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'We are not a community just for billionaires'
First things first: Best of All Worlds (BoAW) is by invitation-only. That should give you a fair idea about the exclusivity of this newly launched social network. Started by Erik Wachtmeister, a Swedish count, BoAW (25, 000+ members) is an online network for the swish set and for those who know all those in such private, members-only clubs. He talks to TOI-CREST about creating a platform for billionaires, high achievers and thought leaders
What is the difference between your first venture A Small World (ASW) and Best of All Worlds (BoAW)?
What happened with ASW is a long story and I prefer not to compare us to them. Other people managed ASW since 2008 after we took in The Weinstein Company as an investor. It was not a good fit. We pride ourselves in creating new thinking when it comes to social media. It is all about mirroring real life and focusing on our own tomorrows rather than other people's yesterdays. We are using a highly sophisticated platform built on Scala and Lift that will integrate all the latest tools to connect people with each other and with relevant data. We have a fundamental focus on what you can do with your own life and not what others already did. A key function for this is centred on our "Modes" and "Intents" otpions. You can change the mode of your account depending on the role you are playing at a given point: Professional During the Day, Social in the Evening, Party at Night, Family over the Weekend and so on. Intents drive what you want to do and with whom. It also makes you discover new people to do things with or activities or passions you did not know that you shared with many of your existing friends and connections.
Is this like Facebook but with extra filters?
BoAW is not similar to Facebook but is actually quite the opposite. In essence, we provide a service that I believe is completely missing today. Today, interactive media is dominated by backwards looking vanity-centric news feeds on one hand (Facebook) and a dry professional CV database on the other (LinkedIn). We are creating a platform where people can connect and explore what they want to do and with who, rather than looking at what they missed and living vicariously.
The goal is to create an intimate and trusted environment as opposed to the chaos and overflow of biased info that prevails online today. We are creating special interest communities, and for the same reason, we strive to attract people who have particular expertise and backgrounds and passions to share with others in their fields. We are building a tool that will become more and more useful and intelligent the more you and others use it.
We are providing an environment that is already prevalent in real life, similar to private country clubs, gents' clubs and conferences, to private parties, or your own dining room. We are engaging human behavior that has not yet effectively reached the online world.
Best of All Worlds is a complement to Facebook. We have a very different focus. It seems like we are filling a gap where Facebook is not active. In fact 90 per cent of what we do does not exist on Facebook: a global, local and member-based Event Guide, a comprehensive and user-generated City Guide, Trip Planner, Discussion Forums, People search around Location, Modes and Intents, and Global Worlds of shared interests to launch in the coming weeks. What we don't do is Farmville and Zynga, nor do we have a newsfeed, although we may add that later.
How do you screen subscribers? Is it only for high net worth individuals?
Not at all, it is very democratic in fact. All members that are invited get ten invitations that they can hand out. Once new members get invited beyond that they normally get some further invite rights. After that we select key connectors around the world that have strong networks in different fields or geographical areas. Our goal is to have an eclectic mix of people, diversified geographically, by age and by profession.
You also say that those with bad taste and no sophistication can be removed from the site. How do you judge bad taste?
We have done this before and have plenty of experience with this. When you manage a community that reaches into the 100s of thousands of people, it is like being a Mayor of a city. There are always a few troublemakers, and it is the few that can damage the trust of the many. Therefore we have guidelines and rules that need to be followed and we need to monitor activity on the site. The most effective way is to have a feedback loop whereby our members flag any inappropriate behavior. Examples include promoting, spamming, connecting aggressively, unsolicited communication and foul language.
Why should people sign up for it?
Ask yourself the question: "Would you rather focus on your own tomorrow or other people's yesterday?" If the answer is your own, then we can provide relevance, trust and meaning to your online interactions. There is too much indiscriminate noise online today. We need better filters, not more information. We need channels with structured information where we can access information on people, places and things that are contextually relevant.
What is the revenue model?
We already have a long list of outstanding brands and services that have contacted us in order to reach our demographic. The revenue model includes advertising, special offers, local listings, lead generation and premium membership that give special access.
Where is the funding coming from?
We have raised funds from a San Francisco based VC and private investors from Europe and the Middle East including a member of the Saudi Royal family.
How has the response been?
Overwhelming. We invited 5, 000 people several months before launch. We already have 25, 000 people from 150 countries that have registered and that are using the site.
How much would India figure in a network like this considering its high number of billionaires?
Again, we are not building a community just for billionaires. We are addressing the needs of well-educated people that are high achievers, thought leaders and passionate about many different things. I am sure some of the many Indian billionaires fall into this category.
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