Freyr Thor of Yonder

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Freyr Thor, the co-founder and CEO of Yonder, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Yonder – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

While he was looking to pursue a more wholesome life in the mountains, my Yonder co-founder Tim Southwell acquired an 80 acre parcel of land in Southwest Montana located on the river bottom of the Bitterroot Valley. He offered on-farm vacation stays referred to as “Farm Stays”, as well as guided farm tours, livestock feedings, nature observation walks, and workshops. The economic and educational benefits couldn’t be ignored. Tim wanted to help other farmers open their businesses to more opportunities.

I decided to join Tim on this journey back in 2018 and it’s been a wonderful business to create with him. We saw the tremendous potential for both stewards and travelers, and decided to expand beyond farm stays to create a platform for diverse nature-rich experiences, or “nature tourism”. It was very difficult to find nature destinations in such a fragmented market – no one was tapping into nature tourism as a specialty and we saw a clear opportunity to elevate an underserved market.

We want to turn the conventional online travel formula on its head. Yonder isn’t about searching by location and choosing by price. It’s about discoverability. Our platform encourages users to explore and find something new and off the beaten path. We offer the ability to discover and book a variety of overnight stays and activities at farms, ranches, vineyards, and other nature immersive properties on the Yonder website and app (available on iOS and Android). We carefully select stewards whose personal philosophies reflect our mission. These stewards are the owners and operators of the properties listed on Yonder whose livelihood depends on the protection and sustainability of their land and heritage.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of data connected to the opportunity we wanted to explore, so we had to stitch agritourism and ecotourism metrics together to understand Yonder’s full potential. Through this process, we came to the realization that Yonder was ideally positioned to carve out and own a unique niche  – the underserved market of global agritourism and ecotourism (nature tourism). We then decided to seek out properties and property owners who are committed to sustainability and nature enrichment to be on the Yonder platform. These are two key and important ways in which Yonder differs from AirBnB.

Another hurdle was hiring for our team since we like to hire people who embody the right combination of experience and startup agility. We look for skills that range from tackling all aspects of brand building, tech, ops, to having the right box of tools for workflow organization. We’re proud of the team that we’ve built over the past two years and we’re actively hiring for more team members in engineering and operations.

After our exciting launch last month, we’re continuing to evolve the Yonder idea. Our DNA remains the same, but we learn more about what Yonder needs to be every day from our customers and stewards.

What does the future hold for Yonder?

Yonder has global aspirations, so we’ve begun to establish roots in the UK and Australia, with a plan to launch in those geographies in 2021.

We believe that we’re pointing to a solution for human ailment (nature deficiency) and our efforts will help contribute to a healthier and more harmonious world. We’ve been passionate about this as our core purpose from the start, and with the recent pandemic affecting our planet, our charge is more urgent – people are seeking out the solace of nature connection more than ever before.

We have found that people who experience nature take something with them – it has a healing power that we want to share and bring to more people. We want to get to a place where we help people make nature a daily part of life.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Hamilton?

Yonder was founded in Montana and most of our workforce is currently remote. That being said, our roots and our business sensibilities are reflective of rural Montana and that connection keeps us grounded to our business and its mission. While there isn’t much of a local tech scene in Hamilton right now, we’re hoping to lead the way and do more local hiring in Montana as our platform grows.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I grew up in Iceland where we learn from a young age that nature is boss. This teaches life lessons of patience and the need to continually read and adapt to your environment. I have been able to apply those lessons to my career over the years in various industries such as entertainment, media, and travel. As a result, my advice for anyone setting out on an entrepreneurial journey is to not be afraid of experimentation, with all of its stops and starts. Starting a business is always about an evolutionary journey. It’s essential to adjust tactics as you develop and grow your business, but never lose sight of the primary mission and commitment that you set out to solve.


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One thought on “Freyr Thor of Yonder

  • April 7, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    Hey Southwells –NICE job!! Cabin fever will cause a big pent up demand on the other side of Coronavirusville.


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