The Latvian networking website www.draugiem.lv has passed the 260 000 registered user mark, while its Italian affiliate (announced on this blog) www.vostriamici.it should hit 100 users any minute now. I assume these 100 folks are the "seeders" and their first catch.
Meanwhile, the 260 000 figure has to be taken with a small grain of salt, since when you have that many, it gets harder to eliminate jokesters and false names. My middle son (18) in Sweden was on the site as a Star Wars character for a couple of weeks (and as my friend) until someone eliminated him/it :). I also doubt that Latvian fashion photographer Valts Kleins has been doing the draugiem.lv photos for some of the 17-year old young ladies from Moss Village (Sūnuciems), who look like they are posing for the next swimsuit calendar or a Cosmo cover. On the other hand, Latvia does have an enormous concentration of very attractive women.
Nonetheless, draugiem.lv remains the second largest attention platform after Latvian TV and exceeds any print media in its potential reach, as well as assembling a huge part of the at least minimally internet-knowledgeable 18 -35 Latvian middle class.
Hariri behind International Telecommunications & Technologies?
One of my sources tells me that the late Lebanese billionare and ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri was a major player behind the mysterious International Telecommunications & Technology (IT&T) consortium, which, at the end of the day, failed to bid for the third Latvian UMTS and GSM license. Alas, some of Hariri sleeps with the fishes, other bits perhaps feed the rooftop birds and most of the entrepreneur has been given a decent burial since he was killed by a carbomb in Beirut a couple of months ago. As a result of a major investor's death, IT&T apparently fell apart. While this information is also to be taken cautiuously (IT&T faded just as mysterious as when it appeared), at least there would have been some serious money behind the unknown company.
On the other hand, perhaps all the better – it is an open question as to whether Lebanon isn't drifting back toward unrest, perhaps another civil war. Better Denmark and Lithuania than a company depending on an unstable and potentially explosive region for its financing.
Meanwhile the winner of the auction, Danish TDC's Lithuanian subsidiary Bite GSM is moving at full speed to recruit a team in Latvia, recently running a full page ad in the Latvian daily Diena looking for various kinds of management, PR and engineering staff.