Founder — Design and Everything

I co-founded and designed the user experience for this internet startup focused on social networking for cities and neighborhoods. Our business plan was a semifinalist at the Cleantech Open competition in 2009. The GoGoVerde team and city strategy were acquired by Nextdoor in 2011.

Process and Results

1. Inspired by local community

Our original inspiration for GoGoVerde was our experience building a local community to protect a natural open space. Our success in that got us thinking about how connecting people at the local level can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives. And if the Internet can connect people around the world, could it not also connect us to our neighbors to create healthier, safer, and more sustainable local communities? The answer was GoGoVerde.

2. Developed business plan

We wanted GoGoVerde to be self-sustaining, so we developed a business plan showing how a local marketplace encouraging reuse and sharing could also be a profitable business through local advertising. The plan gained us attention from important advisors and partners and was a semi-finalist at the 2009 Clean Tech Open business plan competition.

3. Formed a great team

The compelling mission we defined helped bring together a seasoned team dedicated to executing on the vision. The advisors that we recruited included former internet CEOs, city officials, and leaders from environmental and community foundations.

4. Designed using stories

All of my designs were driven by stories – stories of the people and of the communities. The stories were always based on real people and experiences from our community and those of people we interviewed. Once the site was online, the stories were driven by our users and their activity on the site.

5. Evolved the design

Before we landed on the final GoGoVerde design, I mocked up a variety of concepts, experimenting with fonts, colors, shapes, and names to find the right tone and image for the site. We were searching for a design that would be comfortable for local communities.

6. Captured the feeling

The reactions we received in response to the final GoGoVerde design told us we had captured the right feeling. The combination of casual and quirky fonts, bright blues and greens, curving lines, and hand drawn images was immediately captivating and engaging to our users.

7. Pivoted the concept

As we evolved the design, we also pivoted the concept we were delivering. Responding to feedback from our users and advisors, we expanded in some areas, and narrowed in others. We added new features and partners. The result was the model represented on the right.

8. Piloted the city strategy

The city strategy enabled us to tie our local community building to city goals for civic engagement. Our site design supported city staff postings and enabled residents to engage city-wide in addition to their own neighborhoods. The city participated in welcoming residents to the site through community meetings, parks and recreation publications, and even included invitations in utility bills. The pilot partnership with Redwood City validated this strategy for creating rapid critical mass in a local area.

9. Successful exit to Nextdoor

The entry of a well-funded competitor, Nextdoor, into the neighborhood social networking space offered us an opportunity to take our mission to the next level. After a couple rounds of talks, my co-founder and I decided to accept an offer to shift our full-time staff, city strategy and other learning to Nextdoor. The city strategy has helped Nextdoor become the dominant player in the neighborhood social networking market.