Downtown Company Aims to Rent Out ‘Experiences’
Los Angeles Downtown News
By Nicholas Slayton
April 26, 2017

DTLA – Perhaps the best way to think of South Park-based Joymode is as the Netflix of event and party equipment, albeit one with a separate rental fee. Why bother buying camping gear, a karaoke machine or a giant Jenga set when you can get them as part of an annual subscription, and have the items delivered to your front door?

Joymode, founded by CEO Joe Fernandez, is housed in a 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse at 12th and Hope streets. The high-ceilinged space is packed with items including motorized scooters, board games and Oculus Rift virtual reality packs.

Fernandez, 39, came up with the idea for Joymode while living in New York City. His tight quarters, he said, meant he couldn’t keep gear for everything he wanted to do, like go camping. The concept simmered while he worked as one of the founders of Klout, a social media status ranking system that boomed in the early 2010s before being acquired by Lithium Technologies in 2014. Looking to escape the Bay Area technology scene, he decided to revisit his idea and turn it into a company.

“The world changed in the sense that experiences started mattering more than ownership,” Fernandez said. “It felt like the world needed products that cater to the experiences we want to have.”

Joymode’s model is simple: People pay a $99 annual membership that allows them to acquire various “kits,” along with a fee pegged at just under 10% of the cost of the merchandise, which generally works out to $25-$100 per rental. The items are delivered and picked up from a customer’s home. Each kit can be kept for up to six days.

The company offers more than 100 kits. The options include a backyard movie night pack, with screens, projectors and popcorn makers, and a camping set with tents, lights and stoves. Other kits include giant-sized Connect Four games, dinner party packages complete with cooking gear and plates, plus a large variety of Nerf guns.

Patrick Brazzell, a warehouse manager for a seafood distribution company, discovered Joymode after moving to Downtown. He was planning a camping trip and stumbled upon the website. He now regularly uses Joymode for camping, and has tried everything from a GoPro video kit to the cleaning tools.

“I started using it early on when they didn’t have many things, so I’m constantly checking it to see what they have,” Brazzell said.

Beds, Mops and Tents

Fernandez started Joymode in his Los Feliz garage in June 2015 and moved to the Downtown warehouse two months later. There are 12 employees in the former auto dealership. Before becoming Joymode, it hosted raves, according to Dustin Roscoe, who runs the company’s warehouse operations. He pointed to the blacklight paint that still covers parts of the ceiling.

Joymode has a little more than 1,000 members. Fernandez said the goal is to hit 5,000 by the end of the summer. He said the company received funding from venture capitalists in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as some New York City investors. Joymode would not disclose financial results or how many subscribers it will need to be profitable.

Joymode currently serves only Los Angeles, with all kits coming out of the Downtown warehouse. Fernandez said Downtown is the company’s biggest customer base, followed by the Silver Lake/Atwater Village area.

For Downtown members, the most popular kits are the overnight sets — packed with inflatable mattresses, sheets, blankets and other items someone would need for hosting guests — and a cleaning kit with a high-powered Dyson vacuum and steam mops.

Fernandez noted that sometimes people mix and match what they reserve. One customer recently got the cleaning kit and ordered a margarita machine.

Fernandez said approximately $60,000-$70,000 worth of products goes out of the warehouse each weekend. He said people tend to reserve party equipment eight days in advance.

There are unexpected aspects: Every so often a customer returns a personal item. Fernandez said his team had been more worried about what would happen if kits were stolen or broken.

“Teams will be cleaning up and they’ll find something that isn’t ours. The user will say, ‘No I wanted to get rid of that, I thought it went well with your stuff,’” he said. “People are trying to live simpler. They realize the tax of having a house filled with stuff they don’t use.”

Queena Deschene, a healthcare marketer based in Downtown, said that element is part of what made her subscribe to Joymode. A regular camper, she said that the yearly cost is below the price of normal travel and rentals.

“Being mobile, you only need the essentials,” she said. “This really helps me do that minimalist lifestyle.”

Joymode is not the only party rental company in Los Angeles, though it appears to be sole one operating with a subscription model. Ironically, Fernandez said his biggest competition is Netflix: He noted it’s easier to sit on a couch and watch a movie than get people together for a party or event.

Fernandez hopes to expand to other cities and regions next year. He said that Los Angeles offers a perfect testing ground, with its sprawl and diversity.

“If we can make this work in L.A., it should work everywhere,” Fernandez said. “If we got it to work in San Francisco, that would be cool.”

Currently, Joymode is on a month-to-month lease in its building. Fernandez said he hopes to stay in Downtown as the company grows.