My Week: Jerome Touze and Peter Ward of

The joint chief execs of the social networking site spend their week schmoozing in the real world...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Jerome: At the moment I'm taking a much more active role on the commercial side of the business, driving sales as much as I possibly can. So I spent most of the week in Berlin at the ITB conference, one of the biggest travel shows in the world - I was doing a talk on user-generated content and how ‘Travel 2.0' companies like WAYN are using the latest technology. It's always useful for us to be able to showcase our latest case studies, and it's also a great networking event - all the big tourism boards are there, and they're obviously ideal customers for us to target.

Whenever you go to conferences these days, people are always talking about the credit crunch and how to counter it - this time the focus was on how travel companies are being affected, and how they're trying to work around it by being more receptive to social media. But in general the overall mood was actually quite good (apart from the Zimbabwe Tourist Board, whose stand was not surprisingly deserted all week!).

In fact there was a bit of a party feel - people come from all over the world, so they want to make the most of it. And then on Friday it was back to the office with all the business cards I'd collected, to start following up my leads and get some proposals out.

Pete: Jerome and I are co-CEOs, but after a strategic review last September we decided that we should each focus on a particular area. So while he works on exploiting opportunities in the short term, based on what we've already got, I focus on the product and strategy side: how we create the next big thing that will hopefully lead to even bigger success.

We're already the largest travel-focused social network community, but we felt that in order to really scale the business, we needed to become a bit broader (after all, people aren't travelling all the time). So we decided last September to engage people around lifestyle too - where they're going at the weekends, which bars and restaurants they go to, and so on. Our users have already started using the site for that, but we've never built it into the user experience. It's my job to work with the product team - both in the UK and in Poland (where we have our back office and development team) - to make this happen.

Although I'm not technical, I oversee all the project management. So I've spent the last few days looking at what the issues are, how to prioritise them, and what functionality we need. It's all working towards a big new release in April: we'll have a new look and feel to the site, simpler navigation, slightly different branding... In fact the main thing you do when you come to the site will change. So it's a big step for us, but it's one we think will really unlock the future value in the site, both for users and advertisers. We don't expect the first version to be perfect, but it's going to a big step in the right direction.

This week I also did two talks at the Social Networking World Forum in London - one about whether smaller mobile social networks can compete with the bigger boys, and another about how advertisers can use social media to engage with their users - which is always good for your profile. And I attended OpenSoho, an event organised by an entrepreneur friend of mine. It's amazing how much stuff is going on, despite the credit crunch - if anything people seem even more determined to be innovative and set up the next big thing!




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