What: Neighbor.ly is the Kickstarter of civic projects. A for-profit startup, they help communities realize big dreams without relying on tax dollars – think community gardens, bike paths, playgrounds, and tennis courts for kids. But this isn’t your average crowdfunding platform. Neighbor.ly is also poised to be the company that links communities with brands and foundations that want to do well by doing good.
Where: Kansas City, Missouri.
Who: We spoke with Jase Wilson, CEO and Founder.
What was the hunch that got you started?
It was the confluence of three things: the meteoric rise of Kickstarter; a talk at MIT that mentioned the UK’s civic crowdfunding platform “Spacehive”; and the fact that every public meeting I’d attended in the last decade, echoed the same sentiment: “we want to do (insert awesome project) but don’t have the money.”
What have you learned, have you pivoted at any point?
We’ve learned that there’s a huge need for *someone* to help connect communities with alternative funding sources, particularly as the established methods are in danger of disappearing and government dollars continue to get cut. We are also getting ready for a big pivot in the summer of 2013. It involves a powerful set of tools that corporations, brands, and foundations can leverage to get more involved in community projects, while meeting their Corporate Social Responsibility targets along the way.
What is your company culture like?
Lean and loose. We’re a weird assortment of planners, programmers, fundraisers and policy wonks. But we’re all civic geeks. We’re motivated by a genuine desire to help communities help themselves. There’s no pretense, no hierarchy. Just some folks wanting to contribute to a common purpose.
What are your plans for monetization?
With our summer pivot, we’re planning on rolling out platform fees, software subscriptions, and consultancy fees – we’re concentrating on building a sustainable for-profit model that is going to have an impact on communities for years to come. We’re also excited that we have been accepted into the Points of Light Civic Incubator program. They are the first national startup accelerator that is devoted entirely to civic ventures and we know that our experience with them will help shape the company in amazing ways.
What might brands learn from your company?
That they’re more than just companies. They are citizens in very real legal and practical ways. When the communities they sell to prosper, so do they. And we can echo what they already know, that people increasingly want to buy from brands that do well by doing good.