Happn is the hopeless romantic among dating apps, though the concept can sound a little creepy at first.
A lot of apps like Tinder that simply show you people within a few miles of you. Happn goes one step beyond: When you open it on your phone, you’re greeted by a collection of other users with whom you’ve physically crossed paths with throughout your day.
While some people might be initially uneasy about the location-tracking nature of the app, Happn’s founder and CEO says it’s all about replicating the serendipity of real life.
“We wanted to bring back reality into the dating world,” Happn founder and CEO Didier Rappaport told Business Insider. “We think that every day you cross paths with people, and most of them, you miss them, because you do not have the time to talk with them or because there was some missed connection.”
Even the term “missed connection” likely conjures up images of cringe-worthy Craiglist posts, but Rappaport says he wanted to bring that concept into the modern age. And so Rappaport, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded Dailymotion, decided to create his first app to act as a sort of hybrid between a travel log and Tinder. That way, when people noticed someone interesting on their daily commute or while sitting at their favourite coffee shop, they could open up Happn afterward if they missed their initial chance and have a second shot at striking up a conversation.
“When you meet someone, it is always at a precise place and at a precise moment,” Rappaport said. “So the fact that on your device you have a geo-location service and your device is always with you, you’re always there in real time with your neighbourhood and everyone around you.”
When browsing Happn, you can see a timeline of every Happn user you’ve been near in the last few days, ranked chronologically and by the total time you’ve been around them. If you see someone you like, you can “heart” them secretly to indicate interest, but they won’t be notified — you’re only matched up if you both independently “heart” each other.
If you want to be a bit bolder and ensure that person knows you’re interested, you can send them a “charm,” which is essentially a push notification with a guaranteed delivery that costs between 10 and 20 cents.
Since your Happn timeline is arranged chronologically, a charm also guarantees that your encounter won’t be lost among more recent encounters if that person travelled a lot that day.
“Security was one of the pillars of our thinking when we built Happn,” Rappaport said when asked about the inherent location-tracking of Happn. “When you are very near someone, we will never say ‘You are 10 meters,’ we will say ‘You are less than 250 meters’ — you don’t have any flag on the maps. We don’t record the exact journeys of people, we just remember the crossing points.”
Happn got its start in Paris, France, but has since expanded to 3 million registered users with strong followings in London and New York City. After raising a total of $US8 million in a seed and Series A funding, Rappaport told Business Insider Happn “should close the Series B by this summer,” and plans to continue to see growth increase at a faster pace.
“We reached our first million users in first 11 months, the second million after two and half months, and the third million within the following 50 days,” Rappaport said. “We should be at least 10 million members by the end of this year.”
Talking with Rappaport, it quickly became clear that while people have a habit of sitting and browsing dating apps like Tinder, Happns takes the stance that you should be living in the moment. And that while you can browse Happn while at a museum to see other people at the exhibit, the main idea is to be able to browse your encounters after you get back home. It’s a subtle difference in use case than other hook-up apps like Tinder, whose users often make a game out of browsing the app and swiping through potential matches in any spare moment.
“There is a big difference between the past and the present in terms of romance,” Rappaport said. “We are not offering people the ability to only make love, because in the past it was just a huge lie — there is no algorithm that makes finding your love because you checked the right boxes with someone else. We just provide people the ability to meet each other . You can only meet the people who are around you at the right time, at the same time, like you. It’s very easy, simple in fact. People need a simple app to help them in their own life, that’s all.”
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