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Toronto Real Estate Neighbourhood social-media site Nextdoor preparing for Canadian expansion

Nextdoor, a popular San Francisco-based website meant for neighborhood groups across the country, is coming to Canada.

Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press

Neighbourhood-level social-media network Nextdoor is preparing to launch in Canada.

The popular American social-networking service has posted on Linkedin, searching for a country manager executive for Canada and also field organizers to begin signing up locals.

“We are searching for a Country Manager to introduce and grow Nextdoor in Canada,” the posting reads. “We are not looking for a slick car salesman, but rather, a leader of exceptional integrity who cares deeply about building community on a grassroots level.”

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A spokeswoman for Nextdoor said the company wasn’t yet ready to discuss its expansion plans in Canada, although she did confirm details would be announced in the coming months.

Nextdoor differentiates itself from other social-media networks primarily by limiting the number of participants in a given “neighbourhood” to the local area code and by requiring users to post under their real names.

The company has been dogged by controversy over allegations of racial profiling and paranoid crime fixations among its members, but has grown steadily in recent years and is often among the top 10 most downloaded apps by some measures.

It’s also the source of some of the most delightfully weird interactions in social media, with accounts such as @bestofnextdoor (twitter.com/bestofnextdoor) collecting the oddly charming – and the just plain odd –behaviour of neighbours around the United States.

Founded in 2010, the San Francisco-based company is not yet profitable, does not declare user numbers but has raised a total of US$408-million in venture capital. Its most recent investment came in May, when Riverwood Capital led a US$123-million round that gave the company a US$2-billion valuation.

Since it began expanding beyond the United States in 2017, its growth went from about 160,000 neighbourhoods to 236,000 with sites in Spain, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Australia.

Nextdoor has also been developing deeper ties with the real estate industry. In addition to allowing for hypertargeted advertising, it also lets agents pay for neighbourhood pages that give them added prominence in the local area feed and search results.

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In June, Nextdoor launched a new “Your Home” feature that allows users to get estimates of their home’s value, receive news updates about real estate trends in their area code and chat online with registered local agents. The company has claimed that more than one in four conversations on the platform are about real estate.

Many of the other conversations are a little stranger, and Jenn Takahashi has seen them all. She maintains the @bestofnextdoor accounts, which have several times more followers than Nextdoor’s official accounts. She started in 2017, reposting things like a library brawl in Seattle, but is now so popular that her inbox is filled tips from strangers. She deletes most of the negative stuff – including a disturbing amount of posts that inquire about threesomes – because her account is trying to emphasize the levity of Nextdoor.

“I’m a huge people watcher, and most of the content is ridiculous stuff. During the royal wedding, [Prince Harry and Meghan Markle] someone was having a viewing party and they asked if anyone had a corgi [the Queen’s favoured pooches] they could borrow for an hour or two. In the classified section, people will post ‘Does anyone want these eggs that expired last month?’

“A lot of my submissions come from Texas … one post I’m obsessed with someone has a circular drive-through and she posted that she’s asked people to stop driving through.” After signs didn’t work, she then posted a picture of an Amazon order for a spike strip to deflate tires. “This is the only time I felt completely crazy: I posted a poll saying ‘Whose team are you on, Team Vicki (the owner) or Team everybody else?’ And it was 50/50! Are you guys kidding?”

Nextdoor can have a darker side, too. One of mottos associated with the company is “when neighbours start talking, good things happen.” But a 2015 Fusion story claimed white residents in Oakland were talking about their black neighbours by using “crime and safety” feature to single out and raise suspicion about their movements. That unleashed a flood of similar accounts. Company co-founder and former chief executive officer Nirav Tolia (replaced in 2018 as CEO by Sarah Friar, formerly of Square Inc.) later described how the company handled the controversy in a 2017 story for Wired: “If there’s something that drives communities apart, it just overturns the whole premise … People will feel like, ‘Oh, [Nextdoor,] that’s that place where people are racist.’”

The company did revamp the way these reporting systems worked to encourage posters to check their biases, and created a racial profiling resource centre. But researchers remain concerned about the way these networks can heighten concerns about local crime even as crime rates remain lower than they have been in decades.

Nextdoor’s posting for its Canada country manager doesn’t directly address these issues, but the posting requires candidates to have a “deep belief in our mission to bring neighbours together to alleviate social isolation, share information and connect them to larger civic goals.” The goal for the job? “Quite simply, do whatever it takes to introduce Canadian neighbourhoods to Nextdoor.”

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