Dear NeighborGoods Members,
This year I began working on NeighborGoods as its new Executive Director. Before this I started and ran Brooklyn Free School for ten years: www.brooklynfreeschool.org. The school was dedicated to a community-based, collective approach to decision-making and empowering students to take charge of their own education. NeighborGoods has a similar mission--empowering members to take more control over their own lives by actively sharing goods and services that they need and building more cohesive and self- reliant local communities.
I want to thank and honor the Founder, Micki Krimmel, for her vision, courage, creativity, and all the hard work she put into this site and concept since its inception. Going forward Micki will still be on the site sharing with neighbors and friends and advising us.
I'm reaching out to all of you to introduce myself and let you know that I'm dedicating myself to the mission of increasing the number of members actively using the service and working on ways to improve the site and the sharing experience for everyone.
Whether you're an individual sharing with other individuals, part of an open group or private group, I want to hear from you! Send me your suggestions and ideas for how we can make this site and the sharing experience better.
Let me know too if there are any groups, neighborhoods, or communities that you think would be great to introduce to this concept and I'll contact them.
Thanks and I look forward to working and sharing with all of you!
Alan P. Berger
267 comments | posted by alanpberger
NeighborGoods has joined forces with Socius Labs, a Brooklyn-based investment firm and startup incubator. We’ve been working for months on this collaboration and we are excited about what it means for NeighborGoods.
NeighborGoods now has additional financial and human resources to put toward building the safest, most efficient, and most fun sharing platform for friends and neighbors.
On a personal note, founding this company has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I’m so honored that each and every one of you chose to be a part of the community - and it’s still growing! NeighborGoods is at the forefront of an emerging Sharing Economy that will change the world for the better. I am excited to continue this work with the Socius Labs team.
As we move forward, we want to hear from you. Share your feedback with us so we can make NeighborGoods the best it can be. Reply to this email or email us any time at email@example.com. Happy sharing!
3194 comments | posted by Mickipedia
A few months ago we shared the news with you that we would be closing down NeighborGoods in order to shift our attention to our new project, Favortree. Now I’m writing to share yet another shift in plans. If you want to skip the details, the short story is that we have been unsuccessful in launching the new project. Meanwhile, many new members have continued to join NeighborGoods and have used the service to share with their neighbors. We’ve decided not to close the site. We will continue to maintain NeighborGoods.net for your use.
For a bit of history, NeighborGoods launched publicly for the first time in 2009. The company very quickly attracted press from hundreds of outlets including Techcrunch, Fast Company, NPR, Oprah Magazine, and NBC Nightly News. NeighborGoods was at the forefront of an emerging industry that is now the hottest trend in Silicon Valley, Collaborative Consumption. We were even mentioned in the book that coined the term. It was clear that our vision of connecting neighbors to share physical goods was resonating with people. As we iterated the product and grew the community, the accolades continued. We were honored as one of the 100 Most Brilliant Startups of 2011 by Entrepreneur Magazine and we won the award for Best Bootstrapped Startup at the Startup Competition at SXSW that same year.
But we were still having trouble raising money. We raised enough cash from angels to keep our small team working but we never reached the point where the company was interesting to VCs. Eventually, the money ran out and the team moved on to other things. Then I heard from the Knight Foundation. They were interested in the potential for NeighborGoods to build stronger local communities by connecting neighbors to share with each other. They suggested that I apply for funding through their Tech for Engagement program. What passionate entrepreneur wouldn’t jump at a second chance to make their company work?!
I saw this as an opportunity to explore what was working and what wasn’t working with NeighborGoods. This was my chance to refocus and rebuild my vision. I reached out to my friend Daniel Hengeveld who I had known both personally and professionally for the past 8 years. We started brainstorming what the next generation NeighborGoods might look like. The funding came through and we set on a course to building a startup that investors could get behind.
We made a list of things we’d learned and tried to boil down our offering to its most basic values. First and foremost, friends and neighbors help each other because it feels good, not to make money. Financial transactions work best between strangers and when the value is clear (and high). But when you’re doing something to be helpful, mixing financial requirements into the transaction muddies the experience and makes it less fulfilling for both parties. When is the last time you accepted cash for letting your friend borrow a video game, or offered money to a colleague for giving you career advice? It’s just not how the world works. We were confident in the knowledge that friends and community members like to help each other. They want to lend their stuff and be helpful. Getting people to share was not the problem. What we needed was to find a way to encourage more borrowing.
People don’t like asking for help without having some way to reciprocate. Asking to borrow something is actually much harder than offering to others. We started exploring social currency and complementary currency systems. We hypothesised that if we created a fun and engaging social currency, we could smooth the social friction of borrowing from others while rewarding folks for sharing at the same time. We were very excited about this new direction and we began pitching it to our advisors and close investors. We kept getting the same advice. “NeighborGoods is old news. You can’t raise money by adding social currency to your old idea. You need to start fresh.”
