Archive for March, 2009

WAYN in top 5 companies in Telegraph 100 Growth Companies Index

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

We were delighted this morning to notice the good ranking of WAYN as part of the Telegraph 100 Growth Companies Index 

As described on the page, “The Telegraph High Growth index is a selection of privately owned UK-based companies that have high growth potential. Many will have some form of venture capital backing. We have not imposed an age cut off. Rather the index picks up companies that are at different points of the trajectory from unknown venture to stardom. Each company moves up or down the index based on its impact on the Internet and importance.”

Congrats to our friends at Huddle and Mydeco for making it to the rankings too :) 

Here are part of the rankings:

wayn-ranking

Its 5.30 pm – we are going full steam on the sales here at WAYN with a strong plan of attack for the month of April and some very interesting prospects coming up. Despite the advertising online taking a hit overall in the industry, we are glad to be making some very good progress in bespoke advertising solutions with Tourism Boards – we have had a lot of success on that front and hopefully will capitalise on previous case studies to win more accounts in the coming months. We have actually just hired a new Sales Executive – Laura Joseph, who just joined the team yesterday and seems very eager to get cracking – thats the spirit ;)

Our new release is now only about 1 month away and we simply cannot wait to reveal our new strategy and new site layout overall – we are opening up  a private beta testing to a selected number of users – to gather more feedback and to ensure that we do take into account our key user’s voices.  We will be posting on here soon but time for me to get 30 minutes in the gym before heading back to work – long days :)

Jerome

Social Networking world forum

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Hi folks,

I took part in 2 panel discussions last week – one of which was for the mobile social networking world forum on Day 1, and one for the main social networking world forum on Day 2.

I thought i’d focus this blog post on my thoughts following the first one. The topic of convo at this first session was fittingly titled: Mobile social start ups versus large web social networks. Presumably, WAYN was speaking on behalf of the latter, given that 95%+ of our traffic is currently online still. For those interested, you can check out the mobile version of WAYN at http://m.wayn.com which is available from any handset.

On the panel, I was joined by:

aka-aki

Stephanie Hoffman – CEO if aka-aki – a fast growing location based mobile social network, based in Germany

meetmoi

and Andrew Weinreich – CEO of meetMoi, a fast growing location based mobile dating service, based in the US

We had an interesting debate about whether mobile location based social networks would be able to compete with the big boys, particularly given that Google have made a big play into this space following it’s recent launch of Latitude and the fact that Facebook is likely to upgrade its mobile service to be location-enabled, imminently.

By the looks of things, both companies are doing well to cement their positions within their niche markets and both have a different focus, not only from each other and us, but also from Google and Facebook. Although one could argue that Google could destroy the market very easily, the evolving view seems more that they need enablers to their technology and platform as much as we need them. The same applies to Facebook. Every day, I see a fresh announcement of yet another location based app that is integrated with Facebook connect, and now that Apple and Facebook have joined forces on that front, get ready for a flurry of facebook connect enabled iphone apps on the horizon.

limbo

Limbo is one of the largest and fastest growing, which announced only today that their app now supports facebook connect and that you can even view your facebook friends’ location using their app without having to be a member of Limbo. The app is free and I am sure there will be many more to follow…

rummble

Like many of these apps, we see the focus being more on the “so what?” once you have location based services enabled. I agree 100% with a good friend of mine Andy Scott, Founder and CEO of Rummble – a leading mobile location based service that focuses on finding you the people and places around you that you like, who recently blogged about this subject, and who recognized that basic location aware offerings will become commoditised and it is the services or utilities that this enables that is of most interest.

Here at WAYN we believe that being able to see who’s around and what’s around is the foundation blocks but it is not the reason that people will use mobile location based services or any web-based social network for that matter. They will, however, use such services to fulfill a need, whether it be dating, meeting new people, finding out where the best Indian curry within 1km is, based on recommendations from their friends, and more. We are focusing on one of those needs in particular when we re-launch our offering later in the Spring, and hope to harness the power of mobile, through apps and the like, to deliver this particular utility in its ultimate form. Whether we get it right or not is another matter, but I do believe that the opportunities to carve out a useful niche in the mobile social networking arena still exist, and there is yet another gold rush approach to building iPhone apps to be distributed on iTunes.

I look forward to announcing more in due course but in the meantime, do let us know if you have any feedback on what you think WAYN should focus on if it were to be fully location enabled on the site and ofcourse eventually on every handset ;)

Who Super Rated You? Now FREE on WAYN :)

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Hello from Berlin everyone! I just arrived for the ITB conference and wanted to write  a quick post for those of you who havent seen the update from Anna on the site regarding the positive changes we have made to WAYN SuperRates!

