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Featured on May 18, 2011

Barbara Pantuso

"Oh, sweet serendipity!"


I love creating things. I have worked in the creative businesses of pastries, restaurants, interactive design, and product design. My latest creation (with the help of a great team) is a platform that makes it easy to be good neighbors. We are connected to people all over the world and yet most of us don't know our neighbors. We aim to change that and to build vibrant, connected neighborhoods.

Your site uses the term "Trusted Neighborhood Networks"  Did you conceptualize the site/service as a response to flaws that you see in other community Networks/services out there?  

Yes, that’s one of the main motivations for building Hey, Neighbor! Despite all of the social connectivity and technology we have today, there is still no easy or efficient way to connect with neighbors. But there are many reasons why it’s good to know your neighbors.  

People used to knock on neighbor’s doors. Now, that feels awkward or inconvenient. Today, there are makeshift neighbor networks in email list servs, group websites, and local blogs. With these, it’s hard to find neighbors unless you know them or they know of your group.

And most social networks are based on people you already know. With Hey, Neighbor!, you don’t need to know your neighbor to connect. You are already part of a network based simply on your location and our platform is designed to build trust and lasting connections while still maintaining privacy.

Also, these services are not designed to serve the hyper-local and real-time needs that neighbors have. Right next door, neighbors are often in the best position to provide the help you need--right here and right now. Hey, Neighbor! makes asking for help efficient and doesn’t put any one person on the spot.

In addition to filling the gaps we saw in existing networks, we also built Hey, Neighbor! in response to the growing demand for local community and collaborative consumption. Now more than ever, people want a sense of belonging and a familiarity of place, and we are shifting how and what we buy. Hey, Neighbor! helps to make those connections and to foster collaboration among neighbors. It’s like a local Facebook meets a safer Craigslist for your neighborhood.

How did you go about building your team for  Do you have any recommendations for someone creating a new startup regarding hiring and finding the right talent?

I am lucky in that I have worked in interactive agencies for the past 15 years so I have a very talented network of creative designers, user experience designers, and programmers. The challenge for us has not been finding the talent, but finding people who can work for startup salaries (translation: next to nothing) and startup hours (translation: full-time ++).
Working for equity and/or low pay often requires people to have paid work on the side. But building a startup, particularly a social network like Hey, Neighbor!, requires more than a full-time effort for a small team. You have to be prepared to be patient and work around schedules or you have to find people who can commit full-time for little money. My advice is to do the latter - find the team that can commit full-time for equity and little pay. If you can get a team with skin in the game and little distractions, you will be more cohesive, focused, and faster.
If you don’t have the network already, then start building one. Attend tech and creative meetups, go to conferences, or go to presentations at co-working facilities. There are several events every night in NYC where you can network. It doesn’t have to feel like you are a cheesy salesperson or on some kind of speed date. Go to learn something and you may just bump into your next partner. You can’t rely solely on recruiting from your computer screen.

After you graduated from Cornell you became a pastry chef in Italy. Where would you recommend someone go in NYC for some good pastries?

Oh, that’s like asking “if you were stranded on a desert island, what is the one food…?”. There are so many to choose! I will restrain myself and just say that I love going to Chikalicious Dessert Bar in the East Village. Try the four-course dessert menu and sit at the counter to watch the careful preparation and the beautiful plating of the many mouth-watering delicacies there!

Founder, CEO