Social networking is like interacting with your neighbors. You communicate with them; tell them a bunch of stuff about your activities, or the children, or your husband, or what have you. They’re your neighbors – you ought to know them, and they ought to know about you, right?
A new “private” social network is brewing with the grand objective of connecting you to your neighbors online, and yes, offline, too. It could have been set off by the fact that in today’s world, most people don’t know their neighbors at all, or don’t even have a way to contact them in case of an emergency. And this new social network, NextDoor hopes to use the social media platform to redefine the concept of neighborhood or community.
The Concept of Neighborhood
NextDoor embraces the idea that the neighborhood is one of the most important communities in a person’s life. It recognizes the many ways neighbors can help each other, and NextDoor was pretty much born from that concept. This California-based Menlo Park startup NextDoor was founded by Nirav Tolia, a tech industry expert. NextDoor was founded in the fall of 2010 and launched in October of 2011. NextDoor allows neighbors within certain regions to create private websites where they can post local information and events for everybody’s consumption. Neighbors can exchange information as a way to getting to know each other better. It serves as a meeting place for neighbors to interact in even the most trivial need like borrowing a ladder to the more serious information sharing about current events happening and exchanging business recommendations. The venue welcomes just about anything useful to be shared with each other.
NextDoor Registration Verification
Registration on NextDoor requires real name and real physical address as these data will be verified in one of four ways:
- A postcard will be sent to the address with a unique code
- A phone call will be made to a listed number at said address
- Linking the person to the billing address of the credit card registrants are required to provide
- Providing invitation from a previously verified neighbor.
This methodology was apparently inspired by Facebook in its early roll-out days when it required specific email addresses to allow people to access university-specific networks within Facebook. In the end, despite the initial hostile reaction, people felt more comfortable.
After passing verification, approval for membership will be granted along with the access to an array of information including message boards, maps, even a lost and found corner, and all of these are loaded up with information shared by like-minded members of the community.
The network size is set up by the first person to add the region to the site. This is done using a drawing tool provided by NextDoor allowing users to mark their neighborhood boundaries over a Google map. Boundaries are expected to change as the group grows to a typical network size of about 50 to 20,000 households. But this, of course will depend on the density of the geographic region.
Is there a Place for NextDoor in the Social Media Community?
Following its launch in 2011, a lot of people expressed skepticism on how NextDoor would fare in the market considering a number of social media sites already dominating the market. It was as if, NextDoor didn’t really have a space in social networking to thrive let alone survive the competition. Apparently, the company sees it a different way – believing that the unique relationship among neighbors is not a reason to hook up in Facebook or add in Google+ Circles, but a good reason to hook up in NextDoor. For this reason, NextDoor integrates a feature allowing users to print semi-custom flyers to invite neighbors to join the site. NextDoor will also send personalized postcards to a user’s neighbor on his behalf.
Technorati, a tech blog site says that over half a million messages are posted daily, practically on anything – from missing dogs to babysitter referrals, to garage sales and other stuff. There are over 8,000 US neighborhoods already registered with NextDoor, and according to Tolia, about 40 neighborhoods are added every day. If the trend continues, NextDoor is looking at an international expansion soon.
NextDoor’s new features also allow police and fire departments to blast urgent updates to members via text message. A recently retired assistant police chief of Ventura, Quinn Fenwick said that NextDoor is being used by the city’s force to broadcast weekly crime statistics. According to Fenwick, the city force draws more residents than the department’s usual neighborhood watch campaigns. The increasing awareness it generated cannot be dismissed and other neighborhoods can use NextDoor for similar purpose.
Who are the Giants Behind NextDoor?
There are a few business giants backing up Nextdoor through a $22 million funding. Investors include Benchmark Capital and Shasta Ventures; Zillow’s co-founder and chairman, Rich Barton; Greylock Partners; Google (GOOG) Ventures; Bezos Expeditions – the personal investment firm of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. NextDoor’s current registration figures is highly attributed to this huge capital infusion.
The Future for NextDoor
Currently with 22 employees, NextDoor makes no revenue at this point although it plans to generate revenue by allowing local merchants to advertise their products and services on the site. At this time, Tolia said that the company is not focused on producing profits. That would come in eventually. They simply appreciate the rapid adoption of NextDoor by neighbors across the country.
Greylock’s Managing Director, Mr. David Sze said his firm’s investment of more than $15 million in the new round is the single biggest check he has written in a round of financing. He sees real potential for NextDoor to be another Facebook or LinkedIn, very soon.
NextDoor can easily be the social network for any neighborhood as it has all the elements of being the next great socially-valuable network.