Peer-to-peer apps have helped millions of people loan out their cars, spare rooms, and even motorhomes. Now a Provo-based tech startup wants to help people rent just about everything else.
Go to the Yoodlize website and you’ll find Utahns with all kinds of items for rent – bike racks and picnic kits for $ 5 a day. There’s a bounce house in Payson, folding chairs in Highland, and a chocolate fondue fountain in Orem, all set for an eclectic backyard night if you’re up for a bit of a drive. There are Nintendo Switches, food dehydrators, string trimmers, Cinderella costumes, all listed at daily rates determined by their owners, some of whom may live nearby.
“The central problem we seek to solve is responding to the fact that we all own a lot,” said Jason Fairbourne, CEO of Yoodlize, who co-founded the company with his wife Natalie. “Every house has a lawn mower, several houses have canoes, paddleboards, power drills. These are items that we rarely use. Why do we have all this consumption of things and objects that we don’t use? “
Instead of letting these infrequently used products pick up the dust, Yoodlize helps homeowners lend them out and earn money.
For those who are reluctant to let strangers haphazardly use their stuff, the company also offers certain guarantees. Users must verify their identity with a government issued ID. And all items are insured up to $ 2,000.
“We have completed over 3,000 transactions so far, and the last [month] had our first claim filed which we paid, ”Fairbourne said. “If you want renewed faith in mankind… we have more stories of people coming back and saying, ‘I noticed this thing was wrong on your item and fixed it for you. “”
The most popular items rented through Yoodlize seem to change with the seasons. The paddleboards and inflatable theaters were hot in the summer, Fairbourne said. Drones and virtual reality headsets saw a big increase around Thanksgiving. Party favors, like tables and chairs, are in demand year round.
Some want to borrow the latest video game console, camera gear, or kayak to try it out before making a bigger investment. But in many cases, customers just want to own and store less, said Fairbourne.
“People … are realizing the environmental impact of overconsumption and they are ready to make a change,” said Fairbourne. “[But] they always want to have access to items to take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities, from renovating a bathroom to practicing paddleboarding for the first time.
Peer-to-peer sharing and the pandemic
In 2019, there seemed to be a growing tendency for consumers to prefer experiences over things. A global study found that 76% of people surveyed would rather spend money on experiences than on products. PwC, a global accounting and consulting firm, predicted that the sharing economy would grow to a $ 335 billion industry by 2025. As with many things, analysts have blamed the apparent shift from a “global economy.” ‘experience’ to millennials.
But then the coronavirus hit. US residents spent more time stuck at home working, attending school, and scrolling through fate. And they bought a lot of things. So many things that Americans alone seem to have brought the global supply chain to its knees.
As Amanda Mull wrote in The Atlantic, “A lot of people buy things for fun, things they don’t need or even particularly want and in many cases won’t use, like a balm against boredom, anxiety or insecurity, “Emotions and motivations exacerbated by the pandemic.
Fairbourne recognizes an abundance of cheap trash from big-name retailers, all at the fingertips of impulse shoppers, with the ability to be packaged and shipped to their doorsteps almost instantly, presents one of the biggest hurdles to his plan. sharing economy business.
“Amazon makes it easier” to buy more things on impulse, he said. “This is what you are competing with.”
But the entrepreneur is betting that the craze for buying more products will wane when the coronavirus becomes less of a threat and life begins to feel somewhat normal. He pointed to the rise of electric vehicles and meatless burgers as a sign that Americans are increasingly concerned about the environment and are changing their spending habits accordingly.
“They share a vision to do more with less,” said Fairbourne. “There is also a tendency towards minimalism. It’s smaller, but it’s there to support this thesis.
Marjukka Ollilainen, professor of sociology at Weber State University, said the fallout from the pandemic may actually make consumers more receptive to sharing.
“Our jobs were just very rigid until the pandemic,” said Ollilainen.
But now more and more people are leaving their jobs and turning to side activities and more flexible sources of income, reassessing the role of work in their lives, she said.
“I know right now we’re buying a lot of stuff,” said Ollilainen, “but I think at the same time the pandemic has brought a lot of people back to basics and to assess how much stuff they have. really need.”
Tips for those exploring the sharing economy
Aaron Brough, an associate professor of marketing at Utah State University who studies the sharing economy, said that while there may be reluctance, Americans are increasingly comfortable borrowing everything. from clothing to ski equipment.
“Social norms make it more acceptable,” he said.
And recent research he’s conducted may provide insight to people looking to both lend their stuff and borrow things through apps like Yoodlize.
“We have found that lenders tend to favor product protection policies over financial guarantees,” Brough said.
That’s not to say that businesses shouldn’t offer insurance, but often times homeowners just don’t want to face a scenario where their items are damaged or stolen because they have an emotional attachment to their business.
“One thing we tested is to have each borrower sign a pledge statement that they will take care of the item as if it were their own,” Brough said. “It may sound like, ‘How is this going to be applied? But if the owners were informed that the borrowers had signed [the statement], they were more likely to list their product.
Landlords, in turn, should be careful not to reveal to tenants how much they value or cherish the property they lend. In other words, don’t list long, nostalgic descriptions that include fond memories of the bike, tent, or guitar amp you’re trying to rent to potential customers.
“Renters want to avoid the responsibility of looking after these special items,” said Brough, “contrary to what landlords think.”
Fairbourne cobbled together the idea of a peer-to-peer sharing app for about three years. After launching a pilot project in 2019 and adding around 3,000 users in Utah County, Yoodlize launched its first round of funding last spring – not from a deep-pocketed investor, but through the website. of Wefunder crowdfunding. The company raised just over $ 223,000 from 171 people.
“We have about seven people working on Yoodlize right now. None of them are paid a salary, including me, ”said Fairbourne. “They are essentially our investors.
But starting small is the key. There are two other apps that try to facilitate the rental of equipment between individuals, Fat Llama and Idle. As these apps have been launched in domestic and international markets, Fairbourne said Yoodlize is focusing on Utah first, to ensure the local market has the right saturation of items to borrow and that people want to pay them.
The last markets he will likely target are large, dense cities like Los Angeles or New York. “It might take you an hour to get from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and people don’t have that much to rent,” he said.
“Our approach is to create microcommunities, to build supply and demand to make this snowball roll,” said Fairbourne.