Based on  all members’ feedback we have received recently and in order to test and improve functionality of the SuperRates feature, we have decided to make the preview of Who Has SuperRated Me FREE of charge.

As Anna mentioned it on the site:

“This is a temporary test we are currently running on the site so please make the most of it now :)
To access who has super rated you at no cost to you, please 
click here – this is available directly from your profile
We would also appreciate your feedback on this new feature as we are always keen to hear what our users think
” 

It would be interesting to see what you guys think. The feature is certainly and easy to use. 

We have also released a few gifts that are completely free of charge / ie no credits required 

Enjoy! 

Jerome

Souvenir from 2002

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

 

7.59pm – the Eurostar train seemed to be in a hurry to reach the British side. The carriage was almost empty. The kid staring at me in the opposite direction seemed agitated. He was talking to someone who could not be seen from where I was sitting – without any real words coming out. He could have been shouting. It would still be the same music to my ears. The Warsaw Concerto had been playing in loop for the last 30 minutes – covering his tantrum. Thanks god for the iPod.

 

As I recounted the events of the day, I closed my eyes and brought myself back a few hours in time, at the IMAX cinema in Euro Disney where I was delivering a speech on Entrepreneurship to 600 students – a fantastic experience…I started to smile…Until David (the agitated kid now jumping on his seat had to have a name, so I decided to give him one to remain polite) was now throwing loud and short spaced swear words to the person who could not be seen. The words came just as the music that had been playing non stop finally reached the end of its loop – another 5 seconds and the melody would start all over again. Those 5 seconds felt like an eternity – like a slow motion scene allowing me to see every single bit of ingredient coming out of David’s mouth: tears that were feeding him abundantly, screams and all the left over’s of that poor sandwich that had finally found an owner to then find itself scattered around in a cloud of debris repainting the window next to David’s seat.

 

As the music started again, I sat back and this time, started to recollect images that had been deep buried in my memory – The carriage went quiet again. As my eyes remained closed, I recalled the days where 7 years ago, I sent an email to Pete from Haiti where I had been working for a few months. I remember describing how WAYN could possibly look like – back in 2002. This is what I was seeing…and this is the picture I have kept in my folder for so many years:

 

The idea of plotting where your contacts are on a world map somehow got nicely adopted by many other services further down the line: where I’ve been / tripadvisor application on Facebook to name but a few. My graphic design skills weren’t clearly great but it is funny to think this picture is already over 7 years old…and what changes have we gone through over the years…Funny to see the original name on that slide too: “WhereAreYouNow.net” – as I recall WAYN.com / WhereAreYouNow.com had not been secured just yet ;)

 Things started very quickly from there – an email to Pete who forwarded it onto Mike, Systems Manager at Friends Reunited then – and the adventure began.

I also recall the negative feedback from friends and relatives who tried to convince me to give up on the idea as it simply didn’t have enough legs to stand on. It will have taken us a good 3 years whilst working full time for Accenture, to really get to a point where WAYN was finally experiencing a growth that was sufficient to see us go full time at the end of 2005 / early 2006. We never looked back ever since.

Product passion and determination probably are what allowed us to achieve what we have done up until now and we still have a long way to go but I thought it was amusing to go through the idea of the map again as somehow, the vision remains intact and the visual way to plot your social graph is now becoming increasingly popular – Google Latitude, recently launched, is a perfect example of how users will increasingly use mobile and map applications to connect with their circle of friends and what’s around them.

What we are currently working on will in fact allow us to re look at those past memories and bring them back to the surface – after all, they may finally see the light. The latest technologies and the surge of mobile applications will certainly help us refining our new service offerings and it will be interesting to see how emerging economies like India will evolve over time – given there are more mobile users than internet users out there and especially given the phenomenal growth we have experienced in India alone: 40,000 users two years ago to nearly 3 million today. Interesting times ahead.

It is 8.46pm – the Eurostar train seems to be slowing down – perhaps not such in a hurry after all. David is asleep. So is the battery of my iPod. Good timing – Please don’t wake up buddy. Should be home soon. I shall check the pictures of VICE-09 which I sadly missed but no doubt was an exciting weekend! The guys at Huddle and Rummble were attending as well as Renate Nyborg (European Leadership Programme), Bindi from Microsoft, Hermione Way from TechfluffTV, Peter Ward (my business partner in crime) – and many others – a great crowd clearly!

Looks like we are finally arriving – time to get ready for the final leg of the journey

Speak soon!

