In 2011, Harvey Weinstein wrote in Newsweek that “one of my all-time doozies” was buying a controlling interest in the social network A Small World. Gawker described the site, in 2004, as an “online VIP club,” noting that its members looked for “highbrow fun: Argentinian polo horses for sale, New Delhi club recommendations, and Thanksgiving in London.”
Mr. Weinstein said his mistake was bombarding his upper-crust audience with advertising. “I ignored the technology and went after the bottom line,” he confessed.
A Small World founder Erik Wachtmeister, who is launching a new social network today called Best of All Worlds, would be inclined to agree with that reading. “A Small World had a European soul and it was very delicate,” said Mr. Wachtmeister, who left the company’s board in 2010. “It needed to be tended to.”
His new site, Best of All Worlds, caters to the same sort of people as did A Small World: those for whom social networking is as likely to take place in, say, Gstaad or St. Bart’s, as it is to take place online. Mr. Wachtmeister, the son of a Swedish diplomat who attended Georgetown University, then traveled the world as an investment banker, describes them as “three million people connected to three degrees of separation–counter to the common notion of six billion people connected by six degrees.
“There’s a strong index to finding out about each other, to advise one another about where to go on your honeymoon, to recommend an architect or a nanny.”
“We want to build an intimate network of people that know each other by two or three degrees of separation,” said Mr. Wachtmeister, who said he initially invited 5,000 people to pre-register what would become Best of All Worlds on May 18. “We picked that date because Facebook went public. That’d be a good birthday.”
While there was no content to enjoy on May 18, it apparently didn’t stop Best of All Worlders, as each one used their ten invites (a number Mr. Wachtmeister terms “liberal”) to swell the rolls to 25,000 members. Going forward, members will only be able to join Best of All Worlds through an invitation from an existing member. Like Mr. Wachtmeister’s initial vision for A Small World, this new site will focus on exclusivity and recommendations.
“If everyone can join something, it’s chaotic–like the Internet,” said Mr. Wachtmeister. “What you need is more filters.”
So what, precisely, is Best of All Worlds? Logging on in one of about 100 cities or resorts will generate a splash page with the skyline of that location, with sections for “people,” “events,” “restaurants,” and other ways to pass the time.
Users can also divide their profile into five “modes,” for which Mr. Wachtmeister recommends five different profile pictures. “When you’re in the office, you’re in professional mode. At happy hour, you’re in social mode, then when you go out for a party, you’re in party mode. Tomorrow morning, you’re with kids at the beach, you’re in family mode, then when you don’t want to be bothered in the afternoon you’re in private mode.”
In each mode, users can set their levels of privacy, and in all of them users can set “intents”: for instance, looking to play tennis in Geneva with anyone in one’s extended network or any friend of a friend. How, though, can Mr. Wachtmeister monetize a complicated social network without sacrificing the user’s enjoyment of the site? He mused for a moment: “People read newspapers and magazines, and there are ads: if you do it in a tasteful way, services that have interesting things to sell, there are ways to do it that it becomes playful and interesting.”
Mr. Wachtmeister, who was recently spotted breakfasting with the Winklevoss twins, is not bullish on Facebook, a site he sees as essentially different from Best of All Worlds by dint of its broad inclusivity: “They saturated the market by capturing a billion people. How much can you grow from there?”