Nextdoor snags the David Sze endorsement (And his largest check ever)

By Sarah Lacy , written on February 12, 2013

From The News Desk

Nextdoor is announcing several new features to its local neighborhood social network today. But a lot of these won't come as a big surprise to our readers.

As we wrote a few weeks ago, crime and safety reporting and prevention has unexpectedly become the site's killer app, so to speak. The new version was all about listing to users and doubling down on how they were using the site. It has an increased focus on crime and safety features, with more than 100 police departments around the country now being integrated into neighborhood feeds. The site is similarly focusing on better usability around classifieds and recommendations.

In fact, one of the biggest new features -- nearby neighborhoods -- I accidentally wrote about in my previous post. My neighborhood was apparently a beta tester so I was already using it. The feature allows you to continue to post and receive messages just within your own hood, or expand to contiguous ones. It gets Nextdoor out of the business of having to navigate where people want to be listed, and is more practical for sending alerts about, say, a missing dog.

Users can set defaults of how often they'd like to receive messages along the lines of location and category. For instance, you can see only alerts from your own neighborhood or only alerts when people are getting rid of free stuff. You can't yet pick which nearby neighborhoods you want to hear from, which is a significant limitation. That's coming. But it introduces a lot of technical difficulty to custom tailor essentially every user's feed with that granularity, says co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia.

Beyond the product news, Nextdoor is announcing it has raised another $21.6 million in venture capital, bringing its total raised to date to some $40 million. More impressive is that the round was led by Greylock's David Sze who will be joining the board. Existing investors Benchmark, Shasta, DAG, Allen & Co., also participated along with fellow new investors Bezos Expeditions and Google Ventures.

Sze invested in both LinkedIn and Facebook, so he's seen a lot of what has worked well in social media. But not everything he's touched has turned into a public company. He also invested in Digg, so he's seen what happens when thinks start promising and go south. Greylock invested a small $2 million in Nextdoor at its last round, so Sze could take a closer look at it. Apparently, he liked what he saw. He put $15 million into this deal -- the single largest investment he's made in any company.

I wrote a post when Digg and Revision3 sold saying Sze was essentially short two boards and hence, up for grabs. Over that time he says he's seen practically every social startup of interest.. "Nextdoor is the most exciting opportunity I have seen since (Facebook and LinkedIn)," he says. "It has all the early hallmarks that drew me to LinkedIn."

Indeed, as I wrote a few weeks ago, LinkedIn is the patron saint of sorts for any vertical social network that hopes to build a big business. Nextdoor -- like LinkedIn -- will take a long time to get to 100 million users, let alone 1 billion, and if it continues to focus on verticals like crime and safety, it could carve out a similarly lucrative business model beyond the same old social and display ads.