Freer, CEO of Nextdoor, is opening doors for small businesses.

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SNextdoor Holdings CEO Arah Friar has taken a somewhat Pollyonian view of how the neighborhood social networking platform will fare next fall.

“Next Door is still well positioned to show growth,” Freer said. People come to the platform during difficult times like Covid-19 because the goal is to “develop a kinder world where everyone can trust,” she explained. The first-time CEO took Nextdoor public through a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in November 2021 under the ticker symbol KIND.

Although her employer last month lowered its expected full-year earnings, Freer is looking surprisingly good. Nextdoor makes money from ads and sponsored content. Nearly one in three American households use the free app to find plumbers, sell things or complain about neighbors. But rivals such as the meta platform Facebook are much bigger.

Freire, 49, a native of Northern Ireland, holds master’s degrees from Oxford University and Stanford University. She joined San Francisco-based Nextdoor in 2018, serving as a McKinsey management consultant, Goldman Sachs software analyst, and finance executive for the sales force and Square.

Hearing criticism, Friar pushed to remove racism and other toxic content from Nextdoor. Its efforts are “a promising solution for any social media company struggling with toxicity,” said Time’s Alison Van Houten, who ranked Nextdoor among the 100 most influential companies in 2022.

Freer recently spoke to TIME about her strategies for curbing toxic content, Nextdoor’s depressed share price, its global expansion strategy and the continued gender bias in America.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

(For coverage of future work, visit TIME.com/charter And register Free charter newspaper.)

If the economy crashes in 2023, why won’t your income growth stop at a high rate?

All of our competitors in the digital advertising space have recently lowered their forecasts. We are still doing very well in comparison because we are bringing something unique to advertisers. We reach over 75 million neighbors in 11 countries. We have [also] It took time to make sure we only had real neighbors.

Why did Nextdoor introduce two more features this spring to alleviate implicit bias and promote kind conversations? The system, which they launched last year, checks posts for red flags and encourages users to think twice before publishing anything problematic. Additionally, your Kindness Reminder will block users if it sees signs of heated discussion, such as negative language.

The amount of forum content reported for malicious reasons is small. In the year In 2021 it was 0.34%. But there is always more we can or should do. Unfortunately, it was never done the job of being a welcoming platform.

We are now doing a little more work around the business purpose of the platform. We want to help businesses figure out better ways to engage their community without feeling like you’re always trying to sell me something. Someone posting ‘$10 off the next window cleaning’ five times a day, for example, can be toxic if they feel it’s really spam.

Are your competitors managing their toxic content adequately?

We would love to see the industry do more than we do. They have to be willing to slow people down to create more welcoming spaces—even if it hurts engagement. We’ve seen people follow in our footsteps and adopt similar behaviors with a reminder of kindness.

Neighboring investors, however, don’t seem impressed with their move to improve online civilized discourse. Your share price will hover below the $13.01 level when Nextdoor goes public. How much can a planned buyback of up to $100 million in stock revive a depressed stock price?

Our stock price has slightly outperformed most peers. Stock repurchases are a signal to the market that we think our stock price is too low. It is an excellent business decision to buy stocks in the $3-to-$4-share range. It helps stock prices because it removes stocks from earnings-per-share calculations. Assuming the market is rational, we will have high earnings per share with a small stock count.

Nextdoor is growing faster overseas than in the U.S. In how many countries will you be operating in 2032? And when will the company become a global player?

We must be in over 11 countries. Our aim is to become a global player although I am not ready to set a date. Globalizing your platform is a great way to show growth.

We started in Canada, our latest, two years ago. We have a playbook where we pick the best countries every time. Rating issues. So are countries where digital phones have already been introduced. The third thing we want is a community bias. The fourth is digital advertising spend because this is our revenue generation engine.

Over 30,000 small and medium businesses advertise on your platform. How do you attract more such businesses?

We have a very rich ecosystem with them. We’ve seen nearly 55 million business recommendations from Nextdoor neighbors. We also found that nearly 3.4 million small and medium businesses claim a free business page on Nextdoor. Then you can grow even more through Nextdoor ads.

Perception is now the limit. Some businesses don’t yet know that Nextdoor is for business. We need to help them understand that we can be their perfect way to advertise and make it seamless to get more customers. They want to understand the performance. Our new advertising platform, for example, gives them a dashboard to see their performance.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received from experienced CEOs?

Build something with real scale. Don’t get caught up in repetition. Instead of getting into too many weeds, think of the big needle movers that you can spend time with.

Explain that you understand that the Nextdoor move you skipped was just a baby step.

For a long time, we wanted to get into the idea of ​​selling with our for sale and free marketplace. But about two years ago, we went back. And I said, ‘Strategically, we have to stick to the big things. For example, we should have a fully functional advertising platform.’ Focus and discipline are especially important in a business like Nextdoor, where you can almost do anything because most things revolve around them.

Should public company CEOs be advocates of social change? Growing up in Northern Ireland, you experienced a lot of turmoil during the long religious conflict in Northern Ireland and later the end of apartheid in South Africa.

More CEOs will be asked to think more broadly about stakeholder value as trust in government, media and other entities continues to decline. In my life, I want to work on things that can impact society and not just be in the cold, hard dollar business. I grew up knowing that only a small group of people changed the world.

But you have to be very careful. If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. At Nextdoor, we have a very clear framework for determining which social issues we engage in as a company. This depends on the alignment with our purpose, mission and core values. It’s no use being a harsh voice if you don’t have any influence. The third step involves assessing whether our users are directly affected. We have taken positions on issues such as strengthening federal gun control laws.

They believe sunlight is the best disinfectant and that’s why they share board materials with all Nextdoor employees before board meetings. Why should more corporate leaders take this obvious approach?

Leading with clarity and passion are two of the best leadership qualities you can display as a CEO of a public company. Transparency often removes a lot of fear that employees feel.

As a public company and in keeping with non-public material information, we share everything. It can be very easy for employees to get caught up in silos and become professionals in a very comfortable environment. When you are forced to read widely, you can identify patterns. Broad knowledge sharing creates great ideas.

At the same time, trust is our core value. If you want that to be part of your culture, you have to show that you are leading from the front with faith.

You recently said that there are a lot of middle men in the business world, but ‘no room for middle women’. Why do you and other US female executives rank higher than their male counterparts?

There is still a lot of hidden bias in the system. Statistics prove it. Female Founders They accounted for just 2 percent of US venture capital in 2021, the smallest share since 2016. And 2021 is the second year in which the percentage of women’s venture capital funding has declined. I belong to a group of women who are trying to raise capital. Whether it’s Square or now Nextdoor, I’ve raised the most money in my life.

We are going backwards. How can this be? It would be nice if we could get more blind evaluations of pitch decks by founders like large orchestras. [do with auditions]. Meanwhile, female executives must work harder, better, and ultimately more than most of the business community—white, straight men.

More must-read stories from TIME


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