Nextdoor, a social network for neighbourhoods, has launched in Australia.
It’s the seventh market the US company has launched into in eight years, and represents a key part of the company’s global expansion plan.
Having already achieved a “nice foothold” in western Europe, Nextdoor co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia told Business Insider, “at some point if you really want to be global you have to come to the APAC region, and we’re hoping Australia is the gateway for us into this critical part of the world”.
“Asia is going to be a big market for us.”
Tolia says he feels “the wind is really at our back” launching in Australia, and that “the local pride and sense of mateship shared by Australians is perfectly aligned with the [platform]”.
“It’s a pivotal time for Australia,” he says.
“There’s a lot of issues that we have read about and research into the breakdown of community, the increase in loneliness, a sort of general malaise and distrust in government and media, rising crime… and while we would never be so presumptuous to suggest that Nextdoor is the solution, we want to be part of the solution.
“In an increasingly divided world, community is a really effective force in reminding us we’re all together.”
According to recent research conducted by Research Now, only a quarter of Australians claim to have a very good relationship with their neighbours, despite the majority (77%) craving to have a deeper relationships with them.
Not a one size fits all approach
Tolia mentioned there were a few differences in Australia, that have meant the business has had to adapt accordingly. For example the size of what Aussies consider a “neighbourhood”.
“The way that people think about their neighbourhood in terms of size is typically different,” he says.
“In the US, a neighbourhood is typically thought of as 500-700 households. In Australia, after doing a lot of research into what the boundaries should be, it’s probably a little closer to 1,500 households.
“Another thing that we see is different, is Aussies love to get together and have events, in larger groups… something which is not has popular [in the US].”
He continued: “In Australia, we were surprised to find that 1 in 4 households now is a single household, which means there is a rise in basic isolation.”
Where Nextdoor can help, Tolia says, is to get these people together “not just virtually, but in the real world” and to make “real world connections”.
“It’s a modern way to neighbour, a new way to neighbour,” he says.
And Australians are already demonstrating strong early interest in Nextdoor.
Since launching in beta in Australia two weeks ago, 350 new neighbourhoods in Australia have already been created on Nextdoor.
“Those numbers are going to change quite a bit in the weeks and the months to come,” says Tolia.
How it works
Nextdoor aims to bring local neighbourhoods together to build “stronger, safer and happier communities”.
Neighbours on Nextdoor can use the platform to share information about break-ins, to help find a lost pet, find recommendations for babysitters, or assist an elderly person in need.
Nextdoor restricts communication to only those people who live close to one another, with neighbourhood posts seen only by other members of your neighbourhood.
Only users who are able to verify their identity and home address can sign up.
All Nextdoor websites are password protected and neighbourhood content and member information cannot be found in Google or other search engines.
“We have always put our members’ privacy first,” he says.
“None of the conversations on Nextdoor are indexed by Google, they’re not available publicly, they’re not shared socially.
“Every single member on Nextdoor has to verify their address… so that you know when you get into your neighbourhood the conversations are between people who are verified residences and it’s private.”
Tolia says the company collects info including first name, last name, email address and physical address.
“We would never share that externally. Never, never, never, never. It would completely bring the company to its knees… our mission is to build stronger and safer neighbourhoods and in order to do that we need to build a tool that makes it safe to share the things online which you would feel to share offline.”
Where to from here?
Next for Australia, the company plans to build its go-to-market team which includes the appointment of a local country manager to drive growth in Australia and the region.
“We feel it’s quite important for that person to be a native person,” Tolia says, adding that they had some candidates visit San Francisco last week, and “should have an announced on that front pretty soon”.
But don’t expect it to ramp up any ecommerce features straight away.
“For the last two-and-a-half years we have been starting to generate revenue,” Tolia says.
“We won’t do anything of the sort in Australia for quite some time. We’re not rolling out monetisation in any of other foreign territories yet.
“Like in the US we want to get it right first before we start to roll it out to other countries.
“We think about ourselves as a company that is much more the tortoise than the hare — it gives us the opportunity to do things the right way.”
This is something Tolia learned when working on his previous business, Epinions.
“With Epinions we tried to move as fast as possible, we thought speed was a competitive advantage.”
He admits that while it was certainly valuable at times, “we had wished we had taken the time to really get some things right”.
“Epinions was started in 1999, that was the real sort of heart of the dot com boom, and moving fast was on everyone’s mind. You just couldn’t do things quickly enough.
“As a result it got harder to get it right as time went on.”
He continued: “With Nextdoor our path to that scale was about building the right foundations and not being afraid to spend time to get things right,” which he admits was “exceptionally difficult” in the beginning but once they felt comfortable and confident with what they had, they focused on speed.
So far, it has more than 210,000 neighbourhoods across the United States, UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, and now Australia, and has raised more than $US278 million from US venture capital firms including Benchmark and Greylock Partners, and European investors including Axel Springer.
Earlier this year, Tolia announced his plans to step down as CEO and that he would move into an active chairman role on the company’s board. In October, Square CFO, Sarah Friar, was announced as the incoming chief executive.
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