It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon, you’re sitting outside at a café in Paris. You see this beautiful person who is about to leave, and you get a warm fuzzy feeling. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to introduce yourself, they’re already gone. Until now, the only thing you could do was maybe post something in the missed connections section of Craigslist or the local equivalent. But a French startup is about to change that.
Happn is a new mobile dating app that uses your phone’s location to show you potential matches. Every time you cross someone’s path, this person’s profile will be added to the top of your feed. It works like Highlight, but for dating.
“The app tells you the story of your life through your movements,” Happn co-founder and CEO and former Dailymotion COO Didier Rappaport told me in a phone interview. “The newsfeed personalization is really important. It’s based on real life and this is key. It could be people you’ve crossed paths with and that you really wanted to see on Happn, it could also be someone you came across 44 times because you live in the same area.”
The app is quite addictive and a significant portion of the user base is opening it every day — sometimes multiple times a day
When you open the app, you get a grid view with your latest encounters. You can scroll down to go further back in time. You tap on a profile, you find all the interactions you would expect from a modern dating app. Like on Tinder, you can say if you like someone so that you know if there is a mutual interest and start chatting for free. Unlike Tinder, you can chat with anyone using credits, even if there is no match.
Last year, French VC firm Alven Capital invested a seed round in the startup when it was still in stealth mode. While the terms of the deal are undisclosed, I’ve heard that it is a significant amount of money for a French seed round. Sixteen people are working for the company right now.
“We invested a seed round without announcing it,” Alven Capital partner Jeremy Uzan told me in a phone interview. “We chose to keep it quiet as the company was still in stealth mode — we didn’t want to put it in the spotlight while the company was still experimenting.”
Yet, Happn is now available in three countries and is getting a bit of traction. The app is quite addictive and a significant portion of the user base is opening it every day — sometimes multiple times a day. So far, around 200,000 people have installed it. Officially launched in March 2014 in Paris, Happn now has 40,000 daily active users. London has nearly 10,000 daily active users after launching in March, and Berlin has between 7,000 and 10,000 daily active users after just a month.
These numbers are still pretty small, but it’s very early for the company. Happn could push its app much more aggressively now that its retention numbers are looking good. That’s why Happn is going to launch its app in every major European city in the next 8 months, and maybe in a big city outside of Europe.
While the company is currently focused on growth, you can purchase credits for a few dollars. Happn will also work with advertisers to sell native ads. According to Rappaport, it will be completely integrated in the app, and you won’t see a banner.
France already has a few strong players in the dating world, such as Meetic, Adopte un mec, Attractive World, and probably Tinder.
“Tinder is a mobile app first, but the others still have a very strong web DNA,” Rappaport told me.
In comparison, Happn is mostly focused on fixing what’s broken on dating sites
Tinder and Happn obviously have some similarities, but the two apps have two different design mechanisms. Tinder is a two-headed dating creature. Every time you swipe on a profile picture, you are anxious to find out whether the other person liked you as well. It fosters mystery and impatience. Secondly, you can only see one profile at a time, and the only way to see the next profile is to swipe left or right on the current one. Inevitably, you end up spending a lot of time in the app, repeatedly telling yourself “one more profile and I’m done.”
In comparison, Happn is mostly focused on fixing what’s broken on dating sites — fake profiles and search. On dating sites, you often need to search for men and women, which is both cumbersome and deeply impersonal. There is nothing wrong with searching for furniture on IKEA’s website. But it’s not the same with dating. With Happn, the user experience is more serendipitous and imitates real life dating in some way.
What’s interesting about Happn’s location feature is that it has a very strong viral loop. As more people use the app, there are a lot more chances that you can leave your Parisian café, open the app, see the person you’ve crossed paths with at the top of your feed, and start chatting.