Introducing Locasaur, And Why It Matters.

My name is Simon Schwartz, and I speak for the local places: from small-town main streets to urban neighborhoods with that certain feel you can’t find anywhere else. These places are disappearing. All around the country, they are being replaced with strip malls, urban decay, and suburban sprawl. But thankfully, many of us are rising to the challenge of preserving local places and the quality of life they represent, and I’m beyond excited to announce that I’m throwing my hat into the ring as well. Tackling the challenge of celebrating and preserving local places is the project of my life, and I founded my startup Locasaur to do just that.

Here’s the backstory: The first thing anyone ever learns about me is that I grew up on a farm in rural Virginia. A century from now, I want our family farm, and the charming small towns that surround it, to look and feel mostly like they do today. I meet a lot of folks who assure me that this vision is plain-old unrealistic, citing facts like our exponentially increasing population growth and rampant city sprawl. But I disagree. I think we’ve never been in a better position to have our cake and eat it too — to have a world that is modern, and connected, and technologically efficient, but just as beautiful and natural and filled with unique places.

Here’s the first step: Have one of a kind local independent businesses that define the community — Mom and Pop’s, Main Streets staples, neighborhood joints, and and all variety of small shops where everyone knows your name. Having successful businesses like these is the secret to creating vibrant local communities that have a distinct feel and their own micro-culture . The presence of that micro-culture and feel makes it that much more difficult for the “anywhere USA” development to creep in, and erode the essence of what makes that place special. That’s where Locasaur comes into the picture.

V1 of Locasaur’s Local Feed

Locasaur is a combined web and mobile platform for living locally, anywhere. It’s a way to promote and stimulate the local businesses that are the first line of defense against the sort of development that destroys the essence of local places. For local business owners, Locasaur is a digital bulletin board where they can share anything they want — sales, promotions, stories, events , etc. — for the local community to see and a channel to send notifications directly to their regular customers on the platform. For individuals, it’s a way to always keep up with local favorites when you’re home and search for authentic local places when you’re traveling; a handheld portal into what’s local wherever you are. You’ll find no chains, franchises, or big box retailers on Locasaur. We are entirely, wholeheartedly, and unapologetically, local.

And here’s why: I truly believe that people want local, especially my generation. They want the clothes they wear, the food they eat, their every experience, to have a narrative to it. Being local and independent means being unique; having a narrative and a certain authenticity that, by definition, can’t be found elsewhere. Yet “elsewhere” doesn’t seem to mean as much as it used to. In our increasingly interconnected world, everyone can — digitally, at least — be anywhere. All this online interconnectedness brings an inescapable homogenizing effect, right?

Nope, dead wrong. We don’t need to sacrifice authenticity. Actually, it should be easier than ever for local business owners to capitalize on both trends — the fact that the world is more connected than ever, and that, even in such a world, people increasingly want to stay unique — to succeed without having to give up their local identity. All they need is a platform that offers them the digital tools they need to succeed in the 21st century without asking them to compromise the local authenticity that makes them special.

The original Locasaur and I on the farm.

The American author and environmentalist (and farmer!) Wendell Berry once noted that if you don’t know — don’t truly understand — where you are, you don’t know who you are. I want to make sure we never fail to truly understand where we are, and Locasaur can help make that a reality. I’m fortunate to have a dynamite team working with me on this and a promising group of first users lined up, and I believe that the trends towards local are real and here to stay. It’s an exciting time to get started on a challenge that is too important to shy away from. I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t feel something wonderfully powerful about being back on my farm or in my local community, and I know others feel a similar connection to their own home places.

We’re busy doing testing and feedback sessions with a select group of local spots in West Village NYC and northern Virginia, so if you’re one of those people who feel as I do, find us on Facebook and Twitter to follow the action, and of course try us out when we’re live. If you happen to run a local business and want to join in, check out Locasaur.com to take your first step. Regardless, if any of the above piques your interest, let’s talk about it! I’m always reachable at simon@locasaur.com.

Oh, and about the name — since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved dinosaurs. They were larger than life, and completely unique. All of us “Locasaurs” love our authentic unique spots, and love living locally. Let’s not let ourselves go extinct! And let’s make sure our local communities don’t either.

Credit to Ned Brose, Jackie Luo, Amritha Musipatla, and Peter Schwartz for drafts/edits.