First up, I wanted to extend a warm and heartfelt THANK YOU! To the WAYN team, particularly Maartje our Product Analyst and of course the entire Polish Team for working long hours over the past few weeks to deliver what turned out to be a relatively successful release!
It was good to be there in Poland along with Jerome and Maartje, for the week leading up to the big release to appraise the team individually and work with them on the final stages of the release and introduce to them what they have to look forward to for an even bigger release early next year! It was also good to catch up with some of the team socially, and we managed to join some of them for dinner and also for a good game of football and volleyball! Good team spirit was shown and it made me realize that we need to try har
der to instill this kind of activity in the UK if possible, although it is invariably harder in London!
I thought I’d give everyone an update following our most recent release which went live about a week ago, to highlight some of the cool new features that we’ve launched, and to also give you a low down on our time at Le Web in Paris last week and what’s been happening this week so far…
Our latest release (version 6.7, aptly based on the fact that it represents our 7th major release this year and is the 6th year that the WAYN website has been in existence (can you believe it!). There are always small releases done in between, but this was perhaps the biggest release we have made since re-launching WAYN in March 2005 when we when from 45,000 members to over 1 million in less than 6 months!
So why was this release such a big deal? Well, we decided to partition the WAYN database and have the mailbox (our most popular section of WAYN, where all the interaction and messaging happens) sit on a separate database. We also streamlined the overall look and feel of the messaging platform, which included separating out messages from notifications. See the screenshot below:
We’ve also made it much easier to send other forms of messages such as SMS and Ecards – see screenshot below:
We also converted our Points system into Credits, which users can redeem against benefits such as Sending Gifts and Say Hello’s. We’ve already seen hundreds of thousands of credits being consumed with Gifts proving to be very popular indeed, particularly with the upcoming festive season approaching! To get a glimpse of how it works, take a look at the screenshots below…
There were a number of other changes that took place as well, but to find out what, you’ll have to log in and take a look for yourself We are really excited by the new strategic focus that we have had for the past few months and are looking forward to the releases to follow. In fact the next release is taking place just before Christmas and will include some exciting new features that will help our users better take advantage of the new Credits system, including Super Rates, so watch this space…
Le Web 2008 (Paris, France)
We also attended Le Web last week in Paris, courtesy of the lovely people at Microsoft – Thanks Bindi Karia and Julien Codorniou for everything! It was so nice of them to provide us with the opportunity to have our own booth at the event in their Biz Spark showcase. We have a really good relationship with Microsoft and in fact use their technology to run our database on, as we found it to be much more reliable and faster performing than any other alternative and we tested pretty much all of them! We also code in Microsoft languages such as VB and .Net (well not me anyway as I cant even put a basic page of HTML together, but the team at large of course )
There were a lot of people at Le Web and we managed to meet some very interesting and influential people. It was also good to catch up with Nic Brisbourne our Investor Director from DFJ Esprit and of course Brent Hoberman, our Chairman, who took the time to hang out with us at our booth.
The MySpace party that was organised as the evening entertainment was a bit of a let down but we managed to get the usual Internet crowd from the UK, including Mike Butcher, Paul Walsh, Hermione Way etc, to come down to what was in the end a dead night out in San Michelle, but it was still a good laugh! I also enjoyed catching up with Jerome’s family whilst in Paris. His Dad has a really important job as Director of the Medicine Academy, so they live in a flat which is literally in the grounds of a St Paul’s like cathedral!
When we got back to London, the whole WAYN team managed to dress up in Christmas fancy dress, with most of the girls as Angels and many of the boys as Santa, apart from Jerome, who made a dashing Santa’s little helper! Our Xmas party turned out to be a hoot, with a combination of a nice up meal in Inferno’s of all places, and breakdancing in Santa outfits! I would share some of the photos with you but we are saving them for our internal Xmas newsletter first!
This week, it also seems to be Christmas party after Christmas Party! there was Twinterval, where my good friend Andy Mcloughlin did a great job of launching twitorfit.com with some of his cronies, buy dishing out free boxer shorts and hot pants – ingenious! I didn’t manage to make it because of work commitments but our new and determined Marketing Manager, Marta Datkiewicz did, and by the sounds of things, she did a great job of getting to know the local twitter crowd!
I also did a speech for the folks at Virgin Media, who invited me as their outside speaker to join them in their announcement of ultra fast 50Mbps broadband, which to me represents one of the most interesting advancements in broadband technology in the UK to date! Good news for me as I will be able to upgrade my home connection from 20Mbps and enjoy HDTV streaming and download a DVD quality movie in less than 3 minutes – result! It was great also to meet the Chief Executive Neil Berkett and Ashley Stockwell, who is the Managing Director of Brand and Marketing at Virgin Media. It would be great to do something with them on WAYN where we get to showcase to our UK members what an amazing product this is through a brand engagement campaign! Thanks also to Gareth Mead for inviting me in the first place and looking after me! It was a privilege to be sharing my thoughts on the impact of this broadband revolution in front of a full house of press representatives. It was a big announcement for Virgin Media and I am proud that WAYN was associated with it. As a clear brand advocate and customer of them, I wish them the best of luck with their market leading strategy and I am sure they will win some valuable market share through the course of 2009.
Yesterday, Jerome sat on the panel for the TechCrunch event that took place here in London, and from what I understand, he did a great job of standing up to Mike Butcher’s challenges, highlighting why we should not be so affected by the downturn as it was proposed by Mike Butcher, as although we are travel focused, we have a good mix of revenue streams with advertising and brand sponsorship being the mainstay, as well as membership and now, micro-transactions, which we see as a great growth opportunity going forwards. Apparently my other good pal Andy Scott from Rummble also helped steal the show with his panel session against the lawyers – well done Andy!
I turned up for the ChristmasCrunch part of the event, which was the after party of you like. It was great to see all the familiar faces from the Internet and Digital Media world, many of whom I have come to respect. Jerome and I took the opportunity to introduce our Marketing Manager Marta to most of the influencers and people that we think that she would get on well with. I personally also enjoyed catching up with Paul Walsh, founder of Wubud – a mobile social network; Scott Gallagher who used to run online for Sky and a few other things and now has his fingers in a number of pies (I met Scott on Seedcamp in Kiev a few months back and we got on really well over some beers!); Mike Geer, who is one of the Directors of a huge but otherwise unknown (in the UK) site called badoo.com and Michelle Dewberry (previous winner of the Apprentice) who made sure I was dressed properly and who is setting up a cool lifestyle oriented ecommerce business called Chiconomize, which with her determination, I am sure will prove to be a success. My lasting memory of the event though will be of Hermione head banging to the Killers on stage, with Mike Butcher chanting on the mic in a Santa Claus outift – superb!