The shared reality of social distancing to stop the spread of the new coronavirus has brought physical neighborhoods together in surprising ways.
Nextdoor, a ZIP code-based social network, is a “neighborhood hub.” During rosy times, it’s a place to crowdsource an electrician, good restaurants, and fun activities to do over the weekend.
“But right now it’s about neighbors coming together to be that front line of support,” said CEO Sarah Friar.
One of Nextdoor’s new products, the “Help Map,” allows a user to identify as someone who can be of assistance or someone who needs it. Tasks range from grocery or pharmacy errands to tech support — especially those who are working from home.
While Nextdoor doesn’t disclose total user numbers, the platform currently has over 260,000 neighborhoods across 11 countries. The Silicon Valley startup has seen an 80% month-over-month increase in daily active members in March.
“In tough times, we definitely need our public agencies…like the fire department or in this case the hospital. But when it really comes down to it, it’s your neighbors who save you. Literally the people who live nearby. I think that’s what people are discovering on Nextdoor right now,” she told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday.
While Nextdoor has been around since 2011, Friar said the company “really came into its own” during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, when they were working very closely with the mayor of Houston. Now, during this COVID-19 crisis, Friar and her team are working with California Governor Gavin Newsom on public service and volunteer campaigns.
There are plenty of ways to safely support your community while abiding by health guidelines: pic.twitter.com/NRbQMdOn2E
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) March 22, 2020
Friar, who is on the boards of Walmart (WMT) and Slack (WORK), two companies that have been vital during this period of panicked grocery shopping and online communication, said she’s concerned about the livelihood of small and medium-sized businesses, which make up 50% of the workforce.
She laid out three specific ways Nextdoor is working to support them, many of whom use Nextdoor to connect with their communities.
“The first is gift cards. How do you help bridge cash flow for businesses that just can’t even open at the moment, like a hair salon, for example. Second is delivery. Many of those mom and pop shops are switching gears to pick-up or delivery [only] and [figuring out how to] get the message out that I’m actually still open for some business,” she said.
“The third thing we’re going to do is partner with GoFundMe, which is a good example of a tech platform in action now. In many cases neighbors will actually fund a local business because on the other side of this we want them to survive. A big part of a strong community is thriving local businesses,” Friar added.
And for those who are laid off or furloughed, Friar said she wants Nextdoor to be a place where job opportunities can be shared — not just during the pandemic but also looking ahead to a recession and recovery further down the road. Right now, it’s flagging opportunities at companies like Walmart and Amazon (AMZN), which have committed to hiring hundreds of thousands of additional workers.
“In a local way, we can really help those hourly workers by making sure that we’re thinking of them during this crisis, so orienting them to the places that are hiring, but remembering them as we come out of the crisis. People get matched on the platform [all the time], from neighbor-for-hire things like a dog walking service or a babysitting service, all the way through to those totally favored local businesses like the local plumber.”
Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s west coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.
Land O’Lakes CEO: Rural America is the new inner city
Why neighborhood social network Nextdoor banned national politics
2020 candidates are ‘dumbfounded’ on how to solve homelessness: LA Mission CEO
How Disney and Apple are challenging Netflix’s binge-watching model