Recession — and social network glut — be damned! Frank DeRose, managing partner of Ferrata Capital Management, plans to invest at least $1 million into Total Prestige, an invitation-only networking site for one of the world's most underserved internet demographics: the super- and super-duper rich.
The 15-year-old organization used to just be a Rolodex with 50,000 names -- a sort of offline LinkedIn of the Rich and Famous doing introductions in all the non-digital ways. But it's now catching up with technology and taking on an online presence with a social network that launched in September, with plans also for a global rollout of quarterly print magazines in some glittering world capitals.
There are currently around 637 members on the site, and an additional 400 high-profile people have decided against creating a public profile but can still view all the content. Ten members are billionaires. Most of them come from Europe and the Middle East, and range from royalty and entrepreneurs to entertainers.
To get an idea of what these folks are blogging about: One recent post seeks advice for avoiding pirates while yachting up the African coastline.
But after hours activity is not the main thrust -- there are several other networks for that out there, including A Small World and Decayenne (and others mentioned in the comments). This one's not about play. "It's sort of like going to a conference," DeRose told Wired.com. "You're there to network and conduct business."
The network is invite-only, but DeRose offered Wired.com an exclusive pass into its world to check it out. Note: We weren't allowed to show any screenshots to protect the privacy of members.
The site is built on the Ning platform, so it has all of the basic functionality that its other networks have, but DeRose says they will be looking for a developer to update it in the near future. Of course, the design and platform is irrelevant compared with the exclusivity of the company with which you're rubbing virtual elbows.
Some names that we had permission to disclose are Princess Elfi Odu-Dua of Benin, an international trader based in Germany; Jamal A. Al Akkad, one of the wealthiest businessmen in the Middle East; Countess Vanessa Kosta Pomponi from Monte Carlo, and actor Daniel McVicar from The Bold and the Beautiful.
The homepage, or "Lobby," plays classical music entitled "Beautiful Day" and displays online users at the top of the page. There are also widgets with content from sites like CNN, Golf Digest and Forbes.
"Unfortunately, right now I can't offer you a glass of Champagne or Scotch for a welcome toast, but I sincerely hope to meet all of you very soon," Perez writes as a welcome in a sidebar.
There are various sections including "The Lounge" for live voice, video and text chat and a marketplace for buying/selling goods (some items listed now are luxury cars, jewelry, and a pair of islands in Bora Bora). There's also a "Social Diary" tracking events like galas and fundraisers, a link to view the online magazine from within the network as well as a place to blog.
And, of course, there is always the VIP room within even an exclusive club: A new feature introduced to the site Wednesday offers a premium membership that allows members to write content for the online magazine that can include advertorials and infomercials to share their businesses and products. (Cost: $500 a year for club members and $900 a year for nonmembers).