing page to assist with the listing and to help create a more compelling and attractive one). We will review the listing and approve it in under 24 hours and usually within an hour. As a boat renter, you will only be asked to create a profile (which takes less than 2 minutes) once you want to either send a booking request or send a message to the boat owner. Both boat owner and boat seeker benefit from an easy to use messenger function to enable interaction and a fast booking process by which a request is created by the renter, owner reviews and accepts.

What makes boataffair different?

What makes us boutique is that we select the boats and the owners ourselves after careful screening. Also, we focus on quality and not quantity to ensure boats live up to our own high quality and safety standards. A local concierge ensures a smooth handover of the boat. Furthermore, we offer a “premium” boat owner package for those owners, who are short on time to handle the rental process and communications with the renters. We are a Sharing Economy platform, but we like to think that we are in the “premium” category. Our boutique platform still enables people to share their asset, but the focus on quality and on human interaction places us in a new category. We believe that with us, a significant human touch and personal relationships underpin the technology and transactions. Similar to Onefinestay – another premium Sharing Economy platform. By focussing only on premium properties they clearly placed themselves in the premium category.

What is the best/hardest part of being a Sharing Economy entrepreneur?

The Sharing Economy online is still a young concept today and technology has enabled decentralised sharing platforms. What we find challenging sometimes is that there are still uncertainties in the regulation space and some people question the concept of the sharing economy in terms of for example employee status, insurance and rights. However, we believe that talks on the topic of regulation and policies are taking place and we certainly want to be part of those discussions. That is why we are a proud a member of EUCoLab in Brussels, a forum that connects collaborative economy companies and European policymakers.

How do you see the development of the sharing economy in the next 5 years?

The Sharing Economy is a high growth industry with an annual predicted growth of an astonishing 35% and the predicted value in Europe alone will be worth around EUR 80bn in revenue and will facilitate EUR 570bn in transactions. We believe, however, that the sharing economy is still emerging across many sectors and we will see new business models evolving with a massive potential to disrupt a lot of traditional businesses across various sectors of the economy. Over the last few years, we have witnessed a major shift from investing into assets towards investing in experiences. Driven by millennials, who are becoming increasingly asset light, Sharing Economy reflects that change in preferences.

Why do you think boats are an ideal asset for the sharing economy?

Boats are an ideal asset for the Sharing Economy because they are of high value and are generally underutilised. As a boutique company for quality boats, we are solving certain pain points for our customers. Therefore, it is evident that we must understand what those pain points are and to be able to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes we should meet with them, we must listen to them. We believe that our success as a company still depends on understanding the causes of the behaviour of the humans using the technology. This will create a community of shared values.

You have met with many boat owners so far. How was it to meet with them and how was their reaction to boataffair?

I believe our meetings in Greece were valuable to help us better understand some of the pain points boat owners face and how we can solve them. When Airbnb’s Rebecca Rosenfelt talked about the expansion to new markets she said that “it was beneficial to do things that do not scale because a non-scalable tactic might be more scalable than initially thought”. After our trips, we could not agree more with this statement.

Whilst our tactic to meet with as many boat owners as possible face to face may not have been scalable, the feedback we gathered during all our meetings is invaluable in terms of what is going on in the yacht rental market and what is expected from us. Every boat owner we met agreed to list their boat with us because they understood that at boataffair, we want to establish relationships with members of our community and we care for their stories. Together, we can develop innovations that resonate with the people.

Did you like the interview? Then follow boataffair on Twitter!

For more information you can visit boataffair on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Here you can read the latest articles by Adrian Walker & Natalya Zubova.