Redpoint Ventures’ Dharmaraj: There Will Be Many Different Craigslists

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Redpoint is a venture capital firm with investments in companies like Nextdoor, the neighborhood discovery network; Vurb, which uses cards to power its mobile search engine; Button, an app for mobile commerce; and HomeAway, the vacation rental site. It’s clear from the list of companies Redpoint backs that the firm has a strong sense of the trends playing out at the local level. Street Fight spoke to Redpoint partner Satish Dharmaraj about the current and future local landscape.

Dharmaraj will join us as a speaker at the Street Fight Summit in New York on October 20th. Click here for more info and to buy tickets.

Your investments touch on ad tech, local services, and mobile marketing. Is there a common denominator between these companies in terms of what they’re striving for or how they’re affecting their respective industries?
Broadly, we invest in two categories: 1) data and enterprise software, and 2) mobile and consumer marketing and apps. The underlying theme is there’s an emergence of new platforms. We want to see how the world is reinvented on these platforms. How is ad-tech going to be reinvented in mobile? What does a hyperlocal neighborhood network look like on mobile?

Redpoint partner Satish Dharmaraj

We want to look at large markets and know whether there are people who we believe can disrupt those large markets. The specific idea they start with is less important than if they’re really driven entrepreneurs who understand the market and will stop at nothing to disrupt it. Those are the big pillars that we’re looking for.

What sorts of locally-based ideas are you being pitched these days? Do you see entrepreneurs latching on to buzzy ideas and trying to leverage them on a local scale?
If you want to walk your dog or get a tutor for your kid, isn’t it better for you to find a local high school teenager who lives across the street from you, or a block away from you, versus having some new stranger in your home? We’re seeing a lot of this establishment of trust in the local space, and then, after you establish that trust, how you barter services among the community.

Another approach we see a lot is around ways to support local restaurants and businesses? So, how can local businesses promote themselves in a geofenced way?

Is there a bubble in a specific part of local?
I wouldn’t say just in local — there’s a bubble everywhere. My theory is that there’s a big bubble at the high end of deals, and there’s a big bubble at the seed stage of deals. Those stages are particularly frothy. There’s too much capital, so every deal gets funded, and it gets funded at a high price.

What do you think are the next big ideas in local? Are there any unicorns waiting to emerge?
It’s about establishing trust and community. I think there will be many different Craigslists, each for your own local community. That’s where something big can be built in the local space — a Craigslist that’s organized by neighborhoods, rather than by cities.

Annie Melton is Street Fight’s news editor.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.