Creating a successful social network is no easy task. Making money from it is arguably even harder. Peter Ward knows this better than most. Ward is co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of WAYN (Where Are You Now?) a British-Polish startup and social network for travellers.
WAYN is a veteran in the social media world. It has seen the rise of networks such asFacebook and Snapchat as well as the fall of others such as Myspace and Friendster since its inception in 2002. In that time WAYN has been able to survive and carve out its own niche purpose and following of around 23 million members.
It has not been an easy task. The network had to operate on a shoestring budget for much of its development and a large part of its on-going growth. Initially WAYN raised around $15,000 in seed funding, says Ward. Financing has become a bit easier to come by since then. In 2012 it underwent another round of funding, raising $5.5m – with a large contribution coming from Scottish Equity Partners.
Ward and his co-founders made a big breakthrough in 2005 that led to WAYN’s current success. At the time, the network was struggling to attract new members in a cost-effective way. “We were resorting to giving out fliers on the street,” says Ward. “Google GOOGL -0.31%ad-words worked but were costing more per new member than we would be able to earn from them.”
At the time the site had fewer than 50,000 members. The founders of WAYN discovered that many users were joining but few would take the time to go through the process of manually adding their friends – resulting in a missed opportunity for membership growth and, potentially, a shorter period of activity as users that did not make new connections might drop out.