Niche travel social network WAYN hits profitability, mobile apps on the way

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It’s been a while since we caught up with WAYN, one of the earliest social networks (so early they once charged for access). WAYN is a niche social network which focuses on the younger, aspirational traveling classes. Amazingly, despite the recession, they are still gap-yearing around the world using WAYN to meet fellow travelers, and there are now 15.5 million registered users globally.

More interestingly, London-based WAYN has revealed exclusively to TechCrunch Europe that the site is now in profit. And next month it is going mobile with an iPhone and Android application created jointly with UK mobile social startup Rummble. WAYN users will be able to check in to places, and Rummble will get access to the WAYN user base.

Although a sort of MySpace/Facebok for travel, WAYN’s closest competitors are TripAdvisor (which own Virtual Tourist) or publishers like the Lonely Planet. But unlike content publishers, WAYN has achieved this by tapping into national country tourism boards that want to engage more closely with a social network. These have now become a lucrative source of revenue. Tourist offices are advertising heavily on WAYN as a way to lure travellers to their countries.

WAYN’s focus now is creating a ‘dreams engine’ to sugest to users where they should go next and what to do based on statements of intent in their status update (which can be linked to Twitter). A sort of a Facebook ‘Suggested Friends’ but for travel. Some 30,000 activities now get get added a day, and some 20,000 photos are uploaded a day. A postcode database for 17 countries allows proximity matching.

The site has implemented Facebook Connect and generated 150,000 new users that way. Next up is allowing members to share content across to Facebook, along with design tweaks to simplify the site and speed it up.

In addition WAYN recently launched a separate standalone site in a brand extension, WAYN Dating. This is pushed across WAYN in an attempt to further monetise users. WAYN founder Pete Ward, Jerome Touze and Mike Lines have found that a significant number of WAYN members are single, hence the dating site.

But there is one thing about WAYN that has left me puzzled. According to the site, 60 percent of of WAYN users use it to make friends while traveling, so in other words, it’s not really about your existing social graph but about meeting new people. So that would probably account for why my WAYN account seems to be full of people I haven’t actually met, or know. This is probably something that wouldn’t bother a 20-something hitch hiking student. Me, just a little.

WAYN received $11M in Series A funding at the start of 2006. Ward and Touze and remain CEOs, Lines remains CTO, and although all three took money out of the company at that point, they are still there, making it happen, which goes to show the power of incentivising founders this way. Since then they’ve appointed Simon Guild as new Chairman, ex head of MTV in Europe.

  • markus

    It took them 15 million members/users to get to profitability? jeez.

  • Laurkos

    @Markus – twitter has probably over 50m users and still not profitable. Facebook now over 400m users and just starting to make money – seems to me the WAYN founders are working it pretty well.

  • http://www.iBidlow.com Oz

    I think that the launch of both a dating tool and a trip planning tool shows that WAYN is still not very sure what their service is actually about, or that they think that their members go on dream vacations with other members they met online…

    Having said that, the execution of the current homepage is terrific, its hard to stop browsing between the destinations and comments, though I would have allowed non-members access to more sections on the site instead of leaving it a closed members garden.

  • laurkos

    The Dating is something newly launched by the sounds of things to allow future cash diversification (re http://founders.wayn.com – more on their blog) – the Trip planning tool has been there since 2003 so definitely new – seems to me they are building an audience on Dating to make a distinction between the main travel utility and those using the social environment for dating which lets be frank, many communities get used that way…

  • Tim

    WAYN is like the ICQ of social network sites.

  • Mark Harley

    I agree with Oz – the homepage and latest layout looks great – they certainly have done a good job on the design – looks sleek. But WAYN clearly isnt for your existing social graph. Hence their differentiation I guess. Dopplr and tripit and other travel oriented sites have tried that angle too but never reached the scale.

  • http://www.hummba.com Mark

    Funny how 4SQ has a million users and every second story is about them and WAYN has 15 million and its called niche :)

  • http://MatadorNetwork.com Ross Borden

    I’ve been watching WAYN since the early days. It has always been a “dating site based around travel”…all of their features revolve around “finding m/f between the ages of #/#, coming to your city in the next day/week/month.

    Not surprising that they’ve launched a dating site to cater to their most loyal users. I’m sure they’ll do well, as dating is a huge market, but are you going to look at that girl on the homepage and tell me it’s a “travel site”?

  • http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/2010/05/wayn-hits-profitability-mobile-apps-on-the-way.html Social Networking Watch

    WAYN Hits Profitability, Mobile Apps On The Way…

    TECH CRUNCH – May 3 – WAYN is a niche social network which focuses on the younger, aspirational traveling classes. There are now 15.5M registered users globally and is now in profit. And next month it is going mobile with……

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  • Anonymous

    Is this WAYN site legit? It seems like a scammer site. A friend apparently “left a message” for me there, but it looked suspicious, because it didn’t say it was a membership invite. When I clicked through, it showed thumbnails of “People on WAYN you may also know” but didn’t list their names so I couldn’t tell if I knew them or not, but of course they were attractive people. Then when I actually created a brand new account, I already had 15 friends! And one of them had “liked” me! Clearly these were fake profiles. The whole site reeeeeks of SCAM. And it looks like MySpace. Furthermore it automatically assigned a crappy url to my profile. No thanks.

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/06/16/wayns-pivot-pays-off-as-traffic-triples-can-european-networks-thrive-against-facebook/ WAYN’s pivot pays off as traffic triples – can European networks thrive against Facebook?

    […] cofounders Peter Ward, Mike Lines and Jerome Touze started the site with £25,000. The site even reached profitability last […]

  • http://www.mark-wallis.com/2011/06/wayn%e2%80%99s-pivot-pays-off-as-traffic-triples-%e2%80%93-can-european-networks-thrive-against-facebook/ WAYN’s pivot pays off as traffic triples – can European networks thrive against Facebook? | Mark Wallis

    […] cofounders Peter Ward, Mike Lines and Jerome Touze started the site with £25,000. The site even reached profitability last […]

  • aira baxter

    Hmmm, I wonder if WAYN is a scam or not just like tompark said.

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