Whatever happened to Asmallworld?

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Asmallworld, the social network for a rather self-selecting elite, was launched several years ago by Swedish Investment banker and INSEAD Alumnus Erik Wachtmeister. Back then he’d deicded to tap into the evolving microcosm of social networking. In that era it was Myspace that was making its way as the leading social net aside from Friendster et al. Specialized social networks were still scarce. Wachtmeister hit up this niche of a an international network of affluent and influential people. Asmallworld grew to a userbase of initially 30,000 users, and later 500,000. So what happened?

In 2006, US movie giants Harvey and Bob Weinstein – notably being responsible for blockbusters such as the Scary movie series – acquired a significant stake in the company for an undisclosed amount and made it their first internet investment. Though this move was covered by numerous outlets, since then it has gone rather quiet with the invitation only social network.

With Facebook striving to become the world’s leading social network and managing to embrace people no matter what age, race or wealth, ASW had to redefine itself in order to prove its relevancy. Looking at the latest Quantcast data also gives you a feeling that it’s userbase has been declining in the face of Facebook’s march.

Recently aSmallWorld underwent some relatively unknown yet major changes in its stakeholder structure and the product itself. Among others changes, Joe Robinson joined the company as its CEO, Neil Capel as its CTO and Wachtmeister moved to the Chairman position.

And after a tough financial year for the Weinstein’s movie studio, The Weinstein company sold its stake to 25-year old Swiss native Patrick Liotard-Vogt as it’s lead investor, along with an Austrian Advertising CEO, Leandro Sanchez (founder of Geschenkidee.ch, who exited to Ringier in 2008) and Stephane Doutriaux (Founder of Poken).

Liotard-Vogt now refers to ASW as a “trusted community”, rather than an “elite social network”. They plan to “add a real value to reality, not only to one’s online connections”, and even thinks that “Facebook is complementary to ASW”.

As with every other startup they are obviously developing an iPhone App for making reservations at elite hotels, and allowing users to upgrade everything from flight tickets to hotel rooms. I assume that in order to drive revenue and focusing on it’s core business of “affluent individuals” they’ll start rolling out premium memberships. Clearly other startups in the premium travel and lifestyle segment prove that there are people out there willing to pay for concierge or luxury services. But ASW needs to transform itself as a product and from a business perspective it needs to generate significant revenue from a certain percentage of it’s current userbase of around 600,000 members whether they are elites or not.

New majority shareholder Liotard-Vogt plans to apply his previous experience at students.ch and usgang.ch, both sold to Axel Springer. He is also involved as lead investor and chairman of Poken.com, the Lausanne-based Start-up which won The Europas for “best gadget” in 2009.

Eventually ASW is competing with other more or less successful invitation-only companies such as SchwarzeKarte.de (Germany) or the bigger and more international Decayenne.

Being originally a European company, then becoming a US company with offices in New York City, ASW is now a European company again.

It will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

  • http://www.the-bestsellers.com/ weerapat

    Now. I think facebook is cool on the world.

  • http://www.meebee.com JD

    I am a member of ASW, but can frankly say I rarely use it due to its extremely poor UI (esp. its navigation & communication UI), and unlike FB it continues to log you out which sucks for the time-poor). It does however have many great aspects & features to it which FB doesnt have.

    However I have seen some improvements recently, & some minor web2.0 integration, a good sign from the new chairman Patrick Liotard-Vogt. If it keeps up some of those lost users may return (& more freq).

    • http://www.myspace.com/whitepowdergold JAMIE JORDAN

      hey there I am in a music group and I produce house music under the name whitepowdergold I am interested in becoming a member of asmallworld is there any chance you could invite me or know somone who can thanks! It would be much appreciated!

    • Mariana

      I travel a lot and I’m usually the one who is in charge of making all the plans. I’d LOVE to have an invite, it would make it so much easier, is there any way you could give me one? Thank you!


    • daisy

      Hey I’m from zurich and a few friends of mine are already members but they can’t invite me. If there’s a way to send me an invitation at bluemarine@hotmail.ch I would really appreciate that.

  • http://www.meebee.com JD

    PS: The FB share link doesnt seem to work. Guess a FB issue, not TC.

    Here are some interesting videos re ASW in their early days on CNN & CNBC:



  • Boris

    Your info is WAY out of date ‘Joe Robinson joined the company as its CEO, Neil Capel as its CTO and Wachtmeister moved to the Chairman position’

    this all happened 4 years ago, where are you guys getting your info? Neil Capel has been gone for over 3 years.

