Launched in October, Nextdoor is up and running in more than 2,000 communities
David Milliron lives in Avondale Estates, a small, historic city about seven miles east of downtown Atlanta.
heard of it? Well, you should have, because Avondale Estates is home
to the very first Waffle House, a restaurant chain very important to
early morning Southern society, where folks meet up for hot waffles,
coffee and who knows what else all the while exchanging gossip and
important local news.
Milliron, who had been an Avondale Estates
council commissioner, was looking for a more modern and efficient way
for citizens of his community to exchange information and came upon Nextdoor.com, a free platform that enables neighbors to create private social networks for their neighborhoods.
has worked out beautifully," Milliron said. "We have over one-third of
our city already participating. Although I was involved early on, it
has taken roots and no longer do I have to be the one. Organizations
are posting; real estate agents are posting; people are making
reservations and buying and selling things."
He added, "It has been an invaluable tool to bring our community closer together."
Nextdoor is slowly snaking its way across America.
small technology company was founded in 2010 by a group of Silicon
Valley veterans who had experience creating online communities going
back to the 1990s.
"They recognized there was a lack of community
in the world, and what is a better way to bring people back together
than through social networking?" said Dabney Lawless, vice president of
communications for Nextdoor.
More importantly, the concept
proved so intriguing that it was funded by a couple of major equity
investors, Benchmark Capital and Shasta Ventures, both of Menlo Park,
Calif. One of the outside board members is Rich Barton, chairman and
co-founder of Zillow.
After about a year testing its program in
176 neighborhoods across America, the company was officially launched
in October 2011. Nextdoor claims more than 2,000 communities are now on
Growth has been all word of mouth, Lawless said.
was created based on the idea that the neighborhood is one of the most
important and useful communities in a person's life," according to
Nextdoor.com. "Our mission is to bring back a sense of community to the
OK, all sounds good. Even warm and fuzzy, but how does it work?
each neighborhood creates a private Nextdoor website that is -- and
this is important -- accessible only to the residents of that
neighborhood. The information on the website is not sold to others nor
is it indexed by Google or Yahoo. The only people who can see what's
going on in your neighborhood vis-Ã -vis Nextdoor are the people who
live in that neighborhood.
It's even difficult to fake belonging to a Nextdoor neighborhood because addresses need to be verified.
are privately closed networks specifically created for neighborhoods,"
Lawless said. "You decide how you want to set up Nextdoor in your
neighborhood. You create the boundaries. Whatever makes logical sense.
We have some neighborhoods that are almost a whole town, and we have
neighborhoods that are just two or three streets."
neighbors to join the network is easy. Simply click the "invite
neighbors" link on the website. Or, one just as easily can do emails,
print fliers or send postcards. If postcards are sent, Nextdoor will
pay for the postage and mail on your behalf.
Another cool feature
of Nextdoor is that it includes a neighborhood map and directory of
residents, so it becomes a little easier to understand with whom you
might be exchanging messages.
These messages might include: the
city is doing roadwork in the neighborhood; finding a babysitter; old
furniture for sale; organizing a barbecue; recommending a local
restaurant; or creating alerts if there have been, for example,
burglaries in the neighborhood.
The success of Nextdoor in the
Marin County, Calif., community of Laurel Grove had a lot to do with
perceived threat to property.
"Back in December, I had just read
about Nextdoor in my local newspaper and I thought it looked promising
for organizing a playgroup," said Heather McPhail Sridharan. "I thought
it would be fun to try this out online, a lot easier than getting all
the emails and coordinating times."
To Sridharan's surprise, Nextdoor just took off. "It was viral. Now, we have almost 300 members."
really spurred Nextdoor participation was a crime wave in the
neighborhood, a series of break-ins stretching over a couple of weeks.
group of us decided to put some fliers into everyone's mailbox saying
this site exists and it could keep us connected," Sridharan said.
we heard about someone soliciting door to door, it would be posted on
the Nextdoor site," Sridharan said. "People wanted to be in the know
about what was going on relating to the break-ins. If solicitors came
in the neighborhood, the police were called."
Not surprising, the crime wave dissipated entirely.
neighborhood is a mixed bag of younger families and older residents,"
Sridharan said. "The ones that are really posting a lot and being
active are the older generation. I don't know if they are not on
Facebook or they remember a time when neighborhoods used to be
connected, but we had a couple of neighborhood meetings and
overwhelmingly the people who attended were the older generation of
If you're wondering how much Nextdoor costs to use, the
answer is zero. The company is in a startup phase, focusing on building
out the network in the best possible manner. It can do that because of
the venture capital funding.
However, the model is designed to make money. The vision is to partner with local businesses in a Groupon kind of model.
got several years before we have to think about monetization," Lawless
said. "Right now the main focus of the company is perfecting the user
By Steve Bergsman