News

Start-up launches social network for those 50 and up

 

Noopur Pandey says her widowed 74-year-old mother often comes for prolonged visits with her daughter's family in Menlo Park and had wondered how to meet some neighbors in her age group who might share some interests.

This being Silicon Valley, Pandey started a website to help her mother out. The website, Picket Fence, is a social network just for those 50 and older.

Picket Fence aims to foster in-person relationships by helping its members set up group activities such as pet play dates, walks, cooking classes, book clubs and visits to plays, museums, lectures and restaurants.

Pandey partnered with Chung-Man Tam, a former work colleague from Yahoo who lives in San Francisco. Tam says he was also inspired to help his parents, who were getting ready to retire and relocate to the Bay Area from Chicago, where they'd lived for 45 years.

"Finding new friends, exploring the passions that they've always had but never had the time to enjoy, and having a great quality of life is something I'd like for them to experience," Tam said.

The website started in Menlo Park and Palo Alto but has now spread to include Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton, plus Stanford, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo, Saratoga, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino and Santa Clara. A group of San Jose residents are on a wait list for their city to join in.

Residents of each community are only able to see members from their own and adjacent communities on the website.

"Response has been really amazing, especially for the in-person interactions," said Pandey. "They ask, how do we keep having these events?" she said.

New members join online by entering their date of birth and home zip code. Once the email is verified, they are asked to prove their address by emailing a copy of a utility bill or driver's license.

Partners such as local libraries and others that offer events are being invited to join the site and post events as well.

Like other social media sites, users can post a photo and basic information about themselves. They can send messages to other members (or message up to 10 other members at a time), post photos and events and start conversations on any topic.

The site recently offered a number of events for local members including $20 discount tickets to TheatreWorks' production of "Outside Mullingar" at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; a talk about local volunteer opportunities with an executive from Peninsula Volunteers; lunch at a new Palo Alto restaurant, Zareen's; a visit to the Legal Design Lab at Stanford; and a Palo Alto Baylands walk.

For now, the two founders have funded the costs of the website themselves, with Pandy working fulltime on the site.

They plan to soon expand the reach of the website to more Bay Area locations, including San Francisco.

"Then we'll talk about how to take it more nationally, including funding," Tam said.

They also will have to eventually figure out how to make money from the website, which could include sponsored events or advertising, they said. They have also considered a membership fee.

Pandey said some of the current users have said "if we can provide them with a network that's safe, they would be willing to pay a fee for that."

They also are looking for ways to provide information to help members age in place in their own homes.

"If we can help our parents do more of that, that would be something we would really like," Tam sad.

"I think it's fun to build something so meaningful," Pandey said.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2016 at 6:56 pm

I thought I might join until I saw how intrusive their membership questions are, useful to advertisers. So it's a standard startup with a moneymaking goal. Lots of sweet-talk at first, then comes the reality - advertising. Nextdoor has done the same thing - lots of sweet talk about neighborliness but now they have begun advertising and they read and reacted to what I posted.

--"They plan to soon expand the reach of the website to more Bay Area locations, including San Francisco.
"Then we'll talk about how to take it more nationally, including funding," Tam said.

"They also will have to eventually figure out how to make money from the website, which could include sponsored events or advertising, they said. They have also considered a membership fee.


21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2016 at 7:18 pm

I am not using any "social network" where I am the product, not the consumer. All of the "social networks" that I have looked into are all about selling very personal information to corporations. Facebook recently got busted for selling your name and ethnic group to advertisers who want to exclude certain ethnic groups from advertising campaigns (eg redlining real estate). That is why I never give my real name or email address or phone number to services that don't absolutely need it to deliver their service. I am never registering with Palo Alto Online, for example. They don't need my personal information and are never going to get it.


15 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2016 at 8:35 pm

I highly doubt the 50-59 crowd would touch this.


15 people like this
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2016 at 8:51 pm

> Once the email is verified, they are asked to prove their address by emailing a copy of a utility bill or driver's license.

Grrrrrrr!!

> Pandey said some of the current users have said "if we can provide them with a network that's safe, they would be willing to pay a fee for that."

Double Grrrrr!!


3 people like this
Posted by Jason McHenry
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:22 am

NextDoor.com has been fun and useful for me and my neighbors. Sounds like Picket Fence and NextDoor both allow interactions from/with your immediate [and some nearby] neighbors. If they made me provide a utility bill I'd probably never know about it.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:50 am

I would be extremely wary of joining anything that required my drivers' license or utility bill to join. I can just about understand Little League or AYSO, but this is beyond necessary for a group like this.

