Hasselhoff Has Germany, Path Has France

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As one is wont to do, I was checking the French iOS app store rankings this a.m. just to make sure that my old mainstay app “ameli, l’Assurance Maladie” was still in spot No. 3 when sacrebleu! — Path was the No. 1 free app in France.

Now I’ve never really clicked with Path, rarely checked in with people there (it’s super awkward to name drop digitally) and have too much FOMO to stomach scrolling through all the things you people are doing on weekends without me. Though I found the redesign to be a vast improvement, I didn’t actually use the app at all until people began to say things like, “Did you see all the crazy stuff he/she posted on Path?”

So I log in every once in a while to use it, morbidly curious, thinking that only people in my rarefied circle use it to brag or complain about their personal lives off of Twitter. Because of laziness, I still use Twitter to complain and brag.

There are plenty of things I don’t use that are popular (WhatsApp?), but I’m particularly fascinated by Path’s erratic growth. Seriously, how does one go from No. 740 in overall French apps on May 8th to No. 1 on May 11th? Dave Morin swears that the startup isn’t using cost-per-install networks like AppGratis or any other sort of paid promotions other than a small number of Facebook ads, which he maintains are not particularly effective. And although the app was accused of being overly spammy and recently blocked from Facebook’s social graph API, it (with the exception of the calls) isn’t more egregious in its outreach than something like Facebook.

In fact, I just onboarded myself again to Path to test whether it was handsy with the invite process and have come to the conclusion that if you experienced the same process I did, and you’re any sort of meticulous person, it doesn’t “spam” your friends. As in, don’t check “Invite Friends” if you don’t want to do that and it won’t invite them. Do you need me to repeat that?

Anyways, God only knows what Path is doing to get users in France if it’s not paying for promotion (we’re working on a whole ‘nother story about this). It might be some sort of David Hasselhoff/Germany-effect where the product market fit across cultures is weird but works. I’ve been asking the French I know why they think this is happening, and, though many of them have no idea, French blogger Gregory Pouy came up with some theories.

In his own (Note: French-as-a-first-language) words:

There is one thing that it is VERY important to understand about France: you’ve got Paris on one side and the rest and the other side. For sure we have other big cities but interestingly enough, Paris is one of the major city for Twitter but is France is rank 17 (I think). I believe Path is big in Paris (not in France) and some other cities which is slightly different.

Then, I believe that France is a mature market (especially Paris) when talking about social media, which mean:

- A need to go private especially that in France we have really true strong relationship.

- Directly connected to the way Facebook evolved (this is not private anymore) and people are a bit fed up/ afraid and just use Facebook for what it became (a mix between professional and personal).

- Twitter is too complicated for many.

Smartphone penetration:

- In France, mobile operator are supporting the smartphone so you don’t have to pay for it – I think the penetration rate is comparable to the U.S. (50%)

PR:

- A lot of bloggers talked about Path (me for example) as a solution for having a private relationships for true real friends

For example I wrote several article but one in a major french Newspaper called Le Figaro on that specific subject pushing Path.

Also there is a strong trend amongst teenagers since a month as they don’t want to share private stuff in a place where their parents are.

As others have pointed out, Path has a hard row to hoe over the past three years, having to engender trust as a “private” social network while quickly demonstrating venture-validating growth. Le chemin de la réussite a de nombreux nids de poule.