Facebook Challenged by Swedish Count’s Jet-Set Website
(Corrects sixth paragraph of story published Aug. 22 to show that Wachtmeister left ASmallWorld in 2010, not 2009.)
The Swedish count who founded one of the first social networks is back with a new invitation-only site to attract jet-setters and the well-heeled away from Facebook Inc. (FB) and LinkedIn.
The BestofAllWorlds site, which starts Aug. 27, will allow users to mingle online with like-minded people, find restaurants and nightlife in city guides and discover who’s attending events such as Art Basel in Miami and England’s Royal Ascot horse racing, said Erik Wachtmeister, whose father was a Swedish ambassador to the U.S.
“Facebook is a monopoly in the social sphere, but it only gives little value,” Wachtmeister said in an interview in London. “We can deliver clever filters, cut through the mess and get information that’s relevant and we can trust.”
Wachtmeister is betting on exclusivity and users wanting more control over their data to attract a wealthy audience that appeals to marketers plying products including yachts, watches, wine and liquor. The site is being financed with his own money, as well as funds from a member of the Saudi royal family and investors in Europe and the U.S.
BestofAllWorlds will run ad-free for the first month. Money will also be generated from fees from services such as hotel and restaurant bookings, Wachtmeister said.
Wachtmeister was a pioneer of social networking. He founded ASmallWorld in 2004, an invitation-only website that catered to a wealthy crowd where users could meet other world travellers, make business connections and find services such as nannies. The Weinstein Co. media business founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein made an investment in the site in 2006. Wachtmeister left ASmallWorld in 2010. Wachtmeister said he had unsuccessfully tried to reacquire the site with backing from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
BestofAllWorlds sent out 5,000 invitations in May to an exclusive group and the site now has almost 25,000 members, Wachtmeister said. He is now seeking another round of financing for $5 million to $10 million.
The site enables users to set their profile to one of four modes -- family, social, party or professional -- and join “worlds” or discussion forums focusing on business, food and wine, health or a better world, which includes charitable and philanthropic topics.
The “worlds” section will be moderated by a well-known personality -- journalist Riz Khan has signed up to moderate better world -- and will expand to more topics focusing on subjects such as new mothers, film and polo, Wachtmeister said.
Wachtmeister, a former investment banker, is releasing BestofAllWorlds with his wife, the countess Louise Wachtmeister, a former Swedish national champion in the 400-meter and 800- meter relay.
An iPhone application for the site with information on city guides became available in late July.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at firstname.lastname@example.org