When we get stuck, we look to others for advice on tackling issues. The same is true for top leaders in need of reliable business advice. However, the number of colleagues at their level whom they can trust to offer savvy business guidance is usually limited.
This has proven true for Sarah Friar, the CEO of hyperlocal social networking platform Nextdoor, whose use soared amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, Nextdoor launched across the United States in October 2011 and now has roughly 10 million users across 11 countries. The platform connects neighbors by allowing them share advice on local businesses, news updates, recommendations and referrals.
Friar, a native of Northern Ireland and previously Square's chief financial officer for six years, succeeded Nirav Tolia as Nextdoor’s CEO in 2018 upon his retirement. Friar’s experience also includes a stint as a software analyst at Goldman Sachs.
She is widely credited with taking Nextdoor to new heights and making the platform the household name it is today. In 2019, under Friar’s leadership Nextdoor successfully closed a $170 million growth round in which it was assigned a $2.1 billion valuation.
The University of Oxford graduate, who also serves on the boards of Walmart and Slack, shares that she has to come to rely on four trusted advisers in her role as Nextdoor’s CEO. Her inner circle comprises:
- Harry Friar. Former manager at Herdman's Mill in Norther Ireland and father of Sarah Friar. Hailing from the village of Sion Mills in Northern Ireland, the Friar family witnessed a three-decade conflict between Catholics and Protestants that killed and injured thousands of residents. For years, Mr. Friar volunteered with the village's school board and local civic organizations for the betterment of the people, earning him an honor from Queen Elizabeth II. Friar looks to her father's example as she works build stronger neighborhoods on Nextdoor, crediting her father for his dedication to fostering kinship among residents.
- Mary Meeker. General partner at Bond Capital who also served as a Morgan Stanley technology analyst in the 1990s, where she was named “Queen of the Net” for her stock predictions. When Friar joined Goldman Sachs’ research division, she recalls that there was only one name at the top in her field: Mary Meeker. Ever since, she has regarded Meeker as a role model. Meeker is a Nextdoor investor and joined its board of directors in 2019.
- David Viniar. Former chief financial officer at Goldman Sachs and a Wall Street expert whom Friar persuaded to join Square's board in 2013. Friar said she relied on Viniar's steady nerves to get through Square's unsteady 2015 IPO, which valued the company below the range its bankers sought.
- John Hope Bryant. Founder, chairman and CEO of nonprofit Operation Hope, which aims to raise the credit scores of people from underprivileged groups and to narrow the racial wealth gap. The lending operation that Friar helped to build at Square, known as Square Capital, was created to give loans to small businesses in need of capital but rebuffed by traditional banks. Friar and Bryant developed a friendship that continued after Friar’s departure to Nextdoor. When protests spread nationwide after the killing of George Floyd in June 2020, Friar relied on Bryant's advice concerning how Nextdoor could be more helpful to minority and under-represented communities. Friar also credit Bryant with developing the concept of community moderators and delineating their importance for Nextdoor.