In summer of 2015, Andrew Wessels launched something to intrigue the CEOs, culture makers and creative leaders of the world. A private online platform geared specifically towards the world's most successful people, The Marque is social media for the discerning, building a powerful network across a recommendation-only membership base. The Marque launched in Hong Kong in June, with a presence in New York and sights set on Dubai, Deli and other major cities. Wessels identifies The Marque member as someone who "still has a job but they are so successful in what they do that they are looking for outside challenges and inspirations". Members typically avoid LinkedIn as they get bombarded, while only one of the 50 founding members even had a Twitter account. The beauty of The Marque is that the members themselves curate the membership, with each able to recommend five other members. For Wessels, "No one is doing what we are doing." The Marque is distinguished from other high-flying social network sites through its exclusivity—access is only via current members, there is no advertising and everyone pays a fee. When recommending new people, members are encouraged to ask themselves "Will this person benefit from The Marque and will The Marque members benefit from them?" Ideal joiners are peers seeking out similar challenges and experiences. Successful folk can often know everyone in a specific field, and The Marque allows them to build a network in a different field or energize existing ties. Many are entrepreneurs or luminaries across the arts, media and sport. Ultimately, people join The Marque to meet interesting people. Much like Quintessentially Lifestyle Members, each member of The Marque is given a dedicated relationship manage to handle their accounts. Members are spared the bother of uploading files and managing accounts, while enjoying all the benefits of the actual networking. Members are able to view other members, while a public facing profile is completely optional. Amongst The Marque's innovative features is the Deal Board, where members can explore promising investment opportunities. A deal can only be posted to the board if the member has personally invested in it, an incredible chance to get in on deals backed by the world's most successful individuals. But The Marque isn't just networking in the virtual sphere—Wessels and his team have been putting together some thrilling 'IRL' events for The Marque members to rub shoulders over, from cocktail evenings to an Ascot outing. More get-togethers are planned for the future in major cities. Wessels is happy to report hearing many stories about real life partnerships and friendships born out of a meeting on The Marque.
An online business network for entrepreneurs, top executives and thought leaders was launched in Hong Kong and Singapore last month. The Marque can be thought of as a social network for successful people, with their profiles maintained and updated by a team of relationship managers, said founder Andrew Wessels. The "success-based" recommendation-only network has attracted several hundred members globally since its launch in London and New York last year. Mr Wessels told The Straits Times in a recent interview that he hopes Hong Kong and Singapore will add at least 500 new members each. "There is the public profile which is available to the general public, and behind that sits the private network where only members can interact... The goal is to become the definitive source of online information for successful people on the Web," he said. It costs £1,000 (S$1,750) a year to join the networking platform, dubbed by Forbes as "the LinkedIn for the world's most successful people". Among its members are Ms Su-Mei Thompson, chief executive of The Women's Foundation, Mr Dominic Murphy, head of Britain and Ireland at private equity firm KKR, Ms Nadja Swarovski, executive board member at Swarovski, and Mr Alexander Gilkes, co-founder of online auction house Paddle8. Mr Wessels said the firm does not share members' contact details, nor does it sell any advertising on its platform. About 40 per cent of its members are from the financial services sector, and 20 per cent to 30 per cent are women. "What's important for us is breadth and diversity on the platform... If you have achieved the pinnacle of success in your chosen career, then you are welcome to The Marque. It is not just a finance network." He said 25 verticals - or sectors - have been identified. They include sports, media, the arts, law, property and medicine. The aim is to hit 1,000 members by the end of the year. Mr Wessels plans to open an office in Hong Kong soon and maybe one in Singapore, as the network grows. How much and how fast it grows will be driven by its members. "When we go into a city, we select between 30 and 50 individuals through our existing network whom we ask to become founding members of The Marque and they, in turn, will recommend people," Mr Wessels said. His team then evaluates the potential members' credentials to maintain "quality" on the network. A typical member would be a C-suite executive, managing partner, board member or an equity owner of a business. Despite the strict induction process, Mr Wessels said The Marque is not an exclusive club for the wealthy. "This is not about rich people. We are not interested in people who inherited $100 million and do nothing with their lives." Members will have access to private events aimed at building business relationships, as well as a deal board feature on the network where members can seek investments for deals they are personally invested in. Mr Wessels said there are many ideas, including a potential feature that lets members rent out their holiday homes to others on the network.
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.”
The Marque celebrated its launch in Hong Kong with an intimate cocktail party at the British Consulate, hosted by British Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, Caroline Wilson. The Hong Kong event was timed to coincide with the launch of The Marque Deal Board. The Deal Board gives Members access to a private deal platform to see unique investment opportunities, as well as raise money for companies that they are personally invested. Only deals being participated in by Members in their personal capacities may be posted on the Deal Board.
The Founder and CEO of The Marque, Andrew Wessels, discusses the network's business model with Bloomberg's Rishaad Salamat on "Trending Business."