Until he met movie honcho Harvey Weinstein, Erik Wachtmeister had led a very charmed life. The son of a Swedish ambassador and a countess, Wachtmeister is not only a count but he was a popular investment banker who’d married a beautiful gold medalist and who joined his friends on exotic endeavors like wild boar hunts in the German forest.
Indeed, it was on such a trip in 1998 that Wachtmeister says he began thinking about A Small World, an exclusive, invitation-only social network for the wealthy and well-traveled that he and his wife, Louise, eventually launched in 2004.
ASW, as it came to be called, was quickly embraced by the jet set, who used the platform to locate the best helicopter services, sell charity ball tickets, and organize parties in Saint Tropez and other ritzy destinations. In fact, by 2006, Benchmark Capital was knocking at the door, and so was media mogul Harvey Weinstein.
With dreams of turning ASW into a major media brand, Wachtmeister opted for Weinstein’s involvement, selling him a controlling interest in a move that rather quickly produced “an outcome that wasn’t very favorable,” as Wachtmeister delicately describes the network’s demise. (Weinstein, who sold his stake to a Swiss entrepreneur in 2010, recently conceded that he virtually destroyed ASW by ignoring its users and technology and going “after the bottom line” by way of hard-core ad sales.)
“Looking back now,” says Wachtmeister, “I should have thought more of myself as a leader.”
Today, evidently, he does. In fact, after being elbowed aside by Weinstein and leaving ASW altogether in 2009, Wachtmeister is launching a new, exclusive social network that’s set to launch Monday. It’s called Bestofallworlds. And Wachtmeister’s argument for it is that smack dab in the center of Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and apps like Highlight that help people meet others nearby, there exists the need to meld them all. “There are these four major graphs where people are residing separately, and we’re going to integrate them,” he says.
The plan is to employ what he calls “modes,” “intents,” and “worlds” instead of “Likes.” For example, says Wachtmeister, unlike on Facebook, where a user tends to post pictures of the vacation he just took, a Bestofallworlds user might instead tell people that he’s in “family mode” with his kids on a visit to Stockholm. (Other modes include “social,” “party,” and “professional.”) That same user might also let his network know that one of his “intents” is to catch a photography exhibit so that those nearby, or who’ve recently visited Stockholm, can make recommendations.
Bestofallworlds will also debut with “worlds” of shared interests, “so that if parents of a new baby want to hook up with other new parents,” or wild boar hunters want to hook up with other wild boar hunters, or people with a particular medical condition want to share their experiences, they can, says Wachtmeister. “Eventually, we might have dozens of ‘worlds’ where there are maybe 50,000 to 100,000 members,” Wachtmeister says enthusiastically.
Of course, it isn’t clear that the world needs another invite-only social network, and Bestofallworlds is even more impenetrable than was ASW in its early days. Though Wachtmeister notes that 20,000 people have already preregistered to use the service, he also tells me that not all members can invite their friends to join — just those members who enjoy “invitation privileges.”
More, unlike ASW, Bestofallworlds is launching into a world that’s now saturated with ways for people to interact with luxury goods.
On the other hand, Wachtmeister’s argument – that people are tiring of spending 90 percent of their lives looking at other people’s news feeds – resonates. And at least some investors approve of his focus on once again connecting people who already have relationships, rather than introducing strangers.
Wachtmeister won’t disclose how much he has raised to date, but he says that Bestofallwords, which already employs 30 people, has secured a “seed” round from “several private investors based in Europe and the Middle East,” along with a California firm that he declines to name or characterize. And he says that he’ll “probably be interested in a Series A after we get some good metrics so we [can raise the round] at a decent valuation.”
Asked if he has any particular investors in mind, given that he expects two-thirds of his members to come from Europe (and that he was recently spotted meeting the Winklevoss twins for breakfast), Wachtmeister doesn’t miss a beat.
“We’re always hoping to speak with the right people.”
Image: Photo of Erik Wachtmeister and his wife and business partner Louise care of Bestofallworlds.