June 14, 2023

Here's how you can join an exclusive circle of 'champagne nomads'

Yayem’s founders say they’re best described as “an asset-light Soho House meets Airbnb Experiences meets YPO”

Amy O'Brien

4 min read

Nicolas Buteau and Lindsey Elkin, Yayem's cofounders

Ever wondered what a champagne nomad is? Me neither — until this week, when the phrase was forced upon me by the tech world. Rest assured, it's not another post-Covid tech worker sobriquet, but rather a state of mind.

It’s this state of mind that London startup Yayem — announcing its $2m pre-seed round today for its digital members' club — is selling to the top 5%.

“'Champagne nomad' is about how you see the world,” cofounder and chief growth officer Lindsey Elkin tells Sifted. “It’s about wanting to connect, learn, grow. And there’s also an element of explore.”


For those not satisfied with that definition, here's a more succinct one below: 

<em>Disclaimer: This is not taken from the Oxford dictionary</em>

Elkin and her cofounder, CEO Nicolas Buteau, were both early Uber execs. They say they first brainstormed their idea for what would become Yayem when working at the ride-hailing startup in 2018, over lunch in Buteau’s favourite bistro in Paris (Bouillon Pigalle, FYI).

But it wasn’t until Covid that they came up with the idea of an app that would facilitate networking and exploring new cities in one place. At the time, Elkin was trying to meet people on dating apps — ”the worst way to meet people”, she says — and Buteau was advising startups on how to transition to the new world of working. 

What is Yayem selling?

Yayem is selling an annual membership that costs $650 a year, or $65 a month.

Membership includes 12 visits to selected coworking spaces in cities like Lisbon and Mexico City a year; one private executive coaching session; access to Yayem-organised networking events like a private tour of Queer Britain that took place last week; in-app travel guide content and access to Em, its AI-powered "concierge" advisor for on-the-ground travel tips; CV advice and job interview guides; and access to Yayem’s member directory. 

For $2,500 a year or $250 a month, users can upgrade to premium membership — which includes an unlimited version of all of the above, plus “tailored” professional support and personalised intros to other members of Yayem. 

Currently, 40% of Yayem’s 400 founding members are premium members. Over time, this will even out to a target of 25-30%, Buteau says.

And for companies that want their employees to become champagne nomads, Yayem offers corporate packages that it’s selling to companies at the same price points — which it’s currently piloting with a London-based accelerator and a Latam-based VC.

Who is Yayem targeting? 

We all know the irony of Soho House. Founded as a members' club for creatives, it’s propped up by the tech scene’s VCs and finance bros because real creatives can’t afford anything near the £2,750 annual fee to access its hometown club in London. 

So that’s why Yayem is “proudly industry agnostic”, Elkin tells me. “We think the most interesting dinner parties are the ones that have a diverse mix of people. But that said, I’d say we’re over-represented in tech industries, because we’ve built a product that has natural appeal to those working with more freedom to explore around the world.”

What this translates to on paper is a target market of the top 5% of earners globally. Yayem’s 400 founding members roughly comprise 30% startup founders; 30% senior and higher tech employees; 25% creatives and 15% finance and legal professionals.

Yayem’s founders say they aren’t worried about record inflation and the cost of living crisis denting consumer desire for their product. “If you look at the wellness journey over the last few years, that’s not going away — it’s a secular trend that at least from our observations defies the current downturn,” Buteau says. 


Who’s backing Yayem?

Yayem has raised a $2m pre-seed from angels including early execs at Sweetgreen, Meta, Uber and Masterclass, as well as MACK Real Estate and Bluewatch Ventures. Cleo Sham, partner at Stride VC and former Uber exec, has also backed the startup. 

The startup’s cofounders say they’re planning on spending most of this fresh cash on expanding their product, as well as hiring product team members and a community manager to join their team of nine. 

What did they pitch to investors? 

At the end of the day, Yayem is “your global passport to elevated global living”, Elkin says. Let’s just hope that all goes better for Yayem than the rather familiar WeWork promise to “elevate the world’s consciousness” did back in 2019.

Amy O'Brien

Amy O'Brien is a reporter at Sifted. She covers fintech and writes our weekly fintech newsletter . Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn