The Sphère: a social luxury network for the happy few
The Sphère, is a beautiful family story between David Manoukian and his father Alain Manoukian. In the 1970’s you must have been familiar with the brand of ‘ready-to-wear’ clothing, named "Alain Manoukian", found in more than 350 shops? A family business into which the son, David, invested himself after having finished his international studies (Le Rosey in Switzerland, Boston, and France). When the American company BCBG bought the brand “Alain Manoukian” in 2005 it was time for David to turn his attention to what fascinated him at the time, new technology. He had the idea of creating an ultra luxurious social network on the Internet, a site that would be extremely selective with its membership, reserved for the happy few who met the requirements, the “rich and the famous”. What would be the admission criteria? Belonging to this elite group and by doing so adding to its value. This is a far cry from the social networks like Facebook and Twitter !
But who is David Manoukian? Of Armenian origin, very family orientated, I have a sister who has four children and I myself have two boys. I was fortunate, after my studies and a period of work in the year 2000 at ‘Pricewaterhouse Coopers’, an auditing consultant firm, to work with my father, in the development of his business, in particular with his brand, ‘Alain Manoukian’. Having developed the company internationally (in Russia, the Middle East and the United States) and created the first Internet site for the brand in 2001, we finally sold it to an American company. This first step in new technology tempted me to go further and to create a multimedia pole intended for a cosmopolitan, demanding population with a high purchasing power.
What are the reasons which urged to you to create a social network, when so many others existed? When we sold the company my initial realisation was at which point I lived in an infernal rhythm, engulfed by a professional life that left little room for a social one. Intrigued by the Internet, a fascinating and fabulous tool, I had the idea of creating a social network towards the end of 2008, or rather a social network for people from the same social world, allowing them to exchange ideas, share addresses, information and develop their businesses. The aim was to put at their disposal a social tool adapted to their needs and to best serve their interests. It was not a case of creating yet another social network. This one was to be placed in the high brow sphere !
How did you begin the membership? I began with my own network, by word of mouth and the press.
What are the particularities of this social networking site? Surfing on the trends and the evolution of social customs, we set up a management team consisting of 3 people (in the artistic and business domain) who analyse all the membership requests (there are more than 10.000 applications per day). Our aim was to maintain a selective membership.
What are the criteria to become a member of The Sphère? The members all have to belong to a social and professional group that allows them to meet others from the same group. It is a thoroughly VIP breeding ground, with smart urban members who possess a high purchasing power. We attach particular importance to their lifestyle, that is why the questionnaire is rather thorough, to avoid errors. People can be sponsored, but these potential members have to go through the selection process.
Your catchword? " No. limit ". Our members can ask us anything, we are capable of satisfying their requests or their needs.
How are you different from " A Small World " or "Facebook" ? Primarily our market position is very high end. This is presented in our site which is elegant and chic. Then there is the selection committee that I mentioned, which analyses all the applications. Finally I wanted a site that could evolve at the same rate as its members, and continually be enriched. A real tailor-made site. Finally a butler service responding to members requests, however frivolous they may be is available to members. It is also an elite tool for making professional and personal acquaintances between like minded people.
What is a ‘typical’ member profile? Of all the members registered to this day, a little more than half are women (52 %). The average age is 40 years, people working in artistic domains, show business, medical, legal, business... 20 % are French, 80 % come from Europe (Switzerland, England, Italy, Monaco, Belgium, South America, Brazil, Argentina, Lebanon and a very few Russians).
How much is membership? We do not wish to monetise the network, thus membership remains reasonable, while also assuring that the members admitted are serious : 1,800 € / year. The members pay three months in advance and the balance each month.
Do you not wish to monetise your site? At the beginning we did not want to monetise it. Then we were approached by a number of prestigious brands (Net Jets, the hotel group Six and Senses, Rolex), who were attracted by the elite members (eg Eva Longeria and Tony Parker). We then decided to launch an E-magazine and within this magazine, created a "Luxury Life Style" section that offers privileged conditions and products to our members.
How did Eva Longeria and Tony Parker join The Sphère? Through an actress friend they had in common.
What’s your definition of luxury? To be free, to spend time with my family without obligations, in total peace and serenity.
Les grands vins sont avant tout des produits culturels. Quand leurs prix montent forts ou très fort, certains les assimilent à des produits de luxe. Je ne partage pas cet avis. Les vins de qualité sont le fruit du travail des vignerons qui les produisent dont le but est d’atteindre l’excellence. Les vins deviennent des produits rares. Mais le terroir étant le génie d’un vin, on peut produire d’extraordinaires vins à des prix modestes, grâce aux vignerons qui se donnent mission de leur donner du charme à des prix très raisonnables.
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