Seniors are being targeted by many unscrupulous groups and although this may not be one, the fact that they are asking for this type of information from those who may be a little more vulnerable about online safety is very worrying. Buying and selling of IDs is something that many businesses do and anyone requesting this type of information when it doesn't appear to have any justifiable purpose flags the possibility of this information being passed or sold forward.

If someone says they live at a Palo Alto address, then there is no reason for someone to falsify that, so what reason do they want the information other than financial gain?


8 people like this
Posted by Try again
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Even if this company spends an inordinate amount to protect its customers' private information, it will be someday bought by a bigger company which likely will pay the cheaper overseas data centers to keep the data.

Those large companies, as well as those domestic data centers, don't hesitate to sell their data about their customers.

We really need a legal framework around personal information and its sale by purchasing companies.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm

In regards to emailing a copy of a utility bill or driver license, your scan can be easily edited in Photoshop. This of course violates their terms of service, but I doubt there's any law against it unless felonious intent can be proven.

@resident of Downtown North -- besides my usual alias here, I have a registered name on Town Square, and as far as I recall, the only personal information they wanted was a valid email address. I suppose that could pigeon-hole me for advertisers who know my email from other sources, e.g. Amazon or Zappos or FedEx or other vendors who email me status on orders, etc.


1 person likes this
Posted by Steve M.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 1:49 pm

I've been active with the Picket Fence group for several months now. Through the group I've been introduced to people, places and activities I may never have tried on my own (museums, restaurants, independent films, architectural tours, etc.) partly because they're no fun to do alone. The people I've met are a very diverse group, friendly and welcoming.


2 people like this
Posted by notimportant
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 30, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Look... I wouldn't join these groups anyway, but where I AM a member (FB for example) I use ad blocking features in my web browser that easily blocks almost everything that is ad based. So far "Ad-Block Plus" has remained effective and makes my privacy (and eye sight) free from unnecessary useless and mind numbing stupid ads. If any website thinks they have my personalized attention, they are sadly mistaken, because most websites I visit are completely free of any displayed ads. Some sites (like Forbes) will block access to their content, but then most content they have is readily available anywhere else. And NO, I do not care about their ad revenue, since I refuse to be (as someone previously posted) someone's product.


Like this comment
Posted by Barbara B.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:01 pm

Picket Fence started in Menlo Park, because Ms. Pandey is a member of our community. She has been present at most of the social functions, she personally comments and answers questions online, and she is working very hard to facilitate connections between the membership and community entities such as the Library and The Peninsula Volunteers. What she and Mr. Tam are creating is a social organization that puts neighbors in touch with each other and gets them out to participate in the many things the community has to offer. This is a very different experience from the online social networking that I have done before.
Being a start-up that will eventually need to make money does not take away from the value that it's adding to our community.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 31, 2016 at 12:24 am

Picket Fence sounds alot like it's trying to be a subset of Meetup.com, which for example has a Menlo Park centered group of 283 single women over 40, though they've just had a handful of happy hours, dinners or movies nights so far. Hundreds of other local special-interest Meetup groups. I'm not a member but occasionally encounter Meetup hiking groups in our great Open Space preserves, or the Meetup birders group which is affiliated with Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. I believe they are monetized by charging $100-$200 annually to each of their 200,000+ groups worldwide, which looks like usually less than a dollar per member, facilitated by the online payment service provider WePay.com


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2016 at 3:27 am

I don't object to an organization needing to make money either by advertising or subscription. What I do object to is insisting on personal information such as drivers license or utility bills. What difference does it make to an organization like this whether one of their members lives in Menlo or Palo Alto, for instance? They do not need this information to continue their community meetings. The do not need to prove residency for reasons AYSO or Little League need to prove residency. They are not in competition with other groups and they are not a school district either. The only reason I can see for this information is to sell the members' email addresses with street addresses, phone numbers, etc. and since they also discover demographic information such as age, hobbies, interests, even ethnicity and languages spoken, this information would become a very valuable commodity which could be sold.

That is my only reason for suspicion about this group.


Like this comment
Posted by Barbara Wood
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 31, 2016 at 10:18 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

Ms. Pandey says that Picket Fence plans to soon also offer an option, for those who don't mind a short delay in signing up, to verify their residence by receiving a postcard with a signup code.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 31, 2016 at 10:41 am

That postcard option is an innovative way to force exclusivity. The most obvious work-around for an outsider would at least require a conspirator with a Palo Alto address (or whatever zip-code you wish to claim).


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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