By Ann Meyer
Serial entrepreneur Chuck Templeton is out to counter conspicuous consumption and build community with the launch of OhSoWe.com, a website designed to match neighbors’ needs with nearby resources.
Templeton recently used the site to borrow a neighbor’s cooler and camp stove for the weekend. The site also could be used to find local service providers, such as electricians, gutter cleaners and landscapers, he said. By drawing on geographic data, the site points out the closest available product or service. “If I need a drill, the site might show …. the four closest drills,” Templeton said.
Over time, OhSoWe.com plans to a collect a commission for rentals or jobs that are converted on the site. For now, Templeton said, users are working out their own payment arrangements. “We’re watching how people use it,” he said of the site, which has attracted 3,000 users in the first three-and-a-half weeks of its beta test. “We know people do transactions outside of the system. We think we’ll learn a lot and find ways to add value,” he said. For example, neighbors could collectively coordinate snow shoveling or yard care to take advantage of cost savings, he said. They also could arrange for block parties.
Templeton, who previously founded the online restaurant reservation company OpenTable, said OhSoWe grew out of his own desire to “to make things better.” By encouraging neighbors to pool resources, OhSoWe will reduce the carbon footprint by slashing the amount of travel required to find a product or service.
It’s the same concept that the car-sharing services Zipcar and I-Go are based on, said Chicago entrepreneur Kris Petersen, who founded another community-building website, NeighborHuddle, six years ago. NeighborHuddle, which uses technology to communicate board minutes and other news to residents of condo buildings, currently has about 1,100 users, Petersen said. The site charges a flat monthly fee of $10 per building plus 50 cents a unit.
While Templeton likely hit on a need, Petersen cautioned that not all neighbors are interested in getting to know each other. “The learning lesson from the last six years is people are less willing to do things than I thought they were,” Petersen said. While some residents are active in their building’s governance, he said, others “won’t waste one second of energy trying to make it a better place to live.”
Templeton said he expects OhSoWe to catch on over time. “We’re changing behavior so there’s going to be certain resistance,” he said. “But the early results are that people are really excited about it.”