What do you get when you combine Google Maps with hyper-local news and comments? You get a map-based news site called YourStreet, which officially launches tomorrow (although the site is already up). The site detects where you are located and serves up news stories about events that recently occurred in your city or neighborhood, as well comments from YourStreet members who live nearby.
For instance, when I checked out the site earlier today from my office in downtown Manhattan (yes, we found a NYC office!), it showed me a bunch of push pins on a Google Map. One was an item titled “Punk is Dead, Long Live Punk” about the former digs of punk rock club CBGBs. Another one was from the Buffalo News, noting the collapse of a building a few blocks away from my office that was linked to the 1906 murder of architect Stanford White, who had conducted an affair there with a 16-year-old chorus girl. And in the conversations section, one member, referring to a revered outdoor burger spot in Madison Square Park, asks, “When does the Shake Shack close?” (You mean, it closes for the winter?!!)
The startup has developed an algorithm that extracts geographical information from stories, such as street names, neighborhoods, and cities. It then geo-codes the articles against a longitude and latitude database so that it can place them on a map. The site will start off with regular Google AdSense ads, but that same algorithm will allow it to place local ads with extremely fine granularity. “The thing that distinguishes us,” explains CEO James Nicholson, “is that we can get down to a specific street level on the ads.” If he can attract enough local visitors to YourStreet, the local dry cleaner may also want to show up to advertise there. The localized ads will be simple text ads at first, but they could also eventually be push pins of a different color.
YourStreet has been self-financed so far by Nicholson to the tune of about $400,000. His last company, Netventures, was sold to CNET in 1999 for about $12 million. YourStreet was one of the startups in the TechCrunch40 Demo Pit.