The U.K.’s Streetlife.com, a local social network that lets residents connect and converse with their neighbours and foster a stronger sense of community, has raised £600,000 in a new round of funding.
The investment comes from existing backer Archant Digital Ventures, the incubator and investment arm of regional U.K. media company Archant, and new investor Shohet & Cie.
The additional capital will be used to give Streetlife a marketing push, rolling out the brand across more of the U.K., and in what looks like a case of stepping on the gas, the startup says it plans to raise a further £3 million by year’s end, with the aim being to “fully capture the U.K. market.”
The perceived lack of local community, particularly in highly populated urban areas in the U.K. (and I suspect in other developed countries), is arguably a major a problem in a post-industrial era where people frequently move, commute quite far to work, and, rather strangely, don’t actually talk to their neighbours. That’s the problem that Streetlife has set out to solve, at least on the consumer end.
To achieve this, the site provides a platform for local residents, community groups, local authorities and businesses to “exchange practical information, advice, opinions and resources”; users sign up using their postcode to start and join conversations with others in their locality, and declare what local topics they are interested in and how much of their profile they want to share and with whom — a sort of “local Facebook,” if you will. It’s a proposition that is seeing Streetlife boast close to 100,000 users in more than 500 “communities,” says the company.
Of course, with a laser focus on local social networking comes an obvious business model in the form of local advertising, which also points to Archant Digital Ventures’ financial interest in the startup. The regional media company’s incubator/investment arm, run by Serge Taborin, is charged with finding new opportunities in the digital space that build on Archant’s legacy as a local newspaper publisher and provider of other local media and advertising-funded ventures. The idea is that the startups it incubates and/or invests in can exploit the media company’s significant regional reach to gain traction and monetize through local advertising.
Unsurprisingly, when I met with Taborin a few months back he made quite a convincing case for why U.K. startups with a heavy local focus might want to consider Archant Digital Ventures as an alternative or complementary partner to early-stage VC or competing accelerators/incubators. Doing so also potentially opens the doors to be acquired by Archant itself — the latest example being the majority stake it acquired in Planningfinder.com just last week.
Interestingly, however, not only is Streetlife able to benefit from Archant’s long-standing relationship with local advertisers and its existing consumer base, but content on the site is also feeding some of the stories picked up by local journalists writing for various Archant properties. That’s a nice symbiotic relationship, and reminds me of the way Twitter helps generate story leads (and low-hanging fruit) for national media.
Along with Archant, Streetlife’s previous backers include Paul Ettinger, one of the founding team behind coffee chain Caffè Nero, Steve Pankhurst, founder of Friends Reunited, and Gi Fernando and Ankur Shah, co-founders of Techlightenment. Today’s new round of funding brings the total raised by the startup to £1.4 million.