One of the most interesting growth areas in social media, in my humble op-ed, consists of hyper-local, place-based social networks that provide (virtual) forums connecting people who actually, like, live near each other. One such startup, NextDoor, got a big boost this week in the form of an $18.6 million investment from a group of investors including Greylock Partners, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures and Shasta Ventures, among others.
NextDoor allows users to create limited social networks which are open only to people living in a particular neighborhood -- new members have to verify their addresses -- to discuss neighborhood-y things like community events, classifieds listings, local crime, parking spaces, and trash day, to name just a few topics (and also probably less neighborly things like code violations, crappy lawn ornaments, bellicose pets, engine blocks hanging from trees, etc.). Users can also form sub-groups within neighborhoods to discuss things that aren’t necessarily of general interest, like local sports leagues or enthusiast clubs.
According to the company, NextDoor’s network of neighborhoods has surged from a total of 176 neighborhoods in the second half of 2011 to 3,600 neighborhoods today. Part of the growth is due to some old-fashioned print promotions, including mailing postcard invitations to neighbors of new members and handing out flyers on the street.
The $18.6 million round of funding values NextDoor at around $100 million -- which, as always, raises the question of how much it’s actually worth. That’s an especially good question because NextDoor currently has no revenue stream, since it doesn’t carry advertising -- although that may change in the near future. If they do decide to take the leap, it seems like there should be plenty of opportunities for local businesses to get involved, as well as new growth potential with a mobile app or interface.