Simon Cook enters WAYN's world



Esprit in Social Networking !  It’s all over blogland so might as well speak about it: Simon Cook‘s spirited latest dish combines social networking ingredients with a hint of travel and is called WAYN or Where Are You Now ?

WAYN, started by Jerome Touze and Peter Ward, is a premium-based social community that builds its users experience around movement and travel: find your friends or make new friends wherever you are around the world.  Location + the endless movement of youth + the Web = a new social experience.

Wayn_founders_2

The company started out in late 2002 and first launched around May 2003.  They had a few hiccups in the early years and irked some people through doubtful use of email, but live and learn.  After a succesful relaunch in mid 2005 they now have multiple million uniques a month and is apparently one of the top 10 UK community websites.  I am sure they will delight us with up-to-date stats soon.

I find WAYN very interesting as it is a unique beast: it combines aspects of dating (including monthly subscriptions), trip advisory, social networking and location based services.  Think Match.com meets TripAdvisor and Friendster and somehow the resulting Frankenstein works.  Or in the monster’s unforgettable words: "Friends, Good !".  There are folks who compare it to travel advisory like 43places but I think that’s missing the point: what’s happening to your friends right now is much more compelling than finding the best local tea house.

The upside challenge for WAYN is the same as for every other social network: break out of its initial stronghold (UK and antipodeans) and make an impact in the US market.  It can be big without the US, it would be a lot bigger with 10M US uniques.  But I think its differentiated positioning should help it build a sustainable position.

I understand the company is in the process of building a great board which includes Brent Hoberman.  It has been slightly underfunded historically although it had the perfect angel in the shape of Stephen Pankhurst of FriendsReunited fame.  With Esprit on board they should be on their way to the next level.  So watch out for these guys.

[UPDATE: looks like it’s Stuart Chapman at Esprit on the board]
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