Launched in October, Nextdoor is up and running in more than 2,000 communities
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."
What really spurred Nextdoor participation was a crime wave in the neighborhood, a series of break-ins stretching over a couple of weeks.
"A group of us decided to put some fliers into everyone's mailbox saying this site exists and it could keep us connected," Sridharan said.
"If 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.
"Our 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 folks."
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.
"We've got several years before we have to think about monetization," Lawless said. "Right now the main focus of the company is perfecting the user experience."
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis," is now available for sale on Amazon.com.
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