Mardi Gras isn’t just about floats, parades and beads — it’s also about pee. Lots and lots of pee.
Public urination arrests are common during Carnival season in New Orleans, which is in full swing ahead of Mardi Gras next Tuesday, and it’s not only because residents and tourists are trying to be lewd. Many times they just can’t find a bathroom to use along the parade route. The lack of bathrooms is so common there’s even an entire song about it.
We are doing a public service by trying to ensure less people are peeing all over the streets…
Enter self-proclaimed “entre-pee-neurs” Max Gaudin and Travis Laurendine with their brand new Web app, Airpnp.
“All of those people are filling up with beer, and that needs to go somewhere ultimately,” says Gaudin, referring to the more than one million people who attend the Mardi Gras parades each year. “We are doing a public service by trying to ensure less people are peeing all over the streets of New Orleans.”
Airpnp functions a lot like Airbnb. (Duh.) Residents and businesses can rent out their private bathrooms or Port-A-Potties for a small fee. They take pictures of their porcelain thrones, describe the cleanliness of the bathroom, provide the location and name a price. Once patrons are done doing their business, they can go on to the Web app’s “rate my pee” section, ranking the bathroom on things like cleanliness, whether the restroom resembled the photos, how much ply the toilet paper had, etc. Eventually, Airpnp might add a way for bathroom owners to rate users as well.
“Naturally the best bathrooms will rise to the top,” says Gaudin. “Depending on how much the pee is flowing, it would cost more or less.”
The idea started out as a joke for Gaudin, an entrepreneur running an online restaurant training site, and his business partner Laurendine, who works in music production. Enough of their friends said they should try it out, so they bought the domain on February 17 and put up a splash page. By the Web app’s launch on Friday the 21st, more than 1,200 people had signed up. It has been shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook. Turns out, a steady stream of potty humor makes social media and marketing flow easily.
Gaudin and Laurendine pitched Airpnp at a TechCrunch Meetup last week and won audience favorite. Gaudin says they hope to eventually get sponsors from toilet paper companies like Charmin.
Their timing goes well with the city council’s decision this year banning private Port-A-Potties from public ground, reducing the already scant number of places to relieve oneself on the parade routes.
Gaudin says he and Laurendine would like to expand Airpnp past Mardi Gras to other cities with large events and festivals where people have a large need to use the bathroom. He says he’d like to create many more entre-pee-neurs who can make money by renting out their bathrooms. While he was at first worried people might mind having strangers using their commodes, last weekend’s initial test didn’t result in any concerns.
“Nobody’s innovated on the Port-A-Potty yet,” he points out. Gaudin adds that he can apply the sharing economy business model to other locations in a similar way Airbnb and Uber did with bedrooms and cars. ”The younger generation, we would prefer, unfortunately, not to talk to anyone and just do our business, so to say.”
So don’t be alarmed by that stranger you see running into your bathroom. That’s just money in the bank for you, my friend.