Dating app Happn is getting paid subscriptions and will use AI to recommend matches

Happn CEO Didier RappaportTwitter/didierrappaportHappn CEO Didier Rappaport

Dating app Happn will introduce subscriptions as part of a drive to become profitable this year.

CEO Didier Rappaport told Business Insider in an interview at Happn’s Paris headquarters that the company was working on a “new business model.”

A spokeswoman clarified that subscribers to Happn won’t see any ads, which is how the app is currently funded.

She added that the company is still testing subscriptions and that it would launch the feature after “consistent results.”

Happn was founded by Rappaport three years ago, and has now grown to 25 million users.

Rappaport said the goal was to become profitable in 2017.

“If you’re well-backed by VCs, it’s easy to spend a lot on marketing, but at the end of the day you must be profitable,” he said. “We should be profitable by the end of this year. After three years of existence, this is remarkable.”

Happn will use artificial intelligence to rank profiles

Happn’s differentiator from rivals like Tinder and Bumble is location. When you load up the app, Happn takes note of where you are, and suggests people who have crossed paths with you at some point in the day.

Another differentiator is that it doesn’t proactively match you with other users — the app just shows you who’s walked past you most recently.

But this is about to change. Rappaport said the company is trialling artificial intelligence to rank profiles that might be more interesting to you.

He is adamant this isn’t like matching on other dating services though, where you’re paired with someone based on shared interests.

“We do not believe that if you like the same movie, you will fall in love,” said Rappaport. “It’s more based on data we have, we have everyday hundreds of millions of items, like the way you surf and the places where you go. That algorithm will make the correlation without … any declaration [of hobbies etc].”

He said AI ranking will be introduced within the next few months.

Happn is targeting user growth in India

Along with profitability this year, Happn is targeting massive user growth. Rappaport said the company wants 40 million users by the end of the year, and that means international expansion.

He described 2017 as “the Indian year.”

Happn soft launched in India last year, netting 1 million users. But it’s just followed up with a major marketing push, fronted by Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan this week. Rival Tinder is already hugely popular.

Interestingly, Happn is billing itself to Indian press as a “meetup app” rather than a dating app, judging by subsequent local press coverage. This might be a nod to India’s rampant harassment problem, and its conservatism towards anything to do with dating and sex.

Happn’s getting a redesign to stop you opening Tinder

Rappaport also hinted at a redesign “before the summer holidays.”

He referenced “gamified features” in the app, a new design, and a new tagline. He wouldn’t go into further detail, but said Happn would still focus on location.

Part of the redesign is intended to keep fickle users who hop between different dating apps hooked to Happn.

“It is true the dating space is very crowded,” said Rappaport. “There’s a lot of competition, a lot of new apps or websites are appearing almost every day.”

This aggressive push for growth might make Happn an attractive acquisition target. Badoo, the dating app giant, has shown interest in lesser known rivals like Lulu — could that be a feasible exit?

“I’ve been contacted by many companies, including Badoo,” said Rappaport. “Today my concern is not to talk with my competitors about an exit. Today my concern is to build my company.”

Rappaport added: “I know that one day there will be an exit, but that will not be the end of Happn, it will be the start of new growth, a new company.”

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