What we should have realized at that point was that we already had money. We were so worried about Knight Foundation’s small investment running out that we set our eyes on one goal: to raise more money. Our goal should have been to increase activity on NeighborGoods. Our goal should have been to better serve our community by improving the product and making it more useful by working to build critical mass. We already knew our idea was hot. We already knew people were passionate about NeighborGoods. We had thousands of users and the support of the Knight Foundation - who had reached out to us to give us money.
Instead, we decided to throw out all that value and start fresh because we thought it would be more appealing to investors. We thought we could take what we learned on NeighborGoods and build a whole new product and a whole new community and make it appealing to investors with $250k. After a couple false starts with the product, the money was draining quickly, much more quickly than the first time around. And with that effort, we have learned the same lesson as countless entrepreneurs before us. Our job is not to please investors. Our job is to delight our users. Period.
We were already half way there with NeighborGoods. But we got caught up in the desire to build the next hot startup and the next new thing rather than building on the value we already had. We certainly made things difficult for ourselves.
And now we find ourselves back where we started six months ago. We’re a passionate team with a very small bank account and a growing community of users who believe in the benefits of sharing with their neighbors. In all, that’s not a bad place to be. It’s an honor to have the support of many thousands of people who believe in NeighborGoods enough to register and be a part of this community.
Our goal now is not to raise more money. Our goal is to keep NeighborGoods up and running for our community. We’re going to be making some improvements to NeighborGoods in the coming weeks, mostly by removing unnecessary features. We’ll also be adding a donate button so our community members can help us cover the costs of hosting and upgrades moving forward. If you would like to help out in other ways, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, as always, for sticking with us on this journey - missteps and all.
- Micki Krimmel, Founder and CEO
394 comments | posted by Neighbor Al
Our team has very big news that we want to share with you. After three amazing years, 25,000 incredible neighbors and over $4.5 million of inventory being shared, NeighborGoods.net will be shutting its doors. We would like to share what this means for you and your account.
Over the next three weeks we will be preparing for our shutdown which will be happening July 31st. We strongly encourage you to complete any open transactions by this date. After today we will no longer be accepting group subscriptions or account verifications.
Although this is goodbye for NeighborGoods we are excited to announce that members of our team have created a brand new sharing tool, Favortree. Favortree is a 'play it forward' trading game for universities, faith communities and local neighborhoods. Members can help each other by sharing goods and completing small favors. By helping your friends and neighbors, you earn rewards which you can exchange for help when you need it.
We would like to invite NeighborGoods users to pre-register for early access to Favortree. By pre-registering for Favortree, you will be among the first to try it out! You will also be given the opportunity to import your NeighborGoods inventory.
We can’t possibly express our gratitude for all that this community has done for us and for each other. Thank you for your continued support over the last three years and through this transition.
The NeighborGoods Team
418 comments | posted by Neighbor Al
The entire Collaborative Consumption community watches with bated breath this week as the hero of our burgeoning industry, AirBnB struggles to manage a customer support nightmare that has spiraled out of control under massive public scrutiny. The story began when EJ, an airBnB host, blogged about having her apartment trashed and her life torn apart by a traveler who stayed in her home after booking via the home-sharing site, AirBnB. Her story was picked up by Techcrunch, other industry blogs and the mainstream media as an example of what can happen when sharing goes wrong.
AirBnB has suffered much criticism for their slow response time, their apparent unwillingness to help the victim, and their complete unpreparedness to handle such a complaint. As I'm not privy to the inner workings of the AirBnB board room, I can't comment on any of that. I do know that by the time the truth finds its way to the public, it has often been wrung through the cogs of many machines each with its own agenda, and can often be rendered unrecognizable. This is a complicated issue to resolve and I do not envy AirBnB's burden to do it so publicly. Still, it is EJ to whom my heart goes out. She has suffered a real violation and continues to suffer as her character and even her existence are called into question by an audience eager for drama and intrigue.
As EJ's story unfolds and AirBnB struggles to resolve the issues in their platform revealed by her tragic experience, it is time to ask the question: How can other sharing platforms learn from this example of what can happen when a transaction goes wrong? How can we learn from this incident and apply that knowledge to better protect the members of our own communities?
At NeighborGoods, building a safe and fun community for sharing is our number one priority. Our members are sharing over $3.5 million worth of their personal goods and we've facilitated thousands of transactions with no serious complaints or reports of theft or damage. That said, this week's events are proving the necessity for all sharing platforms to have a security system in place to protect their members. We've designed our entire system with the goal of building trust. Still, we have more to do.
NeighborGoods connects people to share goods like tools, video games and sporting equipment. The majority of our members choose to share their items for free to help out their friends and neighbors rather than rent their items to strangers. The social tools we provide greatly lower the risk involved in sharing on NeighborGoods. Members can decide who has access to each of their items. For instance, my vacuum cleaner is available to anyone (upon approval of course) while my car is only available to my friends.
When any member requests to borrow an item, he must share his phone number with the owner and we never restrict what information can be shared via our private messaging system. We want to give our members all the tools necessary to feel safe sharing with folks they may not know. We also have an optional verification system and transaction-based peer ratings to help members build a reputation of trust in the network. In addition, members can request security deposits for extra protection.
