The research speaks for itself: Consumers want to spend money on experiences, not just physical things. It’s not just millennials either—various studies over the past few years show a common theme. That translates to more experiences like traveling to see the Northern Lights, taking a cruise or even exploring your home by hiking and camping. We’re familiar with the visible companies making this easier for consumers: Uber for those of us who don’t want to own a car, AirBnB instead of renting when living the nomad life and so on.
But what happens when those experiences require the physical things that we’re no longer buying? Beyond the rental car and the roof over our head?
That’s exactly the thought process Joe Fernandez is betting on with Joymode, which he started in the summer of 2015 in downtown Los Angeles. Fernandez is a true entrepreneur, most notably for Klout which was acquired by Lithium Technologies in 2014. With Klout, they measured how influential people were on social media, and as Fernandez told Paste, it was “kind of the right product at the right time.” With the boom of the experience economy, Fernandez is hoping to have the same luck with Joymode.
According to their website, the Joymode team works “in a huge warehouse filled with giant Jenga sets, old-fashioned popcorn machines, and all the fog machines you could ever want.” That may seem like a list of items you’d find on an episode of Storage Hunters, but these are the kind of items that Fernandez and his team provide to fuel your experiences.
One of the biggest challenges in starting a business is coming up with the right name. After all, branding is everything. Fernandez may joke that the name came to him when he was “on a peyote vision quest” but from a naming perspective, he and his team rose to the challenge.
“I really like the idea though that you could ‘live in Joymode’ where you turn us on and we bring all these amazing products to your door and enable magical moments of joy with your friends and family. When you’re done, you can just turn it off, and we come pick it all up and get it out of your way,” explains Fernandez.
The unique vision behind the company has raised $3M from top investors like Homebrew, Lowercase, Sherpa and Slow.
“There are a few megatrends we are all betting on with Joymode. The first is that people care about experiences now more than owning stuff. This may feel obvious to us in the world of Uber, Airbnb and Rent the Runway, but we’re now changing from literally thousands of years of your status being based on how many oxen you own to how far in the suburbs you live and fill your house with belongings,” explains Fernandez.
“Now the challenge we all face in wanting to focus our lives around experiences is that you still need products to have those experiences. We want to help create a world where you can own less and do more. Making it so people are no longer constrained by what they own and challenging the notion of ownership is what most excited the investors we are lucky enough to work with.”
As an entrepreneur starting a second business, it’s important for Fernandez to keep lessons he learned the first time around in mind when growing Joymode.
“Klout was kind of the story of how to do everything wrong and still have a pretty good outcome. I had never raised money from investors, managed anyone or even worked at a company with more than like 10 people, so everything was a learning experience. We ended up raising nearly $50M and growing to about 100 employees, so it was super intense.”
“Of course I hope these lessons we learned end up benefiting Joymode,” continues Fernandez. “This is a totally different company though, and I try to be careful about not over-correcting based on things that happened at Klout.”
One thing is for sure. For better or worse, the success of Klout gave Fernandez the clout he needed to raise money for Joymode.
“The fact that we own the inventory we make available on Joymode is actually pretty contrarian. People always talk about the beauty of AirBnB and Uber is that they don’t own any cars or hotels. You can definitely see some investors flinch when I talk about us owning our inventory. The Klout outcome helped us get the benefit of the doubt.”
So, if you were starting a company like Joymode, what would be the first experience you create? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t go straight for the popcorn machines. Fernandez had one of his first breakthroughs when he “realized that it’s basically the same base products (chairs, cooler, blanket, etc) for going to the beach, a picnic, or camping. These ended up being the first three experiences.“
His next step was to go on to his neighborhood Nextdoor to ask if anyone around him was planning to do any of those activities. He let them know they had the stuff they needed for the experiences, leading to 20 responses from his neighbors. The first delivery was to someone who was planning a picnic.
“One of my favorite parts of Joymode is that we get to meet our members every week when we do our deliveries,” Fernandez said.
“This is where we get a ton of feedback on what type of experiences people want to see us support. We think of curation around the experiences and the products within each experience as one of the most important things we do. My hope is that Joymode eventually feels like a lifestyle magazine where you can push a button and step into that world as everything you need is delivered to you.”
The price of Joymode experiences is a big factor in their vision. Every one costs 10% of the retail costs of the products being delivered to you. If you’re not planning to use something at least 10 times, then Joymode will save you money on that experience.
Right now, Joymode is based in Los Angeles. While they’re definitely planning on expanding beyond Los Angeles, Fernandez wants to do it right.
“We are obsessed with customer service, so we’re willing to grow a little slower to make sure everyone has an amazing experience when using Joymode,” explains Fernandez. “My hope though is that in 2018 we are ready to grow to another city but we really haven’t figured out which one will be next.”
Like any smart and passionate entrepreneur, Fernandez wants to build an important company that makes his team and his investors proud to be a part of the experience. Diversity and giving back to the communities Joymode operates in is also part of his vision for the company.
“This combined with helping people have amazing experiences with their friends and family (in the real world) without filling their closets, garages or landfills with stuff they don’t need is my biggest long-term goal for Joymode.”
I couldn’t resist asking about the strangest request they’ve received for an experience.
“We had a woman reach out to us because she broke her leg. She was wondering if we had crutches she could reserve from us. She actually ended up reserving an Urb-E (an electric scooter) for a month to help her get around.”
So, there you go. Joymode isn’t just for fun and games. They’ll even give you the experience of walking and getting around when you need a little help.
Though if I ever have a chance to build an experience when the company comes to Seattle, it’ll involve a recreation of the carnival scene from Grease.