Didier Rappaport: France’s mobile cupid | Video

The serial online entrepreneur tells European CEO what investors are looking for in new businesses


What does it take to succeed in today’s online space, an already oversaturated market? Are there new opportunities for the taking? European CEO speaks to serial entrepreneur Didier Rappaport to find out.

Didier Rappaport CV

1955, France

Master in Economics, Université de Bordeaux

2005: Co-founded Dailymotion
2013: Founded Happn

European CEO: Well Didier, you are the man behind the second largest video platform, Dailymotion, and now online dating app Happn, but how did it all start for you?
Didier Rappaport: I was always an entrepreneur, I couldn’t work as an employee anywhere. I tried once in my dad’s company, and after two years I had to leave because I wanted to replace my dad.

When I saw the internet for the first time in 1995, something like that, I was so impressed, so amazed by this empty screen, at that time. I decided totally to change my life. I started by doing two B2B marketplaces, one in the raw materials, one in the IT services. Then I built with two partners Dailymotion. Then I was also involved into search engines, personalised and geo-localised; then Happn.

European CEO: So from a video platform to an online dating app. Now with Dailymotion you hit the market just at the right time, but with Happn, surely you’re trying to break into an already saturated market?
Didier Rappaport: It’s not a saturated market, it’s a very old market. In fact, dating is something that we need, whatever our age. It’s a market concerning the digital world, it’s a very competitive market, with very big companies, but most of them are old companies. Old means ten years in the internet industry. They are all the same based on the same technologies, and now we are more in mobile than in the web.

I was always an entrepreneur, I couldn’t work as an employee anywhere

European CEO: In essence, you did create a product that maybe already exists, such as Tinder, but at the end of last year you managed to secure $8m of investment. So how did you get people to believe in your product?
Didier Rappaport: So Tinder was really a new entity with new codes in the dating. But we think that we can go further than Tinder, and really use all of those mobile technologies to provide our users with a real dating service.

To be able to raise $8m after a few months, you must have made the real proof of the concept, and of the business. How do you make this proof in such a short time? Just by showing that you get traction on the market.

Also, from the beginning I decided to provide our service not only in Paris, but also in London and Berlin. When you show to investors that you are able to scale a business in three different cities in Europe, it means that you know how to scale, you know how to export your market, and also that your service is scalable everywhere.

European CEO: So Happn is based on the serendipity aspect, but how does it make money? How are you going to get that $8m back?
Didier Rappaport: We have a business model which is what we call a “Freemium” model. It means that you can use the app free of charge, and you can also use some additional features by paying them each time you use it.

[W]e think that we can go further than Tinder

We are not a website but a mobile app, with a real mobile DNA. It must be simple, because you cannot surf on the small screen like you surf on the internet. It must be easy, it must be very game-ified, and you are never more than two clicks from the question to the answer.

European CEO: So it’s very much about how many users you attract rather than advertising?
Didier Rappaport: It will never be a Christmas tree with a lot of banners or inserts or things like that. It will be a native branding, where the user experience will never be disturbed by the communication of the brand.

European CEO: You also invest in many start-ups. What do you look for in a new business? What are the signs that it’s really going to go somewhere?
Didier Rappaport: When investors are looking for new investment in business, of course they see the idea, but this is not so important as they see the team who will execute, the benchmark is the market.

European CEO: So what’s the next big thing?
Didier Rappaport: Everything that will appear will be mobile. It could be wearable technologies or objects. The new codes are finally that we don’t need to be somewhere to get something. We are used now to getting everything we want when we want, and where we are. So it mean it’s mobile, mobility.