Good 'Hoods: This is an amazing platform to get neighbours together. Please tell us how it began.
Simon: We were struck by the fact that, at the same time as digital technology was bringing everyone closer to the people they already know, no matter where they are in the world, many people were becoming more disconnected from the people living around them. We knew from experience the pleasure and satisfaction to be had from growing up in strong and connected neighbourhoods and wanted to use technology to rebuild those connections. That’s why we started Nabo: to bring neighbours together to create stronger, safer, happier communities.
Good 'Hoods: Was it easy or hard to get this going? What did it take?
Simon: It was very hard to get going because, unlike most other social networks, we are connecting people who don’t know each other, rather than those that do. It took a brilliant product team, three committed shareholders (including two of Australia’s largest media companies) as well as a lot of late nights, wrong turns and failed experiments. However now we just welcomed our 300,000th member and have built communities that cover 98% of the Australian population, so it was definitely worth it!
Good 'Hoods: How has the site contributed to making a strong, more connected community?
Simon: We’ve connected 300,000 Australians with their neighbours across 8,000 suburbs, as well as 10,000 small businesses and 700 not for profits. Neighbours have made wonderful connections online and in real life; helped find lost pets, used our events listings, bought and sold items as well as found great items for free, and used the platform to recruit members to their offline groups and clubs. Councils, community organisations and small businesses now use Nabo to communicate with their stakeholders in a geographically focussed way, without needing to pay to recruit them. We are now starting to commercialise this for larger enterprises as well.
Good 'Hoods: What are the roadblocks/challenges you’ve faced in building a more connected community?
Simon: We are not just building one community, we are building thousands across Australia. The biggest challenge by far is the “Chicken and Egg problem”: a new community doesn't initially create enough value to attract new members. That meant that our growth was slow to start with however we discovered lots of great people who saw the value in making their local communities more connected and we worked with them to make it happen – we call them our Leads and they play an important role in their Nabo communities.
Good 'Hoods: What would you have done differently OR what are your plans for the Nabo's future?
Simon: We know from the experience of similar businesses overseas that our service has mass market appeal. Our plans are to continue to grow until we have all Australian households on Nabo, which we know will result in safer, happier and healthier communities!