Happn is the latest addition to the app-based dating scene. It secured $US8 million of funding to get underway, founder Didier Rappaport told Business Insider UK, and now boasts close to 2 million downloads and 700,000 active monthly users. Around a third of those are in London.
Some have vilified the French app and suggested it could be a stalker’s dream. After all, Happn helps you note random people who you’ve walked past, or queued for a coffee behind at Pret, and track them down. “This happn app is taking stalking to the next level,” wrote Danny Skinner on Twitter.
Rather than liking random people to match with in your general location (like Tinder), Happn uses GPS to connect users who cross paths within a 250 metre radius. So, whoever you encounter (knowingly or not) and like the look of, you can see if they’re on Happn and tap the app’s “heart” symbol to show your interest. If they heart you back then the dating begins.
Happn works in a timeline system, so whoever you encounter most recently appears highest on your feed. There’s no swiping, and if you want to push things forward and grab someone’s attention — rather than wait for them to “heart” you — you can send them a “charm.” There’s a small fee involved for men who want to send out charms.
When compared with other dating apps like Tinder, Rappaport says “there’s a huge difference.”
“Happn uses hyper-location and works in real time,” he says. “It’s not like Tinder — sure, the swipe is clever, good marketing, but Happn has more to it. It’s instant and simple, but allows people to express themselves and build a more substantial profile.”
I signed up to the app this morning and immediately saw my Happn feed fill up with the women around me. I didn’t recognise any women on the streets around me at lunchtimee — but that could definitely happen to those less intrigued by free alcohol-based sweets at Old Street station.
Back in the office, I discovered the women I work close to, those who might frequent the same bars after a busy day, and people I probably commute alongside. In a slower, more old-fashioned world (or in a film) they’d be the women I might actually strike up a conversation with.
There’s a lot of information about people available on Happn, acquired simply by walking past someone for a fleeting moment, so it does appear to be an obvious tool for stalkers. You can see who you just walked past and where, how old they are, what they do for a living, how far away they are now, and even exactly when your paths crossed. But then any dating app is likely to attract oddballs. Just look at Tinder. And, as Rappaport told me, the service allows you to block people, report foul play, and file official complaints. He said it was developed with only dating in mind.
“Happn puts the romanticism and spontaneity back into dating,” he said. “You can use it when you meet someone and want to see them again. Or maybe you see them all the time but have never been able to say hello. Perhaps she/he works in the same area, or you met her at a party. You can discover the people around you. You might meet someone on the train and want to talk to them, but can’t. Happn isn’t a game. It’s enriching. There’s room for experimentation.”
So in 2015, instead of letting that would-be date get away because you lost his/her number, or fluffed your lines at the bar, you can find them on Happn and get a second chance.
Rappaport told me that he thought up the idea when perusing dating sites online. There, connecting with others takes time, and entering reams of information is tiresome. Instead, he said, Happn takes the best part of that and makes it instantaneous.
“We are putting the reality into the online world,” Rappaport explained. “It’s an experience. If you are visiting an exhibition or a museum you can check Happn and see who else is there with you. You’d find who else is there. It stores them in the app.”
Rappaport also mentioned that Happn is doing well. Its user base is increasing every month, and in addition to the $US8 million raised previously from DC Capital in London, there are plans to gain further investment this year. Happn is already in Paris, London, New York, Sydney, and parts of South America, and the team wants to see it expand internationally in the next year or so.