Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Interview With Joe Fernandez, Joymode
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In a world where more and more people are realizing that experiences, not stuff, can lead to more happiness and satisfaction with their life, the problem is—there are still lots of experiences you just can't have without stuff. Enter Joymode (www.joymode.com), a new, Los Angeles startup, led by serial entrepreneur Joe Fernandez, which is entirely focused on enabling those wonderful, memory creating experiences—without having to own any of that stuff. We caught up with Joe to learn about how he is hoping Joymode can help make people create special moments with their friends and family, without having to accumulate a bunch of stuff to make those moments happen.
What is Joymode?
Joe Fernandez: It's exciting to put the word out there. We've been quietly operating for about a year now, and are just now opening the door much wider. What we do, is we give people access to the products they need, but don't own, or don't want to own, for great experiences. That could everything from a tent and camping equipment, to cotton candy machines, to everything you need for a backyard movie night, including a projector and screen, popcorn machine, and so on. It's all those things that you need to have special moments with your friends and family, without having to own that stuff. It lets you own the experience, rather than the stuff.
How did you go about starting this?
Joe Fernandez: I was actually living in New York. It's now been almost ten years ago since I was in New York, where I was with my then-girlfriend—now my wife. We lived in an apartment that was so small, that anything we bought, we had to get rid of something in order to function in that space. It really changed how I thought about ownership. In letting go of belongings, I felt happier, and I felt like it was a powerful moment. I have, over time, stayed somewhat minimalist. But more importantly, it's a societal change. People care much more about experiences now than about owning things. The challenge is, you still need products to have those experiences. If we can help people have access to the products they don't want to own, we enable those experiences. It's a really exciting opportunity.
You're a serial entrepreneur, who previously founded Klout—can you fill in those who aren't familiar with your background?
Joe Fernandez: I have always been an entrepreneur, and I love building things, and I love getting a creative team together to take on a big challenge. Klout gave me an understanding of the passion and influence of the individual, which is the relationship to Joymode. We wanted to understand products and utilization, and how to get the right person with the right set of products, at the right time, using data and technology to accomplish that.
Is this something where you own the products, or is this a marketplace?
Joe Fernandez: Right now, we own all the inventory, and have a warehouse in downtown LA, where we have all kinds of products available. We spend a lot of time curating those experiences, thinking about both what sets of products go together, and what specific products to carry, to provide the best possible experience.
How did you end up here in LA?
Joe Fernandez: I actually lived in LA for five years right after college. I started my first company here in LA before Klout. I always loved LA, so I imagined myself coming back. I specifically had been thinking about Joymode, and knowing I wanted this to be something that was very mainstream, that any person could have access to spend time with their friends and family better, and I thought LA was the right place to be. The reason why, is it has such a broad range of diversity, demographically, ethnically, economically, and having access to so many people to test our product against has been compelling to me. The challenges that have scared people off from Los Angeles, whether that's the sprawl, or whatever, has made me feel that if we can succeed here, we can have success anywhere. It was kind of an easy decision to move here, and build a company here.
Have you though beyond Los Angeles and how you scale this further?
Joe Fernandez: We have aspirations to be available everywhere, but LA is initially the focus. We're going to spend as much time in LA as we need to get it right. We're okay I that takes more than a year or multiple years. We want to build a blueprint that can go other cities. We've seen in the last few years companies who rush to expand, and try to figure it out in multiple cities at one time, which is a pretty big challenge. We're comfortable that LA is diverse enough to learn what we need to know to apply to other cities.
So where are you now, in terms of the service and launch?
Joe Fernandez: We've been at it for about a year, but it's been invite only and private. We've been really quiet, and we haven't done any press, because we wanted to make sure that the service was fail proof. When you get something from Joymode, we want you to be extremely satisfied with the experience. We didn't want to grow before we were ready. Now that we're feeling comfortable and confident we have our legs under us, we're excited to get the word out about our service. One thing we are proud of is if people had bought the stuff they got from Joymode for their experience, we have saved more than a billion dollars of stuff, which would just have been sitting in their garage or closet. Instead, we've been able to deliver those products to them, they've had that great experience, and then we've been able to pick it up and deliver it to another person.
What's the biggest lesson you learned from Klout, that you are applying here?
Joe Fernandez: There are so many things I learned at Klout, there were definitely lots of lessons learned. The more obvious one, is you really need to surround yourself with a team that will enable you to do great things. It's critical. The most non-obvious thing that entrepreneurs ask me, which I share, is that almost everything that goes wrong can be fixed—except raising too much money at too high of a valuation. That creates such incredible, unnatural pressure, it's almost a self-inflicted death wound. I've now seen this over and over in startups, and I felt a lot of that pain, and went through a lot of it. It's not about maximizing your valuation, it's about maximizing the value you provide to customers. That's what is shaping our approach. We're taking our time, being thoughtful about who we raise from, those sorts of things.
Finally, what should we pay attention to next from you?
Joe Fernandez: The big thing we're excited about, is about opening the doors and making this more accessible to more people. This press launch, and telling our story is a big moment. I think that, from there, we're going to keep expanding the amount of product items and experiences available through the system, and keep trying to get better in delivering those experiences to people, and what we enable people to do.
Thanks, and good luck!