Summit News

Markets too tough for A Small World IPO

PARIS (Reuters) - A Small World, the Facebook for jet-setters that counts model Naomi Campbell and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as members, said market turbulence was preventing it from listing shares in Europe.

Erik Wachtmeister, chairman of the social network service, aSmallWorld, addresses the Reuters Technology summit in Paris, May 19, 2008. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

The company, which is raising $6 million to $8 million from individual investors and private equity firms, said it expected market conditions to remain choppy for the next 12 months.

“If the market was super hot, we would be considering a flotation,” Founder and Chairman Erik Wachtmeister told the Reuters Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in Paris.

“But we are not expecting the markets to take off in the next 12 months.”

At a time when online social networks are hot Internet properties seeking to expand their membership as fast as possible, A Small World said it wanted to keep its user base under control to assess newcomers.

“We would destroy the company if we grew too fast,” A Small World Chief Executive Joe Robinson told the summit on Monday.

Set up in 2004, A Small World works like a private club. Members can only join by invitation and can be expelled for bad behavior. Only some 15 percent of members are allowed to invite others on board.

Still, A Small World aims to grow to 1 million members within three years from 260,000 -- roughly the same viewership as the International Herald Tribune newspaper -- and become profitable and cash positive in the first quarter of 2009.

“There are 3 million people in the world connected by 3 degrees of separation. We are aiming to attract 1 million of them,” Wachtmeister said.

The company’s revenues come principally from advertisers.

It said its largest customers were luxury goods groups such as Richemont, LVMH and Daimler’s Mercedes and that it made more than $3 million in revenue in 2007 and aimed to make about $15 million in 2009.

Robinson said valuations for online social networks were high as investors were still calculating their potential.


He estimated each of the online community’s members was worth more than the average $300 applied to many others -- giving the business an implied valuation of over $78 million.

Robinson said it had been approached by large media groups including private magazine publishing group Conde Nast and Time Warner but investors were not keen to sell.

On average, A Small World registered users are in their early 30s with a household income of $330,000.

Members include bankers, advertising executives, well-off artists and sons and daughters of high-profile company executives based in Europe and North America.

Robinson said the company aimed to launching subscription services soon such as private rooms for investors’ clubs.

A Small World’s largest shareholder is Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer behind blockbusters such as Pulp Fiction, Chicago and Shakespeare in Love, with around 25 percent.

Other shareholders include Alexandre von Furstenberg, son of designer Diane von Furstenberg, an early advertiser on the site, and Robert Pittman, a founder of MTV and former head of AOL.

The site is used by members to get travels tips, swap flats and villas but also to send out party invitations, find a job or raise funds for business ventures.

Items in the Buy/Sell section include a Porsche 911 for 91,000 euros ($141,900), a bottle of Petrus 1945 for 2,800 euros and a stuffed Bengal tiger for 9,000 euros.