Taking social networking to a new level, Neighbourly aims to connect big business with community projects and local charitable causes. It’s a concept that has gone from strength to strength in an age where corporations are seeking to reaffirm strong relations with disaffected customers, and the Bristol-based operation has worldwide ambitions.
We caught up with Founder and CEO, Nick Davies.
TechSPARK: What’s the story behind Neighbourly?
Nick Davies: Neighbourly was born out of a frustration with globalisation. As brands get bigger and their actions become increasingly global, they start to feel more remote, making them harder to trust. This is bad for business.
I knew that if I built a platform where communities could ask brands to help local projects, and the companies responded by offering funds or volunteers, the trust would soon come back. A win-win situation!
Starbucks joined in time for our official ‘open for business’ launch in July, and we’ve been going like the clappers ever since. We’re already talking to international markets, so expect big things from Neighbourly in 2015.
“Every company wants to do more and every community has projects that need help”
TS: What’s the aim of the company?
ND: To help business become a force for good in the world. Yes, a lofty ambition – but every company wants to do more and every community has projects that need help. By making it easy and rewarding for both parties, we might just pull it off.
TS: What are your biggest successes to date?
ND: We’ve launched with some fantastic brands and are in conversation with many more. The big names bring credibility, but it’s important to understand that Neighbourly works for both large and small. I think we’re getting traction because of our focus on collaboration and partnerships.
Nice Nick: Neighbourly founder Nick Davies has built a platform where communities could ask brands to help local projects
The world must come together to tackle the social and sustainability challenges of our time and companies have a huge role to play. However, no single company can do this on its own. They need (and want) to work together – from the largest corporate to the independent on the high street.
I think our biggest success has been figuring out how to make collaboration work for everybody – and also to make it fun!
“The world must come together to tackle the social and sustainability challenges of our time and companies have a huge role to play”
TS: Tell us about your latest products.
ND: We’re a one-product concept but we’re already getting great feedback from businesses about how Neighbourly could help them do even more. The site is free to use and free for anyone to set up a project: we don’t charge the public or take any sort of commission from the funding they receive.
Our income is generated through a subscription fee to the companies, and in return we provide unique business functionality. This includes search tools, timelines for backed projects, allowing you to track their progress, and an analytics package which is accessed through a reporting dashboard.
Steps: Like most great ideas, Neighbourly is successful because it’s so simple
A percentage of our profits then goes into the Neighbourly Foundation, an additional fund that is used to back deserving projects as determined by our funding committee.
We’re also talking to councils and cities about getting involved. Watch this space for new features and announcements in the months to come.
TS: Can you offer any advice for new startups?
ND: 1. Know your subject. No prospect, investor or user should ever know more about your market opportunity than you do.
2. Know your strengths. Find a business partner who complements them. Even if you think you can do it on your own, potential investors won’t.
3. Find mentors who have done it before. The startup world is a huge ecosystem. You don’t have the time or money to make wrong turns or miss opportunities.
“Just like in the real world, the noisier you are the better. That’s what gets companies involved!”
TS: How can people get involved with Neighbourly projects?
ND: The whole purpose of Neighbourly is to help communities make a noise about the projects they care about in a way that companies can hear. Start out by searching for projects where you live. If you like what they’re doing, click the ‘follow project’ button. You can then share the project across your social networks to help get more people involved.
Don’t stop there – keep coming back to visit the project and contribute to the conversation. Everything you and the other followers do will drive the ’noise meter’. Just like in the real world, the noisier you are the better. That’s what gets companies involved!
TS: What’s the advantage of being based in Bristol?
ND: Bristol is often referred to as Silicon Gorge and with good reason given the depth of technical expertise that comes out of local high-tech industries and universities.
It’s also a highly individual and creative city, and that’s reflected in the huge range of smart startups happening here. Brunel’s Engine Shed is a truly inspirational setting to launch a new business, and with Bristol’s ‘Best place to live in Britain’ accolade in 2014 and easy access to London, we’ll not be rushing up the M4 anytime soon…