  • Louise

    Good grief. The amount of factual errors is astounding. Some have been mentioned. Decayenne has about 30,000 members compared to ASW’s 600,000, so it is hardly bigger. The amount of the Weinstein investment can be found with this new-fangled Google: about $4 million at a valuation of $12 million.

    This is a abysmally shoddy research and writing.

    ASW is collapsing as suggested, however, with no strategy for anything.

  • Harvey

    Neil left asmallworld nearly four years ago. Joe Robinson was hired just over three years ago.

    Michael, TC’s editorial quality is going south fast. This posting abot asw is embarrasingly amateurish.

  • JMP

    agree – schwarzekarte can’t even be called a social network any more – they’ve gone offline completely in terms of business model doing little more than emailing their user base to participate in parties they host.

    better speak to the people you write about or s/b who knows them first :)

  • http://www.zinnaglism.com Lukas Zinnagl

    Hi everybody,

    thanks for your viable and helpful comments.

    Please note that Robinson’s and Capel’s position within the company are dated to 2006 as outlined in the post.

    New, however is it’s new shareholder structure with Liotard-Vogt and several other guys.

    I would be very glad to see some comparable examples of companies within the genre of ASW is acting at. I’d think that i.e. beautifulpeople.com isn’t really part of this – but as mentioned – I happily welcome your suggestions.

    Other than that please excuse potential misunderstandings and not 100% up to date information.


  • John Stevens

    I joined ASW in 2004 and Erik Wachtmeister really created a unique and trusted place on line. It is obvious that the Americanization of the site after Weinstein and CEO Joe Robinson took over in 2006 was not good for the company or its global audience. I hope Liotard and crew can replace the US team so the site can regain its European touch.

  • http://raxraxrax.com/2010/02/06/links-for-2010-02-05/ links for 2010-02-05 | raxraxrax.com

    […] Whatever happened to Asmallworld? Asmallworld, the social network for a rather self-selecting elite, was launched several years ago by Swedish Investment banker and INSEAD Alumnus Erik Wachtmeister. Back then he’d deicded to tap into the evolving microcosm of social networking. In that era it was Myspace that was making its way as the leading social net aside from Friendster et al. Specialized social networks were still scarce. Wachtmeister hit up this niche of a an international network of affluent and influential people. Asmallworld grew to a userbase of initially 30,000 users, and later 500,000. So what happened? (tags: asmallworld) […]

  • Jonathan Fianu

    To echo the others, not a great article really. I am not an expert on ASW, but there are some glaring mistakes in the text. Anyway that asside, I guess I would like to present my opinion about ASW: I personally think it is a very useful network. I am a young entrepreuer, and I remember asking a friend of mine for an invite 2 years ago. He finally extended me one, and I have been using it more and more ever since. I have secured investment for several of my projects in Russia (seed financing) – this is an area that is notoriously hard to find an investor due to the perception people have of Russia (I am operating outside Moscow – in Kazan). I have since been extended two rounds of invitations and provided invites to others who have found it useful. I have also made a number of small investments myself.

    I dont use FB anymore, I dont use Linkedin, Xing, Twitter or any other social network. Time is extremely valuable, so for me ASW is the first place I log on. Asside from the business potential, the networking is great, both online and in the real world – the events system is fantastic. Yes, I think the GUI needs to improve somewhat, but I think its one of the most useful networks out there. I personally dont care to write 140 Characters, I want to do deals, meet people, and make use of my time.

    The last time I would add is people need to manage thier expectations. No online network will be perfect – I tink by definition the interaction is somewhat limited – I find so many people moaning its not exclusive enough, or they cant find investment on ASW. The network is there to foster trust and relationships, you get as much out as you put in.

    Anyway thats my 2 cents.

  • http://www.oc-swimwear.co.uk Oli

    Intersting article even with the errors; members of the proletariat like myself had no idea about such elite social networking sites. I was aware that the elite networked more than others anyway – as in business I have learnt that its much more about ‘who you know, not what you know’, but I had no idea it was so organised. I figured they just used FB and MS like the rest of us.

    Funny how it went downhill went it became ‘Americanised’ – that should have been predictable!

