Before Nextdoor there was Fatdoor. And you may or may not recall Fatdoor wanted to be what Nextdoor has essentially become: a neighborhood-based social network.
In many respects Fatdoor was ahead of its time, trying to bring the online and physical worlds together. It predated the mobile revolution, which might have helped the original vision behind Fatdoor succeed.
This is from the 2007 press release:
Fatdoor, a new community networking Web site dedicated to helping people get to know their neighbors, launched its service in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fatdoor brings together familiar social networking elements such as personal profiles, intra-personal connections, group networking and information sharing, but is centered on local neighborhoods. Using the Microsoft Virtual Earth online mapping platform as a base to visualize and explore a neighborhood, Fatdoor creates a social network for people who want to connect, communicate and share with others in their local communities. The alpha site is initially available as an invitation-only trial, and will be rolled-out in additional cities nationwide throughout the summer.
Note the reference to “Microsoft Virtual Earth,” which long ago was consolidated into Bing Maps. Co-founder/engineer/lawyer Raj Abhyanker told me back in 2007 that he wanted neighbors get to know one another and use Fatdoor as a way for local community, school and parents groups to connect, organize and interact.
This is essentially Nextdoor’s vision as well.
However after a SF Bay Area beta launch Fatdoor never launched more broadly across the US. Abhyanker left or was ousted and later Yahoo’s Jennifer Dulski hired as the new CEO (and new money raised). Dulski and Fatdoor CTO Chandu Thota completed abandoned the existing Fatdoor concept.
In April, 2008 Dulski and Thota relaunched the site as Center’d. Center’d was a “semantic” search engine and local planning tool with a focus on women. The short version of its history is that it did some innovative things but never quite developed serious momentum.
Then, just as the daily deals frenzy was hitting, Dulski had the notion to create a deals-based search engine and aggregator: The Dealmap. Dulski and Thota’s timing was perfect and The Dealmap became a leader in the segment and deal syndicator (“CityGrid for deals”). It was later acquired by Google in 2011. A year or so later the segment essentially collapsed.
Dulski stayed at Google for a time and now is president and COO of Change.org. Thota continued with Google and is now living in the UK and doing many interesting things in mobile and indoor location with the company.
That brings me back to Fatdoor, which original co-founder Raj Abhyanker has brought back from the dead. It will be very challenging for him to make good on his original vision, given Nextdoor. However one of the interesting angles he’s now pursuing is drone-based food delivery (Bot Appetit).