Didier Rappaport is the CEO and co-founder of happn, the new buzz app that is turning the dating industry upside down. Before creating happn alongside his partners, Fabien and Antony Cohen, Didier was at the forefront of the Internet scene after developing B2B online services in the 2000s. Didier was co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of the second largest video-sharing website in the world, Dailymotion. happn is the first dating app starting from a real-life experience. Using hyper-location, happn gives you the power to find the people you’ve crossed paths with but haven’t had the chance to meet – yet!
How did you get into the industry?
Actually, I first started my career in the family textile business. Very soon, I felt the entrepreneurship appeal and I created an international trade business, which led me to travel all over the world - until I discovered the digital world in the 90s.
Amazed by this new world, I changed direction. Without totally forgetting where I came from I created my first B2B online service platform in the 2000s for the international textile trade. Since then, I turned into a serial entrepreneur and founded several Web companies.
1 experience has been of tremendous importance in my path towards happn: my time at Dailymotion, the second largest video-sharing website in the world, as co-founder and Chief Operations Officer. It gave me the ambitious to imagine and build the internationally successful dating app that happn is today. The world of dating was too virtual and deceptive and I felt that the progresses in mobile technologies, especially the combination of geolocation and real-time, was the key to bring real life back in the user experience.
Any emerging industry trends?
All technologies enabling to bring back together the real and digital worlds need to be at the center of the dating industry. We have work-in-progress and ideas on the matter but we can’t unveil them at the moment.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
The main challenge of the dating industry is the business paradox held in its inner concept: the mission of the product is to ensure the user won’t need it anymore. As a matter of fact, dating apps and websites are here to help you find a partner and, when their job is completed, you’re no longer a customer.
However, the evolution of the industry from dating to meeting, hence incorporating a more social dimension, tends to lighten the fundamental aspect of this paradox as more and more users actually see dating apps as an opportunity of meeting new people without this one and sole objective of finding true love.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
We got the idea by looking at the state of the dating industry. There was a real gap between what people want - to meet each other - and what was really happening: online chatting. We wanted to bring the dating experience back into the real world, by enhancing real life interactions and giving people the right tool to help them connect. The idea is very straightforward and is the answer to a universal problem: everyone has already been in the situation where they wanted to find a handsome stranger again.
This shift from dating towards meeting is the key trend we can observe in the industry today. We pioneered in the field when we launched our “See You There” feature, which allows you to join another user to enjoy a specific activity together, 4 months ago. Since then, we’ve seen competitors follow the trend with their own conception of this move towards more social apps.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
The industry is highly competitive and the revolution brought by the apps is approaching the mature phase. As such, we can expect a stabilization of the market, with clearly established leaders in the coming years.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We took the decision to invest heavily in social media marketing to support our growth and it proved to be the perfect strategy to reach our target audience and expand rapidly over the globe.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Right now. We launched happn two and a half years ago, and we are growing very fast. My challenge now is to transform this great and innovative start-up into a leading company in the dating business. We are constantly innovating to bring the best experience to our users. The lesson is to never take anything for granted and to maintain an optimal flexibility whatever the size of the company.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
We consider the user experience a success when, thanks to happn, our customers realize that they are surrounded by amazing people and build long-lasting relationships.
How do you motivate others?
I truly believe that the prosperity of a company is based on the talents of all its employees and I always remind my coworkers that happn’s success is their success.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Never rest on your laurels: a fast-growing and successful company needs to be reshaped and rethought constantly, especially when the competition is as fierce as in the dating industry.