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Interview: The Happiest CEO
Added September 25, 2012
For a short time at least, Sunderland will be the UK’s Happiest City this autumn when it becomes launch city for a new app which rewards people for doing the things which make them happy.
With the launch of Happiest just weeks away, Sunderland Software City caught up with Happiest CEO – in more ways than one - Bobby Paterson to chat about his journey from concept to company and his advice of anyone else looking to follow the same path.
Happiest is a location-aware loyalty customer incentive platform which rewards people for doing the things they enjoy and allows them to share positive experiences with their friends and social networks.
Registered companies can compile positive references to their services on their business page, not only advertising them to new customers with personal recommendations from people they trust –their friends – but allowing them to better interact with loyal customers by offering them rewards.
The system also allows companies to gain valuable insights in to their customer’s behavior in real-time by allowing them to see what it is about their business which makes them happy.
“People live on the web now, the whole internet experience is such a part of our life,” Bobby told Sunderland Software City.
“The social web is the new word of mouth. Where once I’d recommend something to you in the pub over a pint, I’d now do it online – and you’d share that information the same way.”
Bobby is not a typical software entrepreneur – if indeed there is such a thing. Before attending a Sunderland Software City workshop in early 2010, he’d spent most of his career as a professional football coach.
“When I was working in football I’d become intrigued by technology and also by the techniques you can employ to make yourself happy – the so-called seven habits of happy people.
“The workshop helped me realise that I wanted to combine the two into a technology business”.
Bobby progressed to Software Ventures, a start-up development programme run by Sunderland Software City at the North East Business Innovation Centre. It was there that he first learned the value of getting the right advice.
“Product-market fit is everything. I went into Software Ventures with what was basically a ‘me too’ idea for a Happy Facebook. The Software Ventures process helped me see that that idea was too broad to succeed. It was really painful, but an incredible learning experience. I just realised that there wasn’t a market for it.
“You need people around you who are prepared to ask difficult questions and say things you don’t want to hear. It wasn’t just an important lesson in the early days of Happiest; it was an important lesson when I came to build the team too.”
By the end of 2011 Happiest had evolved into a mobile loyalty rewards programme – expanding to 14 members of staff along the way – and the product continues to evolve, with the recent development of new features like a “discovery” function which shows users what the most popular things to do in the places they are, based on the happy experiences of other users from their network and beyond.
Constant evolution is at the heart of the Happiest methodology, which combines Dave McClure’s AARRR model – the so-called Pirate Metrics, which see companies look beyond the acquisition of customers to focus on their long-term relationship with them - and the data and customer driven approach of Eric Ries’ Lean Start-Up philosophy.
“I learned in football that to be a good coach you have to be a good student of the game and Dave McClure and Eric Ries where huge influences on the Happiest journey.
“You’ve got to go beyond the acquisition of customers – that’s just a vanity metric – and really focus on what they do after that, how you retain them, how often they come back, how to make them tell their friends to join.
“When you’re crafting a product, data interpretation is everything. Who are your users, what are they doing, what do they really want, what you can be doing better. Split testing has been fundamental to that journey”.
Happiest launches this autumn with Newcastle, Durham and Gateshead following Sunderland’s lead and becoming Happiest Cities. The company will then turn its attention to the rest of the UK and beyond.
“We’re looking to focus on the UK market for the first six months, really growing in the first cities we’re going to operate in and bringing more and more businesses and brands on board,” Bobby says.
“After that we’re going to turn our attention to the US market, and to Singapore, where we already have someone on the ground. We ‘re turning the whole world happy.”
More information about Happiest is available at https://happie.st/ and @happiest on
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