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Essex businessman hopes his Borrow a Boat online service will become the ‘Airbnb for boat charters’

PUBLISHED: 16:11 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:11 10 November 2017

Matt Ovenden, founder of Borrow A Boat

Matt Ovenden, founder of Borrow A Boat

Chris K Jones 2017

An Essex businessman says he aims to revolutionise the boat charter market through an online service inspired by the Airbnb room rental website.

Matt Ovenden, founder of Borrow A BoatMatt Ovenden, founder of Borrow A Boat

Matt Ovenden launched online marketplace borrowaboat.com around a year ago. It is a website where private boat-owners can list their boat for charter giving people access to a choice of thousands of vessels around the world.

Mr Ovenden, who lives in High Easter near Chelmsford, says the idea for the venture came about after he looked into buying a boat for himself.

“I found the cost of buying and maintaining a boat was incredibly high, and all for a few weeks sailing each year,” he said.

“It was clear the current model was not really serving anyone very well - it was preventing many sailing enthusiasts from owning a boat, and making it very expensive for those who did. I felt it was a model that was ripe for disruption.”

He added: ”Ownership is going out of fashion, many people don’t own their car anymore, for example.

“The new generation would rather have access to experiences. Services like Airbnb, Uber and Spotify have changed parts of our lives and have made things more accessible.”

Over 13,000 boats in more than 50 countries are currently listed on Borrow A Boat, which Mr Ovenden hopes will open up boating to a wider market by offering more variety of boats, locations to charter and better pricing, while also providing a useful source of maintenance income for boat-owners, making the cost of ownership more affordable.

A number of owners of boats moored at Ipswich’s Neptune Marina have signed up after the service was promoted at this year’s Ipswich Maritime Festival. Mr Ovenden knows the area well and learnt to sail on the River Orwell.

Borrow A Boat is his fourth start-up in a career that so far has seen him hold the role of head of innovation and technology at London Underground, and work with Richard Branson to bring renewable energy to remote islands in the Caribbean.

In its first year, around 100 charter days have been sold through the Borrow a Boat site and now having proven the concept of the business model and built the main commercial platform, Mr Ovenden is now looking to market the service to more customers in more regions through investment.

To that end, Borrow A Boat recently launched on equity crowdfunding website CrowdCube, looking to raise £200,000 and has currently attracted over £215,000 in investments.

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