Interview with Joseph Woodbury, founder and CEO of Neighbor.com
Joesph Woodbury is the founder and CEO of Neighbor.com, a marketplace disrupting the $400 billion self-storage industry.
Neighbor.com is on a mission to match people’s empty space with other people’s extra belongings. The company believes everything belongs somewhere, and by matching hosts with renters, its goal is to bring people and neighborhoods closer together.
The company connects hosts with renters and securely handles payments and communication. Hosts earn anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 per year by lending their empty storage spaces like an empty garage, closet, attic, basement or parking space to renters in their community.
Renters can reserve that space, which is often conveniently located in their neighborhood and comes with a free $25,000 protection guarantee. Neighbor.com storage is 50 percent cheaper than traditional storage, making the option “Closer, Cheaper, Safer,” as the company’s slogan states.
The company continues to receive accolades from high-profile media organizations such as CNBC, TechCrunch, Forbes and Fortune. It has also been recognized with the Utah Innovation Award and as a Fast Company “World-Changing Idea.”
How did you get started in the industry?
My co-founders and I started Neighbor.com while finishing up our senior year of college. Preston Alder was my classmate at Brigham Young University, and Colton Gardner was a student at the University of Utah. Preston had the idea for Neighbor and approached both of us to start working on it.
Our story illustrates the incredible entrepreneurial environment in Utah. Three college students at two of Utah’s major universities were able to start a company that now has users across the country.
What top two recent professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Fast Company recently named Neighbor.com as one of its 2019 World-Changing Ideas. It’s a tremendous honor to be selected by such a prestigious publication. We believe that what we’re doing, especially to help solve housing affordability, is “world-changing.”
Locally, Neighbor.com was selected as a finalist in the University of Utah’s American Dream Ideas Challenge. This competition recognizes ideas that have the potential to boost middle-class income by 10 percent for 10,000 Utahns by 2020. We were proud to be recognized in our home state for the work we are doing to raise middle-class income.
What drew you to Utah?
I was drawn to Utah by its universities. Utah has the most economical, high-quality education anywhere in the world. I think Utah’s universities are the best tool that we have in our state to attract top talent from around the country.
What do you like most about living in Utah?
Without a doubt, my favorite part of living in Utah is the family-friendly culture. Families are the basic building blocks of every community, and every person has a family of some kind or another. So living in a state that is not only tolerant of, but actively encourages healthy family life makes it much easier to be a contributing member of society.
What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
Utah is outpacing every other economy in the United States because of its people. You can’t find a more concentrated group of highly talented, hardworking and industrious people anywhere else in America.
Collaboration between individuals is one of my favorite things about doing business here. Every person you meet, no matter how important or successful, is willing to sit down with you and share their sincere thoughts and insights on what you’re building. In Utah, it’s not a zero-sum game, and we play for the same team. It’s refreshing.
What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business or relocating their business to Utah?
Don’t delay! And get involved in community organizations as soon as you arrive.
What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
The biggest challenge we face is the possibility that Utah departs from the longstanding focus on its business-friendly economy. We’ve experienced immense success in our state over the last several years. The challenge during times of prosperity is to maintain our guard against policies that may have short-term benefits, but long-term consequences
We are fortunate to operate in a state where the primary challenge we face as a community is avoiding reversing course on the successful business-friendly policies that are part of our state’s industrious heritage.
What is your business philosophy?
We have four core values at Neighbor.com that guide everything we do:
1) Hire and Develop the Best
2) Be Hardworking for the Extra Mile
3) Promote Family and Community
4) Be Neighborly
These statements are simple, but they represent the collective business philosophy of the team at Neighbor. We often make trade-offs or change course to align our business with these values better.
Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
My three kids and my business are all under three years old. It’s been an exciting couple of years!