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Homeis wants to be a social network for urban immigrants

But it hates the word “immigrants.”

Homeis CEO Ran Harnevo
Homeis CEO Ran Harnevo
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Ran Harnevo grew up in Israel but moved to New York City in 2008. He sold his first company, for a bunch of money, two years later.

Since then, Harnevo has been traveling back and forth between his homeland and his new home and trying to figure what to do next.

Here is his newest idea: Homeis, a social network aimed at people just like Ran Harnevo: Urban immigrants trying to make their way in a new country while keeping ties to the place they came from.

Harnevo doesn’t like the term “immigrants,” by the way — he prefers “foreign-born.” Both terms seem loaded in the Trump era.

But whatever you call that population, Harnevo figures there are lots of them in big cities around the world, and he says they aren’t currently served by digital platforms.

That seems hard to reconcile, given that Facebook serves two billion users a month. Not to mention ad hoc social networks people construct with tools like WhatsApp and iMessage.

But Harnevo thinks his networks will be different, since they are aimed at connecting people within a specific geography, and because they are built specifically to help people in that space connect in person, share tips and services and everything else you need to get by in city life.

That still strikes me as something you could probably get on your own, organically. But Harnevo thinks there’s a market there. He’s also uninterested in using the same platform to connect other, non-immigrant groups of like-minded people who live in the same space. Like, say, the moms and dads of Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Harnevo’s first success came from digital advertising: He sold 5min, which aggregated and sold lots of digital video, to AOL for some $60 million. But Harnevo is pretty cynical about the digital ad market today; he figures Homeis will make its money by referring people to service providers, or facilitating money transfers back home, or other transactional opportunities.

You can see what he’s building yourself, but it will help if you speak Hebrew. Harnevo’s first version of the app is aimed, not surprisingly, at Israelis living in New York. Up next: French immigrants in New York, then Indians. But he wants to bring the same idea to other big international cities, like Toronto and London.

He has some money to try and make it happen: Harnevo has raised $4 million in a round led by Spark Capital, which also funded 5min; other backers include Oath CEO Tim Armstrong, who bought 5min when he ran AOL, and Adam Singolda, the CEO of Taboola — who is also an Israeli living in New York City.

This article originally appeared on

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