How would you like to connect with the likes of Su-Mei Thompson and Nadja Swarovski online? You could through The Marque (pronounced ‘mark’ — think fabled car makes), but only if you’re exceptional yourself. The exclusive social network’s founder and CEO, Andrew Wessels, has grand yet modest ambitions for what Forbes.com dubbed “LinkedIn for the world’s most successful people” — a global network of the crème de la crème from various industries that has just twenty to thirty thousand members, miniscule compared to the 433 million that belong to Microsoft’s latest purchase.
“We’d like to get 1,000 [members] by the end of the year,” Wessels says about his year-old startup, which was launched in Asia in June with Hong Kong and Singapore as bases. “[It’s] tiny in terms of social networks, but we're really comfortable with that because we're all about quality, not quantity.”
Rather than aggressively pursuing signups, The Marque focuses on acquiring members who have demonstrated success in their careers, a subjective and tricky criterion, Wessels agrees. “It’s not about wealth,” the 42-year-old says. “You could be the leading humanitarian in the world and you’re more than welcome on The Marque; if you’ve changed the world, I’d love to meet and talk to you.” But there’s no option to register for an account on themarque.com — gaining access to the exclusive circle typically requires a recommendation from an existing member and a high-level job title: CEO, director or business owner, for example.
For those at the top of their league with little time to maintain a social media presence themselves, dedicated relationship managers work to create and update a profile for a £1,000-per-year membership fee. “We never expected our members to be super users because they're so busy,” Wessels says. “What we're trying to do is taking old-fashioned networking and dragging it into the 21st century, so we use technology as an enabler to manage old-fashioned relationships.”
Despite starting out as a simple product to ease an older clientele into social networking, the private world of The Marque has flourished through in-person drinks parties and bespoke dinners and a newly launched deal board to share investment opportunities. Some users have even spoken of possibly creating a private, upmarket Airbnb of sorts for members with second or holiday homes they wish to rent out. “We'll slowly launch more products, but only when members ask for it,” Wessels says.
“There are interesting angles, and once you have this base of interesting people, the opportunities are endless.”