If you’ve been around startups or venture capital at all, you might have heard that some new company is building the “Airbnb for ___.”
For instance, Swimply is often referred to as the Airbnb for pools. If you own a pool, you can offer to rent it out for a few hours to someone that wants to hold a pool party or just swim.
RVshare is the Airbnb for RV’s. If you own an RV, chances are you don’t actually use it that many days of the year.
You can earn money on the days you aren’t using it by renting it out to other people who don’t own an RV but want to experience the joys of RV travel.
There actually are quite a few Airbnb of something’s already.
Airbnb’s of Something That Already Exist
You might not be aware of the amount of Airbnb-style websites that already exist in a few different categories.
Some of the categories that already have an Airbnb type business in them include:
2. Pools – Swimply is the clear leader in this space. Some people have reported making $50,000 a year or more by renting their pool every weekend and many weekdays.
3. Recreational Vehicles – We’ve already mentioned RVShare as a leader in this space; Outdoorsy is another name. It’s a huge market as RV’s, campers, trailers, etc. are expensive to buy and yet still sit unused most of the time.
5. Rental Cars – the biggest name out there is Turo. No, you don’t drive people around like Uber and Lyft. You function more like Enterprise or Hertz and lease your car to someone (typically a traveler) who wants to drive it. Another name to look at is Avail Car Sharing. While you park your car at the airport for free, they lease it out.
6. Office Space – there are big companies that offer coworking space, private offices, meeting rooms and more. However, any small player can use Drop Desk.
7. Camping Space – if you have rural land that people can camp out, you can rent it through Campspace.
8. Boats – there are several boat share websites like Boatsetter, ClickandBoat and GetMyBoat. After all, people’s excitement about owning a boat often declines substantially over time and often the boat just sits vacant and unused.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are other categories out there that have Airbnb-like websites. Some of the niches are very small. Many, though, have very low user bases and lack a critical mass of users.
Airbnb’s of Something That Someone Should Start
An entrepreneur that can execute one of these ideas stands to make a lot of money. Don’t be afraid to toss us a bone when your company gets acquired or goes public.
1. Tennis Courts – tennis is a very popular hobby, especially among women, and yet it takes a lot of space and the court requires maintenance. Many people join private tennis clubs and yet still can’t always get a court at desired times. Someone with a backyard tennis court could make a steady income by renting it out directly to players or to coaches that use it to give lessons.
2. Batting Cages – backyard batting cages could compete with commercial batting cage businesses if they had an Airbnb type of platform to offer their services. Again they usually sit unused, so why not make extra money each evening renting them out?
3. Bounce Houses – there are full-time commercial rental businesses that rent out their bounce houses. Someone who wanted to buy a bounce house for their own use could make their money back fairly quickly after renting it out for a few weekends. If delivery directly to customers becomes cumbersome, this website might want to incorporate some type of hybrid model where a middleman picks up the bounce house, then delivers and picks it up.
4. Wedding Tents, Tables, and Chairs – the U.S. wedding service market size is over $50 billion a year. People spend a lot of money renting tents, tables, and chairs and the margins are relatively high. An ordinary person could compete against big rental companies if they had the right platform.
5. Putting Greens – a lot of people have backyard putting greens. This may not be something you can rent out for a huge amount of money. However, I think the real opportunity here is that if people had a platform to rent out golf playing surfaces, some people would start building more elaborate putting greens, mini golf courses, and/or driving ranges in their backyards. This has happened with Swimply where people start investing more money in elaborate pools and decks, and Airbnb where people have built guest houses and mother-in-law suites for their money-making ability.
How Does an Airbnb Site Add Value?
Why do people even use Airbnb and VRBO, considering the fact that they charge extremely high fees? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just have your own website and cut them out?
Sounds great, but marketing is typically one of the biggest challenge for any small business. Airbnb and VRBO are like a fire hose full of potential renters.
Starting your own website (like MyWestPalmBeachBeachHouse.com) and expecting to get a consistent flow of customers from that is very difficult. Successful property management companies that get a decent amount of traction generally have a lot of properties, many repeat renters and word-of-mouth, and have been in business for years.
Besides marketing, the other big thing is insurance. A homeowners insurance policy does not want to insure a commercial business. They will typically deny claims if they find out you were renting out your pool or backyard. The same thing applies in using your car to drive people for Uber or Lyft. Ideally an Airbnb type site will have a commercial policy that covers you, or access to a policy you can buy.
Other ways they add value is booking with a brand they trust, having a large company behind the transaction if something goes wrong, and a rating and feedback system that allows new renters to see what type of experience past renters have had.