A Q&A with Nextdoor co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia. The San Francisco–based company was founded in the Summer of 2010 and raised $18.6 million in new funding in late July. Investors include Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Greylock Partners and Shasta Ventures.
SUB: Please describe Nextdoor, and the value proposition you offer for neighborhoods.
Tolia: Nextdoor is a free and private social network for neighborhoods. Using Nextdoor, neighbors create secure websites for their neighborhoods where they can ask questions, get to know one another and exchange local advice and recommendations.
Over 4,000 neighborhoods across the country are using Nextdoor for everything from finding a babysitter or plumber to organizing block parties to creating neighborhood watch groups.
Nextdoor’s mission is to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood—to leverage the power of technology to help people build happier, safer places to call home.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Tolia: Virtually everyone wants to be part of a stronger neighborhood, so we have members of all ages, representing all demographics and a variety of backgrounds. Our most passionate users tend to be people who have put down roots—purchased a home or had children—and have a desire to become better connected in their local community.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Tolia: Our closest competitor is simple email mailing lists like Yahoo! Groups.
SUB: What differentiates Nextdoor from the competition?
Tolia: Email mailing lists, listservs, tend to be outdated technology that have not really evolved over the last decade. Nextdoor brings together recent innovations in social software with a strong focus on privacy to create a richer, trusted user experience.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Tolia: Nextdoor was founded in the summer of 2010. Our first—and most important—steps were entirely focused on user research and testing. We learned pretty quickly that neighbors truly wanted to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Nextdoor? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Tolia: The founders have spent most of their careers building vibrant online communities. Before starting Nextdoor, we studied the evolution of online communities and were struck by the emergence of social networks as mainstream and ubiquitous services used by millions of people. Yet there was no social network for the neighborhood, one of the most important and useful communities in a person’s life. That was the aha moment—we realized that there was an incredible opportunity to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood, and thus Nextdoor was born.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Tolia: Building local community is difficult to get right, especially the social interactions that go on at the neighborhood level. Establishing trust and protecting privacy are far more important in this kind of real-world community. We’ve spent two years testing and tweaking the product to make sure that on Nextdoor, neighbors feel comfortable sharing online the sorts of things they would feel comfortable sharing offline. It’s a different kind of challenge than online-only social networks, but we are committed to getting it right.
SUB: You just raised $18.6 million in your first round of funding. Why was this a good time to raise this round, and how do you plan to use the new funds?
Tolia: Since our launch we have been growing very fast. Our success at such an early stage let us and our investors know we had something special with Nextdoor. It also attracted new investors—e.g. Greylock Partners—and embraced the opportunity to partner with an additional set of great company builders.
In terms of using the funds—we will remain laser-focused on building the best product for our users. The financing will enable us to accelerate the hiring of talented engineering and product folks and continue to invest in the long-term prospects of our business.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funds in the near future?
Tolia: We have no immediate plans for another round of financing.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Tolia: We are currently wholly focused on delivering the best possible user experience so that neighbors everywhere can come together to build happier, safer places to call home.
We expect that future revenue opportunities will focus on connecting local residents with local businesses. This can benefit our members by giving them access to information and deals they would may not be able to find elsewhere and it also helps generate support for local businesses, in turn strengthening neighborhoods.
SUB: What are your goals for Nextdoor over the next year or so?
Tolia: Growth and user adoption is our primary objective in the next twelve months. We want as many neighbors to join Nextdoor as possible—and begin enjoying the benefits of living in stronger and safer neighborhoods.
Nextdoor – www.nextdoor.com