Last week, General Manager of VC LGiLab Ouriel Ohayonannounced an investment in Bahu, a European social network for young students across Europe. Bahu (French slang for High School) is focusing on promoting talents and mainly popular in the south and east of Europe. Only four months after they launched they’d already welcomed a stunning amount of 2 million unique visitors from 6 different countries. Bahu is another chapter in a book about successful European social networks. And trust me, it’s a big book.
Consider Hyves for example. Launched by a group of friends in October 2004, aiming at the Netherlands, a country with only 16 million citizens. Earlier this month they threw a party because they counted five million users. Four million of them are Dutch.
You want another example? No problem! Let’s go south of the Netherlands: Belgium. This even smaller country is home to Netlog, an extremely successful social network that is offering 8 different languages for its 29.8 million users and counts 4 billion page views every month. When Netlog wanted to expand in Turkey, they hired two students to translate the site for 1000 dollar. It took them a week and four months later the Turkish version has 2.5 million users.
The big question is: how do all those European networks, despite the Facebook and MySpace hegemony, manage to attract so many users? There seems to be no space for competitors in the US, but there most definitely is in Europe.
The answer to that question is actually quite simple. Whereas Americans just use one global network, Europeans also use a local version. If I look at my own social network usage, I use Hyves for my Dutch friends and Facebook for the contacts I’ve met during
international seminars and conferences. A lot of my friends and colleagues do the same thing. It’s exactly that kind of usage that adds pages to the Big Book of Successful European Social Networks.