Boston--I just met with Andy Estes, the ambitious CEO of Nearby Networks, which runs FindNearby.net. This service is a mashup of Google Maps, Amazon, eBay, Craiglist, and WalMart.com. You tell it where you are and what you are looking to buy, and it will find the items available for sale near you. Items are color-coded on the map by type of sale (auction, private party sale, retail). Auctions about to expire are red.
It's a really cool way to find an item you're looking for if you're itching to hop in the car to go get it. And if you happen to be looking for a game console, there are special versions of FindNearby, wii.findnearby.net and ps3.findnearby.net, that give you cool radar scope diagrams showing you where the nearest consoles for sale are, as well as a bit more data to help you select a place to buy from.
The technology is also being applied at a small social network for motorcycle riders, GroupRider.com. It's being used to help riders hook up with each other for rides. And launching soon, AutosNearby.net and DatesNearby.net (which could be a great resource for single people who are selecting a neighborhood to move to).
But all that, Estes animatedly told me, is just Phase I of his grand vision.
Estes wants to build a platform for people passionate about particular interests--car makes, dog breeds, and so on--and then use those social networks for two things. First, as targets for laser-focused product marketing, and second, for demand aggregation: He'd like to give the groups an in to the companies that make the products and services they care about, the idea being that an organized clan of 100 BMW motorcycle owners in Los Angeles can make more of a difference in how BMW designs its next bike than a bunch of individuals with isolated gripes. It's Eventful for products.
Neither interest-based social networking nor demand aggregation are new ideas, and it's a long way between creating commerce mashups and building, essentially, unions for consumers. However, Estes' board of directors is made up of people with deep experience in direct marketing and advertising, so he might just find a way to make it work. In the meantime, check out FindNearby.net. It's useful.
See also our other favorite Craigslist mashup: ListPic.