This interview is part of our series of Growth Stories. We interviewed the founders and CEOs of 20 of the fastest growing startups in Europe. The series is a lead-up to Tech5,Â the annual competition that we organize in partnership with Adyen to celebrateÂ Europeâs fastest growing tech companies. Signups are open. Apparently, singles care less about Valentineâs Day than ever.Â However, the celebration is still important for dating apps, just as Christmas is vital for platforms like Amazon.
If youâre looking for your Valentine, thereâsÂ a plethora of digital courtship tools out there, for every taste and paraphilia. Among them, French company Happn brands itself as the âhopeless romanticâ of the bunch.
Thanks to real-time geo-localization, Happn allows you to connect with the people youâve crossed paths with. If the feeling is mutual, you have a âcrushâ and can start messaging.
âWeâre the sidekick of serendipity,â said proudly Didier RappaportÂ âÂ the CEO and founder of HappnÂ âÂ when I reached out to him to know more about his company and its conspicuous growth.
Happn boasts now 45 million users and itâs fighting for dominance in the highly-competitive world of dating apps.Â
TNW: Happn has been around for 4 years. How did it change over time?Didier Rappaport: There have been a lot of modifications of course, but mostly invisible. We never introduced major changes in theÂ product, but this is going to change soon, very soon.
Thatâs big news. Whatâs going to change?I canât reveal the details yet, but I can say that weâll massively implement artificial intelligence. Moreover,Â we have just changed the product design and in-app layout of our timeline.
To me, Happn always reminded of an augmented reality app. I donât mean technically but conceptually. At the end, what you do is bridge the gap between real and digital lives. Almost the PokÃ©mon Go of love.Â I think you understood the direction Happn is takingâ¦ the winners of the future will be the people able to reconcile the digital and the physical world. And to show that at the end there is just one world. This is the big intellectual challenge and business opportunity that weâre facing.
Sometimes it seems that these matchmaking apps are more about data than dating. Whatâs your take on the matter?Dating businesses have always also been data mines. Just think of the questionnaires that customers of wedding agencies had to fill in. But itâs true that we operate at an unprecedented scale. We have huge flows of fresh data that roll-in every day.
Youâre surely aware of the criticism that dating apps arenât careful enough with peopleâs data. And itâs not just punditry but fact-based research. Are you concerned by this issue?For us, this is not âa concern.â The safety and privacy of our users is the central pillar of our company and our mission. But you should also consider that most of our data comes from Facebook and is already publicly shared.
What has been the biggest challenge to the growth of Happn?Doubtlessly, the high marketing expenses. But weâre really close to profitability. Itâs a 2018 goal.
You had two professional lives. First, you were an international textile trader, then the Internet arrived and you immediately spotted its potential, venturing into this new world when you were 40 years old. How come?For me, the Internet was like the Far West.Â I spent three hours a day reading about what was happening in the world. I understood quite easily when new trends were taking hold. Thatâs how I saw the Internet revolution coming.
What are the key qualities to lead a successful business life?I think that there are two key factors. The first one is the ability to see new opportunities. And the second one âÂ without which the first one is worth nothing â is the will to work a lot. Sometimes, journalists ask me âfrom where does your vision come from?â Visions donât come out of the clear blue sky. I just work a lot.
Whatâs a question youâd like to ask the other founders that Iâm interviewing in this series of Growth Stories?I donât have any question. I just want to tell my colleagues that theyâre really lucky to do what theyâre doing.
âÂ This article is brought to you by TNW X, the Happn for business liaisons between startups, governments, and large enterprises. Didier Rappaport will also speak at TNW Conference 2018. Donât miss out on one of Europeâs leading tech fest. Early-bird sales end soon.Â
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