Startups tackle the local neighborhood as the next frontier

Geolocation-based startups have been all the rage for a while now in the age of mobile phones, but there’s another element to location that startups are tackling: the neighborhood. More than just a point on a map, neighborhoods provide an interesting intersection between location and community that can be used to a startup’s advantage, both in targeting particular customers and then serving them local ads.

Neighborhood-oriented products can either attempt to provide an entire social network for those communities, or provide information specifically for tourists or shoppers. But the trend toward neighborhoods makes sense, since people searching for information from a particular community are perfect targets for advertising, which relies on clear evidence of someone’s intent to purchase plus location-specific information for success.

So which are some of the startups tackling neighborhood data as a way to stand out? Here are a few that have caught my eye:

The neighborhood platform for travelers: Airbnb

Airbnb neighborhoods San Francisco screenshotWhen I first moved to San Francisco I stayed in an Airbnb apartment while conducting my apartment search, which was a perfect way to get to know the city before signing a lease. However, being totally new to both San Francisco and Airbnb, my selection of short-term neighborhood was pretty random. Now that Airbnb has become a de facto travel option for tech-savvy travelers, the company has smartly decided to release neighborhood guides for its major cities, giving travelers a sense of what they’re getting into with each neighborhood before they book, and perhaps encouraging travelers to look outside the most trafficked haunts. The guides are heavy on beautiful photos and light on text (they could benefit from a few more suggestions for popular destinations), but they do give you a sense of what you’ll see on the streets (just check out the guide to the Tenderloin for evidence). It’s easy to see how the company could introduce ads for local businesses or popular hangouts within those guides — in fact, the company has already partnered with local coffee shops to provide Wi-Fi and more city info.

The neighborhood platform for the civic-minded: Neighborland

Neighborland screenshot local civic recommendationsNeighborland (see disclosure) at first glance seems very much like Quora, one of the more popular question and answer sites on the web, but a version of Quora used by your action-oriented neighbors who want to get things done. Want to rally local support around an issue? In San Francisco alone, Neighborland lets people come together on everything from getting more bike cars on BART, finding a more creative use for the old Bay Bridge, or getting more public fruit trees in town. It’s unclear if Neighborland can get things done, or if it’ll just turn into a platform for the naive and complainers among us. But CEO and co-founder Dan Parham said the next phase is “one hundred percent focused on turning intent into action,” and as it expands nationwide this week, the company is an interesting example of rallying digital support for local issues.

The neighborhood platform for families: Nextdoor

nextdoorProviding any kind of personal information in a social network for neighborhoods immediately raises privacy concerns, which is why Nextdoor is so attuned to that issue and highlights its privacy features and civic-mindedness on the social network for neighbors. Having just raised $18.6 million in funding in June, it’s one of the most visible neighborhood-specific startups in San Francisco, and has been growing despite the fairly laborious sign-up process that’s intended to protect user privacy. The site allows users to create profiles for their families, filling out information on everything from children to pets, and then connecting with neighbors to find babysitters, coordinate yard sales, or note local crime. Because of its recommendation element, allowing users to look for local businesses to serve their needs, Nextdoor seems especially primed to eventually target local commerce.

Disclosure: Neighborland is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.