How Yoodlize was born, and how it’s growing up

Mar 3, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of the sharing economy, where peer-to-peer interactions are disrupting traditional marketplaces, one company stands out for its ingenuity and commitment to community-driven solutions. 

Yoodlize, a P2P platform facilitating the rental of goods between individuals, emerged from humble beginnings to become a disruptive force in the market. Here’s the story of how Yoodlize became the leading rental platform in the U.S. and what it’s plans are for the future. 

Adrenaline junkie turned social entrepreneur

Jason Fairbourne was backpacking in southeast Asia trying to figure out what to do with his life. It had taken him a few extra years to graduate college, working in the winters as a ski instructor at Utah’s Sundance Ski Resort and summers as a backcountry ranger deep in the forests of places like Idaho and Montana. 

Jason Fairbourne atop Utah's Lone Peak during his days as a wilderness ranger.

“I was an adrenaline junkie, always looking for a new adventure,” said Fairbourne, founder and CEO of Yoodlize. “I already knew a traditional corporate job wasn’t for me, but didn’t quite know what my next move should be.” 

Exploring the big cities and rural towns of Nepal, India and Thailand, Jason encountered extreme poverty among their inhabitants. He saw how many of them lacked the knowledge, resources and means to alleviate their circumstances. 

“I started thinking about how aimless my life path had been, focusing just on how I could have the most fun,” Fairbourne said. “But those two months backpacking abroad were transformative, and I decided I wanted to commit my life to helping those in need.”

Jason Fairbourne rests in the Himalayas with Mt. Everest in the background.

Jason’s journey towards becoming a social entrepreneur began as a graduate student at the London School of Economics. Upon graduation, Jason began teaching micro-franchising at Brigham Young University, where he went on to become the school’s first Director of the Microfranchise Development Initiative. In this role, he taught students the systematization and replication of microenterprises in developing markets, proven by his experiences with his own consultancy, Fairbourne Consulting, which worked with Fortune 500 clients to help launch and scale 30+ micro-enterprises in developing economies. Those small businesses helped create jobs for ex-child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Sudanese refugees who were forced into prostitution, and Iraqi widows whose husbands were casualties of war.

“Back then, micro-finance and micro-credit were trending, but there was no training to go along with the loans these impoverished people were receiving,” said Fairbourne. “At Fairbourne Consulting, we focused on training these new entrepreneurs so their ventures would be sustainable and successful in the long term.” 

Burnout led to a new spark

Five years of teaching and traveling to 15 countries eventually took its toll on Jason and his young family, so they decided to move from Utah to Kenya, the country where he and his then-new bride Natalie spent a 6-month “honeymoon” living in a mud house in a remote village volunteering for an NGO in 2000. 

Natalie Fairbourne in Kenya circa 2000.

This time around in 2013, Jason started Motiis, a social enterprise business incubator. In just a few short years, the Fairbournes built two successful businesses: one a chain of small supermarkets (Bestway) and the other offering water pouches under the brand Bamba Water.

Jason Fairbourne with Bamba Water employees in Kenya.

Just as operations were starting to run themselves, Jason and Natalie decided to make another move, this time back to their native Utah. On their way out, the couple challenged their kids, then 12, 14 and 16 years old, to come up with the family’s next entrepreneurial venture. While the boys’ ramen shop and donut delivery service ideas had promise, it was 14-year-old daughter Alta’s idea that stuck.

As she reflected on the family’s worldwide travels that were part of their homeschool learning, Alta asked her dad, “Remember when you were looking for a surfboard so we could hit the waves in Norway? Or that time we had to buy a skateboard for that one outing in Amsterdam? Or how about in Japan when you wanted a telephoto lens for skiing and said, ‘Somebody in Japan must have a Canon lens I could borrow for the day.’”

Alta listed off a handful of other things they had needed when doing their “world-school” traveling, things that locals certainly had. “People use platforms like Airbnb to find homes or Uber to find rides---why don’t we create a platform where people can find stuff?”

“Our employees were our earliest investors”

Back in Provo, Utah in 2018, Jason enlisted the help of technical co-founder (and cousin) Jeremy Robertson, who was a director at a prominent design and coding bootcamp, to build such a platform.

“I never would have considered doing something like this before Devmountain,” said Robertson. “But I had made a real impact there and it was so rewarding. I saw Yoodlize as another opportunity to make positive change by reducing consumerism and our environmental footprint. Plus I love the concept of saving money by renting what you need and making money by renting out what you don’t need. The idea really resonated with me.”

It resonated with a lot of other people, too, including the company’s first few employees, all of whom worked for equity for the first couple of years. 

“Our employees were our earliest and most important investors,” said Jason. “Some are with us full-time, others part-time, but they have all given up a salary at some point because they believe in Yoodlize and how it fills an important niche in the broader sharing economy.”

The company soft launched in Utah’s two most populous counties in late 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world. While many other businesses suffered, Yoodlize survived as people still sought out fun experiences while social distancing. It continued to gain traction during the inflationary times that followed as users desired to make extra money renting out things they already owned, or save money renting items instead of buying them at marked-up prices. 

Yoodlize grew quickly in Utah due in part to guerilla marketing tactics like this logo'd van and trailer driven around the state.

Yoodlize’s next market launches were in California and Hawaii, though it was also seeing steady user accounts created all across the country due to social media buzz, referrals and word of mouth.

While the consumer market was responsive, venture capitalists were pulling back on funding. Instead of tapping into VC, Yoodlize’s operating costs were covered by a $233K crowdfunding campaign in 2021 and an $800K angel round in 2023. These investors, like Jason and his team, understood that consumer mindsets were shifting to value affordable access over ownership. They want to be responsible consumers that are reducing their carbon footprints and supporting their local communities, all while making or saving a few bucks along the way.

Looking forward

“We are creating more than just a rental app; we are changing the way people consume,” said Jason. “We are committed to becoming the leading alternative to consumption that enables people to own experiences instead of things, to making better use of existing items rather than consuming more of the earth’s limited resources.

“We’re so excited for where Yoodlize is going and the positive impact it can have on people and the planet,” said Fairbourne. “This is just the beginning.”

© 2024 Yoodlize Inc.

© 2024 Yoodlize Inc.