13:46 - Being an external CEO
17:48 - Surviving in a saturated market
24:50 - Acquiring users and partners
33:14 - Going public on the Swiss stock exchange
38:17 - Choosing a direct listing
Jan Luescher is the CEO at ASMALLWORLD, an exclusive travel & lifestyle community. He previously worked as a Principal at Bain & Company and holds a MA in Strategy and International Management from HSG.
ASMALLWORLD was founded in 2004 by a wealthy Swedish couple, and started out as an invitation-only club for their friends. Changes in ownership over the years altered some aspects of the product, but in spite of this, and despite the product’s success, the team could not find a successful way of monetizing it, so investment began to wane. Jan Luescher stepped in as an external CEO back in 2016 and has been steering the ship ever since.
It isn’t ideal for ASMALLWORLD to grow a lot in terms of membership numbers, since exclusivity is part of the package deal (for which users annually pay CHF 100), so they’ve chosen to do so through creating a booking service on their website, in partnership with a number of luxury hotels.
Their goal is to ultimately be able to offer a fremium model (especially also considering that, even among those with disposable income, willingness to pay for a social media service is quite low), but for that they need to offer services to their users, so that the revenue coming from this will help support the non-paying users.
They’re also aiming to improve the technical aspects of their social media functionality and their booking service. ASMALLWORLD has bought a 10% stake in Global Hotel Alliance, a loyalty program for independent hotels, which has in turn bought 3% of ASMALLWORLD. The goal is to offer Global Hotel Alliance members a free ASMALLWORLD membership as part of the status benefits.
"The risk of entrepreneurship always seemed scary to me. It took me a while to take on the ASMALLWORLD project."
"When ASMALLWORLD was publicly listed, the financial press in Switzerland thought the world was going to end."