Jerome

 

 

A renewed sense of focus, passion and energy are key ingredients

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

As the global crisis deepens, we are hearing more and more stories of entrepreneurs failing in their quest – running out of cash or focusing on the wrong things – utlimately leading to failure.  Nic Brisbourne,  Partner at DFJ Esprit Capital Partners, actually had an interesting post on his blog (more here) – an extract of the 10 reasons as to why startups tend to fail is below:

There is a lot of truth in this – especially point 4: “They want to do too much” – I have to admit that Peter, Mike and I often talk about the amount of work that we have had to deal with and often realising that this is non core – sometimes adding further business development integrations into the community because of the initial commercial value it represents but very often realising how far it is from the core of what we should really be about. Lack of focus. Too much distraction. You then end up with a service that does 10 to 15 different things very averagely rather than one or two things that you absolutely excel at! 

In the past few weeks, WAYN has gone through a number of drastic changes and we all collectively feel this is the hardest time the company has had to face in its 5 year history.  After a  lot of recent refocus and a change in our strategic vision, we, as founders, feel more and more committed and believe in our collective ability to turn things around and to agree to be part of the transformation that will see WAYN turn from good to great. The start of the global economic recession has in many ways acted as a blessing in disguise for us, as it has forced us to really think about what is truly important for the business, what our users value and ultimately, what will make this company a real success story.

That is why this next milestone represents a real change for us and a new beginning. We are about to release a main release that will mark a significant change in our strategy going forward, for the long term benefits of the business. 

We are passionate about this business, and believe in both the people that make up this team and the new vision that we are striving towards. We are capitalised and unlike many of our peers, and with the recent cost reduction coming in to effect (as for most businesses that aiming to cut fat), we should be in a stronger position going forward. We also have over 7.5 million monthly uniques and 15 million users worldwide to leverage from – by far the largest community in Travel and Lifestyle. 

Here is what Mike, Peter and I believe we need to do.

1) Reform the way we send emails to our users.

We have already taken some very positive steps in this area with a drastic reduction in the amount of emails beint sent and clearer guidelines for users to better control their privacy. We have also suspended all daily and weekly alerts as well as some of the as it happens alerts and consolidated them into one weekly account summary, which we are a&b testing to improve results further. Finally, we have also added in a new algorythm that stops sending certain emails to members if they have not responded to a certain number of communications – More Customer Segmentation Analysis will be key. More needs to be done in this area but we believe we are on the right path towards this. 

2) Focus on fewer projects and release them more often

After the big release, we should be in a much better position to release things more frequently and break down projects into smaller chunks based on priority. We are also constantly refining the way that we use SCRUM methodology and have already noticed that communication amongst teams has improved significantly, more focus is being made on the user stories and tasks required to deliver against them, and we are starting to spot things that need improving more quickly. We will also be spending more time on our core offerings so that we can become best in class in at least one thing rather than average in many. The key to our success in this area is to focus on the most important projects that will provide users of WAYN with a unique product offering, that is sticky, naturally viral and brings people back often. This will in turn lead to increased traffic and ultimately revenues for the company.

3) Listen to our users more

We really need to make the effort to listen to what our users want and what our core demographic are asking for. As a result, we are starting to conduct usability tests, and plan to do such tests with people within WAYN, so that we can obtain your feedback, as well as a selection of our existing users and non users. We will need to create a private beta environment for a selection of our users. Perhaps VIPs and or those that have expressed an interest in testing our new offering. In the newsletter that is going out now, we have included a link to a survey and feedback box on Marta’s profile, (Marta is our Marketing Manager) so that we can obtain additional feedback from our users and from there, they can tell us if they want to participate in any user testing. One of our investors, did mention that it is imperative that we give some of our users the chance to feedback to us with what works well and what doesnt.

4) Communicate and cooperate more effectively

Having two remote offices will always be a challenge when it comes to communication, as nothing beats being in the same place as your people. We’ve made a number of mistakes along the way, which has unfortunately, sometimes in the past, led to mistrust, despite the best of intentions, and changing the organisational structure is inevitably going to lead to tensions. But if we do get things right further this new release, that should change quickly. Good communication doesnt need to rely on face to face meetings all the time. Often, it simply requires us to involve other people to obtain their thoughts and recommendations and for us to micro manage less and empower more. 

Doing all these things wont be easy. But we are passionate entrepreneurs.  We’ve met tough challenges before. And we can again. With a small team, we managed to get from less than 50,000 users to over 1 million in less than 6 months, and raise $11M dollars after working only 1 year full time on this business. If we focus our talents on the tasks at hand, we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. we look forward to the challenges ahead.

Let’s do it!

Jerome, Mike and Pete


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