As with any peer to peer marketplace, it's impossible to remove risk completely. It's our job as sharing platforms to make sure our members are aware of the risks and have the information needed in order to manage the risk effectively. AirBnB's new Safety Tips page provides clear steps for members to mitigate the risk of using the platform. We plan to follow suit with our own list of tips. As part of their response to recent events, AirBnB has also announced a new $50,000 guarantee to cover any loss or damage suffered by their hosts. AirBnB's guarantee program launches on August 15 and I'm eager to see how it will address the potential for fraud and other legal complications raised by insurance. We've been considering offering similar protections (though on a much smaller scale) for premium NeighborGoods members.
What do you think about how AirBnB is handling this incident? What can we do at NeighborGoods to make you feel safer sharing your belongings with your neighbors? What are some effective ways other sharing platforms are helping their members mitigate risk? We want to hear from you!
195 comments | posted by Mickipedia
We're featured in this awesome infographic from Fast Company called The Collaborative Home.
The infographic outlines all the startups helping you make use of underused resources - from power drills to your driveway to your time. While the article focuses on the opportunity to make cash with your stuff, the editor Morgan Clendaniel is sure to point out the bigger picture:
What's truly important about collaborative consumption is much more world-altering than just supplementing people's incomes. We own far too much stuff, a symptom of our aggressive consumer culture. If you don't need to buy a circular saw or a leaf blower just to use them once a year, but can use one when you need it, it could fundamentally impact how we consume. So, while making money on your unused stuff sounds great, imagine not having to buy the stuff in the first place.
Thanks to Fast Company and to Collaborative Fund for including us!
262 comments | posted by Mickipedia
Our friends at Architecture for Humanity are hosting an Open Mic session at Dwell on Design in Los Angeles next week. AFH put out the call to find 7 innovators and designers to give quick 7 minute presentations on the topic of regeneration.
The tsunami in Japan and the quake in Haiti have us all thinking about how we can best use architecture and design to heal the wounds of natural disasters. That's the theme we'll take up in this Pecha Kucha-style hour of design thinking, one that provides seven provocative takes on what design can do to better the world.
We're on the hunt for designers of all stripes and statuses to share their visions of how design can reshape, reform and regenerate places and communities when disaster strikes.
We answered the call and have been chosen as one of the 7 presenters! Please join me at Dwell's Design conference and expo June 24 - 26 at the LA Convention Center. The Architecture for Humanity Open Mic event is on Saturday at 4pm on the Design Innovation Stage.
Sharing to Regenerate Local Community:
How can sharing a power drill with your neighbor prepare you for a natural disaster? NeighborGoods is the leading online community for local resource sharing. By designing a community of trust, NeighborGoods provides a platform for building real connections in local neighborhoods. A connected neighborhood is a prepared neighborhood.
103 comments | posted by Mickipedia
Today is the day, folks! Thanks to the generous support we received through our Kickstarter project, we proudly announce the launch of NeighborGoods 2.0! We've been rolling out this update over recent weeks and this morning we put the final touches on the new groups and location technology - officially bringing us to NeighborGoods 2.0.
NeighborGoods 2.0 is all about groups. Our members were asking for the ability to share privately and now you can do that! You can create your own group where you can share privately and post messages for your neighbors. Your entire group can save thousands of dollars for as little as $6/month.
Our new groups technology is also a great resource for larger organizations. We're working directly with apartment complexes, homeowners' associations, corporations and cities to create sponsored groups as a benefit for their members. Contact us to learn more about our enterprise edition.
We've also updated our location technology, making it easier to customize your location and to find stuff near you. We've added neighborhood information from Zillow.com for our 3 most active cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Check it out and join your neighborhood group today! We've replaced the use of US zip codes with pure geocoding which means folks in other countries (You hear us, Canada?!) can now create sharing groups.
Whew that's a lot! We've improved lots of other things with this release and we hope you'll like it. We need your feedback to keep improving. We are constantly working to make the service better for our community. So let us know what you think.
101 comments | posted by Mickipedia
We've partnered with GOOD Magazine to support Mayor Villaraigosa and the Friends of the Los Angeles River for a big river cleanup this Saturday, April 30. Want to help out? Just register at folar.org. You can choose from 14 cleanup locations. And don't miss the party afterwards! From 12-2pm, volunteers will be treated to live music about river at Rio de Los Angeles Park.
Can't make it to the event? Join the NeighborGoods group and share the stuff we need to make this happen. Hand trowels, work gloves, anyone got a pair of waders? You can help you community simply by lending out stuff you're not using!
132 comments | posted by Mickipedia
The fun-filled day will include a local marketplace, crafting and screenprinting, and a community swap/sharing event at 1pm and 3pm. We're working with the good folks at Echo Park Time Bank, LA Food Swap, Arroyo Time Bank and others to host the sharing event. It's a great crew and we're bringing some good stuff to swap. So bring something you want to get rid of and leave with a new treasure!
90 comments | posted by Mickipedia
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