You may well have spotted the superb community-platform WirNachbarn‘s colourful posters on doors around town? We certainly have and absolutely love the initiative behind their cause, so we sent passionate founder Dr Philipp Götting a few questions to get to know a little bit more about the platform…
In a few paragraphs, tell those of us unaware what WirNachbarn is and how it works?
WirNachbarn is your very-local online notice board. Neighbours use WirNachbarn to interact with each other, to get to know each other and to support each other.
The benefits to this are that you can easily ask others in your area for useful recommendations (perhaps a good local handyman or trustworthy babysitter?), borrow and share items with your neighbours, write about what your local experiences and request information (perhaps you cat has run away or even your car demolished!?), use classifieds. It’s the sort of platform you could even organise a street feast with others or invite neighbours to join a leisure group or discuss very local developments.
So would yourself describe WirNachbarn as a tech startup business with community-driven values… or a community-driven startup using technology to help each other connect?
We are a community-oriented startup and our aim is to bring community spirit back to neighbourhoods. We utilise technology to make neighbourly interaction & support easier and more convenient, especially as you have it on your mobile.
How did this excellent idea come about and what challenges did you face in first setting it up?
Initially, I was fascinated by a book called “Bowling Alone” by author Robert Putman, who lays down the development of social connections between individuals. In essence: we spend less and less time with others regardless if in friendships or clubs and institutions. In addition, we have lost cultural techniques of getting to know each other – especially in the neighbourhood. It was when I made good friends with my neighbours when I lived in Frankfurt and London, that I first thought about introducing a platform that brings neighbours together and here we are.
The biggest challenges are getting the right people to join the startup, sourcing investors & finance in respectively and getting the product right when budgets are low, so there have been quite some challenges to overcome.
How many users does WirNachbarn currently have and in what ways are some people using it you didn’t expect?
We have 5000 users in Berlin. Lately we have seen many initiatives to support refugees in the crisis. I was surprised how many people use it not only to ask for neighbourly support or to post classifies, but also to invite neighbours for dinners, coffee or a backyard fleamarket.
We first became aware of WirNachbarn through your (awesome & colourful) flyers around town, what other ways do you use to raise awareness of your cause?
In addition to those we mainly work with co-operation partners, utilise social media and try to place stories in the media. Our most important growth-driver is word of mouth.
Are some Bezirke particularly more receptive or welcoming to the idea of connecting with the rest of their neighbourhood community than other Bezirke and if so, has this affected the overall plan?
In general, all neighbours like to live in a neighbourhood where people support each other. Of course, where neighbours are super familiar with the use of internet and apps the adoption rate is higher. That is the reason why we currently see most activity in Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Mitte, Prenzlauer-Berg, Wedding and Moabit. However, more and more Berliners across all Bezirke are starting to adopt WirNachbarn.
Privacy is a big concern for a lot of people. How does WirNachbarn validate neighbours are genuine and keep the community secure?
We really treat privacy and data protection as a top priority. It is a fundamental pillar of our success: posts and activities are not indexable by search engines, and we are committed to strict German privacy standards with our servers also being located in Germany.
To guarantee a high quality of interaction we only accept real neighbours with real names. Therefore users have to validate with one out of three options: Via a document similar to Airbnb, via a postcard with an invitation code or via telephone.
Where would you like to see WirNachbarn in 3 years time and what have you got coming up in the near future?
At a breakfast table or the morning commute to work WirNachbarn should be part of your daily news checking routine. We envisage that a third of all Germans will use WirNachbarn. We hope to revitalise community life. Sustainably.
Where do you and the WirNachbarn team like to go our for dinner, coffee, food in Berlin?
For coffee: Lois Kaffeebar, Gormannstr.
For sandwidches: Zeit für Brot, Alte Schönhauser
Finish the following sentence “ For me, Berlin is…”
“… a melting pot of excitement, tranquillity, energy, creativity, boredom, inspiration, chaos, dirt and style: I love it. And it’s simply the best place to start with a new idea.”
Not a member of WirNachbarn yet? Head to their website to easily sign up and see what’s going on around your area!