Boataffair is the latest sharing economy platform and was founded with the idea that everyone should be able to enjoy the sea whether you have your own yacht or not
Sailing the seas can be an expensive hobby – but Boataffair, like Airbnb before it, says it can help people get a taste a luxury.
Natalya Walker, an avid boater who co-founded the start-up with her husband Adrian in 2016, wanted to share her passion with others and set up the experience-sharing company.
Through the online platform, users can swap yachts or create a customised weekend boating trip.
Since launching commercially in 2017, the website has had 1,500 users and grown from a core team of three to eight.
Q&A with Natalya Walker, co-founder of Boataffair
Where did the idea for the app come from?
Both me and my co-founder, and husband, Adrian have been passionate boaters for over 20 years and have a motorboat in the south of France.
The idea was born on that very boat when we realised how much we loved sharing our boat with others.
We knew that if there was a trusted and quality process to share that joy with other passionate boaters, we would definitely use it.
We also wanted to enable people who do not have boats to enjoy a truly authentic experience and see places through the eyes of the locals – and not just a touristy trip you get with a traditional run-of-the-mill charter.
We started with the core team of three – myself, Adrian and Sergey, our CTO and web developer.
We did everything three of us – I have worked extremely closely with Sergey on tech and with Adrian on all of the other things from marketing & operations to necessary evil of admin & finance.
Now we are a team of eight and have an extensive network of Boataffair agents and ambassadors in many countries.
We have a highly diverse and international team, and speak eight languages natively to ensure we can speak our client’s language.
What did you do prior to setting up Boataffair?
I briefly worked with a Swiss venture capital (VC) fund, where I helped start-ups to secure investment.
I never wanted to start my own business just for the sake of it, I wanted to do something I was truly passionate about.
After about a year at the VC fund, I was approached by an old colleague who was setting up an events company and needed help.
The London-based start-up called Strategy Council is now in its third year of operations and running successfully.
But it was around the same time that the idea for Boataffair was born, so I decided to leave and focus on the new venture.
I was very happy to have been there to help set Strategy Council up.
It was definitely a valuable experience and helped when launching Boataffair, which was different and more complex structure and operations.
How does hiring or renting out a boat through Boataffair work?
For those who wish to rent a yacht with Boataffair, we offer vetted professionally-managed yachts in over 66 destinations worldwide.
From motor yachts to luxury and spacious catamarans or high-performance sailing yachts – all with or without a skipper and crew.
We verify and select only the most highly qualified professional owners and each listing on the website has to go through strict checks before it goes live on Boataffair.
Most importantly, we created a platform for our professional yacht owners to showcase what makes their destinations truly unique.
The “experience page” is also very popular and allows users to search by category or country to find something to suit their taste and preference.
From dolphin and whale watching in the Canary Islands to having a British afternoon tea aboard a yacht with a view of Big Ben – to hosting a wedding on a boat while cruising Greek islands, or exploring Mayan ruins in Mexico – the world is your oyster.
How does Boataffair differ from other boat rental platforms?
We don’t consider ourselves to be a boat rental website. We offer people unforgettable experiences and adventures on the yachts.
We are the only site to offer authentic experiences created by our yacht owners and we also cater not just for those wishing to charter.
We also have a Boat Swap & Host Club – a global membership-based club, where people can connect to fellow boat owners, chat and agree to swap or host.
People have swapped between vessels in Barcelona and Sweden or even Australia.
Home-swapping has long become a popular way to travel but we are the first to introduce boat-swapping to the sailing world.
What kind of customers do you get on the platform?
Clients who rent yachts with us are generally families, groups of friends or couples.
We have a number of clients, who charter our yachts to host retreats aboard.
These types of clients are after a high quality experience and regularly request a destination, a specific yacht model or a specific chef.
How do you check the quality of boats on Boataffair?
With the yacht charter arm, we select our partners carefully and always verify all the available information.
We have often met them at yacht shows or through partner networks, where professional yacht owners recommend each other.
We always check online information, such as review sites, for any red flags and the insurance documents for the boats, which gives an indication of the status of the boat.
We partnered up with London-based start-up Shepper in order to verify listings.
When a new member joins, we ask Shepper agents to arrange a viewing of the yacht, take photos and ensure the boat is in the condition described in the listing, and all information is accurate.
This gives parties much better peace of mind and helps build trust.
Which types of boats do you have on Boataffair?
We have various types of boats, anything from 7m long power boats suitable for a fun day out, large catamarans ideal for a family sailing holiday, high performance monohull sailing yachts for the sailing enthusiasts and luxurious motor yachts, which you usually see celebrities jumping off in glamorous locations.
We have a few extravagant yachts which are only available on request such as a 31m luxury motor yacht in Miami, which costs around €8,500 (£7,330) per day and has two slides.