[Interview] WePopp looks to mobile to disrupt how we organize events with friends

Oct 21, 2013
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Having recently caught the attention of TechCrunch, WePopp looks to be a strong candidate to shake up how we organize events with friends. Fresh off their stint at Le Camping (Season 4), they hope to join the likes of other Le Camping alums, such as qunb, docTrackr, Augment, Sketchfab, and others, who’ve built startups that have been successful on an international level from early on. Since launching their mobile app in August, they’re off to a great start with a sleek, user-friendly app that’s showing strong usage across various markets. They’ve even caught the international tech press’ eye, with a nice article in TechCrunch just following their launch. I recently caught up with cofounder and CEO Julien Hobeika, who took me through the story of how they’ve successfully pivoted overtime, their plans to massively scale up in France and abroad, and what sets WePopp apart from the app pack.

Popp-1024x1024Tell me about how WePopp got started and has evolved overtime.

WePopp was founded by 3 friends: Guillaume, Nicolas and Julien. We met at university, and in late 2011 began working together on a startup project which fetched events from Facebook, filtered the data for student events and then, in turn, displayed the filtered event data for students. While working on this project, we quickly noticed that our users were spending more time planning their next get-together than actually selecting events displayed on our website. So we thought we should start dealing with that problem: helping friends to get together easily without needing to send hundreds of messages back-and-forth in order to do so.

To do this, we began by offering an app via Facebook. We then decided to move away from this approach and build our own standalone desktop version, but quickly realized that users were primarily using us on mobile. So, in the end, we made the decision to stop developing the desktop version and focus all our resources on mobile. With our mobile app just launching in September on iOS and our Android version having launched just this past week, you can now use WePopp to collaboratively choose a date and place to meet without requiring your friends to have the app to do so.

Where are most of your users today and where are you looking to expand?

Having just launched early last month, we reached more than 10K downloads and it’s actually really interesting to see the diversity of where our users come from. Our company is based in France but we only have 35% of our downloads from France, 30% of our downloads from the Middle East, 15% from Benelux, 10% from Columbia and 5% from the US!  So even if we still need to grow our user base in France, we are looking to increase it elsewhere. A particular area of focus for us is increasing our number of American and British users.

Who would you see as your main competitor and what sets WePopp out from the app pack?

For almost a year and a half, we’ve seen a lot of companies launching around the problem of “social planning”. It’s a hard market and no one really has the same vision on how to solve the problem. Our main competitor in size is Doodle. But we’ve got something that Doodle is really neglecting : Mobile. Doodle on iOS is 3€ and they have no app for Android. Plus, Doodle is not very sexy to use to plan nights out with friends. If we focus more on usage rather than the size of the company, Rundavoo is a competitor that seems to build something close to what we do. But we still have something they don’t have: we don’t require your friends to have the app or an account to say what dates and places they prefer. Only the organizer needs the app.

What about your business model? How does it work today and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Our business model is pretty simple for now. We earn money on affiliation fees. Basically, if you plan to go to a restaurant with friends, if you’re a France-based user and you pick a restaurant that is listed on lafourchette.com (French OpenTable), everyone will be able to see the restaurant details and you’ll be able to book your table right in our app. If you do that, thank you! We’ll get a commission. In the future, we could switch from billing our partners for leads we sent to billing our partners for the service we offer. To keep it simple, our partners value a service that can help a group, not an individual, choose as a group and then pay for or book whichever service our partners have to offer.

What has marked you the most about being an entrepreneur?

The feeling that everything is possible and the frustration that everything can’t be done as fast as you want. It’s really exciting on a day-to-day basis, you have plenty of ideas and you need to be creative to implement them as quickly as possible. Even if sometimes, things don’t work and you have to try something else, it’s always a great satisfaction to see things getting done and seeing our product out there.

What are the big ‘next steps’ for WePopp?

We have 2 big steps in the next few months:

1) Get massive adoption, and prove that the user base can grow organically based on virality and
2) Prove at least on one market vertical, that we can make money with the affiliate marketing business model.