  • http://fashionablymarketing.me/2010/02/02-14-2010-fashion-marketing-links-round-up/ 02.17.2010: Fashion Marketing Links Round-Up «FMM

    […] Whatever Happened To A Small World (TechCrunch) […]

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  • Lee Ann Schneider

    I learned of ASmallWorld through the NYTimes Real Estate Section. Someone, who is a member, used the site to market and sell their home to an overseas family. We would like to sell our home this way and need to become a member. Anyone with info on how to gain membership would be greatly appreciated!!

  • druid

    ASW is dying a silent death as can be seen from the web stats..Compared to others, its utility has been miniscule for its followers..also, interface is anything but user-friendly.

  • Brenda Johnson

    I agree that ASW has become too big (600,000)…Most of its original members are now preferring smaller and much more exclusive sites such as Decayenne, Elixio and Luxurysociety….But to compare this type of networks to FB or Twitter would be wrong since they target a very different niche…

  • Karl

    Asw is bigger than ever, and has lost some of it’s original appeal. However, I still prefer it over Decayenne or Elixio. The good thing about Asw is that you can actually use it for business. I have hired two persons through the network, rented apartments in three different countries and gotten hundreds of great new connections in my industry. So to me, it is extremely useful – BUT, the more shallow jetset features are of less interest.

  • http://www.riccomondo.com/ Luxury

    But where i get a invate for ASW? I do not find invation codes on any forums or links.

  • laxx

    The author does not really seem to know about this website. I am an ASW member for several years and the information given does not reflect what ASW is whatsoever.

    An iPhone app so that we can book elite hotels or upgrade my plane ticket??? You know that ASW is not a travel agency right?!

    @ Karl
    I totally agree with you

    @ Luxury
    You cannot find invitation codes in forums. You have to be invited by someone who has invitation rights, which is the minority of the members. This person must think that you actually ‘fit’ within the community. Without having a decent network that is already part in this community you won’t find it very useful anyways. People trust each other in this network, therefore i will be tough actually being invited if you don’t fit in.

  • PJ

    I joined ASW at the very start and it was great. It was a place where great people behaved positively towards others. It was a place that was fun but one where you could actually get great invites, meet fantastic people, etc. Now it is dull and the management have turned it into a boring collection of oddbods who frankly wouldn’t be welcome in my home. Shame on them.

    • Suril

      can you  invite me please?
      suril_patel@hotmail:disqus .co.uk

  • Reader

    I joined ASW in July 2004 – very early on – and was an active member. I no longer post to the site or can be bothered with it. Facebook simply blew ASW away. I know numerous people who, like me, used to be active on ASW but now use Facebook and no longer bother with their ASW account. I echo the view above: those currently active in the forums of ASW are “a boring collection of oddbods who frankly wouldn’t be welcome in my home.”

  • Marie


    could somebody invite me to asmallworld? thanx!!

  • GiaM

    Dear ASW members,

    I have to say that I find asking/begging to be invited in ASW embarrassing and poor form… perhaps I’m just shy or proud or both. On the other hand, if this is the only way in, it’s the only way in- one needs to be a little aggressive at times.

    Many derogatory remarks were made about this site (sour grapes, anyone?), mainly concerning the fact that it’s so difficult to get in.
    Whilst I personally am not a member, I do think it’s actually okay to have some exclusivity, it only makes the place more sought after. If diamonds were widely available, the price would drop to nothing, etc (actually that’s a poor analogy, but you get the gist).

    I do use FB and it’s okay to keep in touch with family and friends but I also find it a tad childish.

    I do hope that perhaps one day I might be a member of ASW but it would be nice to be invited for merit.
    I agree with some comments, this place isn’t so one can rub shoulders with the elite but to be connected with people from the same background as you. Hopefully.

  • George

    Have some invites left for sale. If interested please write under dirkdiggla@gmx.at.

    • Pink Taco Eater

      for sale? are you for real?

      • Eastside10002

        Sadly, he’s for real. I have friends in ASW that do not have invites, so I’m left out. Nobody seems to be kind enough to send invites without trying to find the highest bidder. If anyone has invites that they’re okay with pasing my way, please let me know. If you’re in the NYC area, I’ll even meet you first so you know I’m aSW kind of girl.

      • Emily Khouri

        Whats your email address?

      • Alex

        Hi Emily, I tried emailing you, but apparently it went to the wrong email.  I’d really appreciate it if you could send an invite my way…  
        please lets get in touch @  tsilogia (at) gmail (dot) com

        many thanks!

      • guest
      • Guest

        I would really appreciate if you could send me an invitation as well, please. Here is my e-mail address: Freund_Saskia@web.de

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