The Brothers Winklevoss (Cameron and Tyler)—known for their dispute with Mark Zuckerberg over the creation of Facebook—have re-entered the realm of social networking, throwing some of their collective financial weight behind fellow Harvard alum Divya Narendra’s (who also had a hand in the creation of Facebook) new social project, SumZero.
Aside from being a social network like Facebook, however, SumZero has little else that resembles the current iteration of Winklevoss/Zuckerberg creation, representing a new focus in social networking that is foregoing the widespread appeal of a “do-everything” network like Facebook in favour of a more focused and exclusive target-specific approach.
So while Facebook has become the social network of the everyman, you’ll have to forgive me for saying that the new Winklevoss investment SumZero strikes me as more the social network silver spoon Harvard graduates might feel at home in; a professional network designed exclusively to connect hedge fund, mutual fund, and private equity executives.
With an initial investment of one million dollars into the SumZero project, it’s clear that the Winklevoss twins have recognized the next frontier of social networking, targeting specific user bases. As we’ve seen already with popular sites like LinkedIn, a social network created specifically to link well-educated professionals, and others that focus on specific verticals or industries, new social networks are trending away from being a one-stop hub for our digital existence like Facebook, choosing instead to offer exclusivity to targeted groups; one key feature, Narendra notes, that SumZero does have in common with the original Facebook concept.
SumZero stands apart from these other target specific social networks, however, in that it has also managed to successfully maintain itself via a subscription model, charging users $129/month for an elite membership, which “buys two investment ideas each month, live discussions with SumZero hedge fund managers, coverage and analysis on certain issues, and other investment-related opportunities.”
We don’t like to compare ourselves to traditional social media outlets,” Narendra told tech site the E-Commerce Times. “Rather, SumZero is attempting to use available social media tools to create a whole new type of investment research — that is, buyside research. And unlike traditional social media outlets where the conversation is of very uncertain utility, when you get a large group of very sophisticated professional investors sharing ideas with one another, the end product here is extremely useful.”
Regardless of where you fall in the great Zuckerberg v Winklevoss debate I would guess that the brothers are somewhat relieved to be nowhere near Facebook’s ongoing struggles since going public earlier this year, delighted instead to have stumbled across a social application for an ironclad law of business: that people in the business of making money are always willing to pay to make a little more of it. Truly it seems the Winklevoss twins have found their calling.