February 25, 2013

Happier's App is your Happiness Assistant

Nataly Kogan, founder of Happier, knows her stuff
about the psychology, neurology, and sociology of happiness. During our chat in Happier’s Fort Point Channel loft, Nataly slipped an edX course’s worth
of research findings, study data, and historical trends into our discussion about
her company’s recently released life betterment app.

The app recently went live in the
App Store
and has been rapidly building a user base since. Happier, which allows
users to share three happy moments from their day, aims to be a “happiness
assistant.” The idea grew out of the massive amount of research into happiness
Kogan undertook a few years ago while on a mission to improve her own self-assurance.

While meeting with experts at
local universities and diving headfirst into all the research she could find,
Kogan had three revelations. First, that you can train yourself to be happier.
Second, there are pretty simple ways to improve happiness; sharing positive moments
and being mindful of small moments of joy are two themes that appeared
continually during Kogan’s studies. Lastly, she believes that there needs to be
a complete revision on how we individually assess our own happiness.

As she put it, “We need to prioritize being happier. It is as important
as being healthier, eating well, finding what you love. It is the cause of all
the other good stuff.”

Once the idea of Happier was born, Kogan decided a major focus needed to
be placed on design. With fellow Where design team member
Sarah Wohl and Colin Plamondon, who was a former CEO of book sharing app Spreadsong, Kogan formed a team
that would have user experience at its core.

The entire Happier team intricately deliberates on every single UX
decision. The color scheme of the app is heavy on Kogan’s favorite color,
orange; but, like most everything with Happier, the color selection is based on
research into the positive energy of certain colors.

I witnessed this focus on UX sensibilities firsthand when I first
arrived at their office. Nataly, Sarah, and the entire design team were trying
to figure out how to improve the app’s invite button. They didn’t feel that
tapping the invite button makes you happier. For Kogan and the Happier team,
every single design element needs to add to the experience of making you

Since its inception midway through 2012, Happier has been on the rise.
They raised a $1.2 million seed round in July, which was led Michael Hirshland,
founder of Resolute.VC and Mike Tyrrell of Venrock. Additionally, Kogan
was able to convince former HubSpotter Yoav Shapira to stick around Boston and
join the team.

Shapira, who was planning on moving back
to his native Israel
, was convinced that Happier was onto something big after spending an
afternoon walking around the South End, exchanging life philosophies with Kogan.

The successful release in the App Store and Shapira’s decision to join
Happier represent a larger Boston story for Kogan.

“The idea that consumer companies aren’t born in Boston is just wrong. If
you have the vision, and you build the right team, you’ll get the investors,”
she emphasized.

“We are building a ‘happiness company’ in Boston, and yes, I think I can
build a billion dollar brand.” Pointing out the major coup of keeping Yoav, she
continued, “We can actually pull talent back that’s leaving. We just need the
right vision and the best execution.”

“You don’t build anything great unless you have a huge vision for it,”
she said.

Explaining her dream vision for Happier, Kogan emphasized, “If this app
can make a mom of two in Minnesota a little bit happier, a little more
positive, then we’ve succeeded.”

Dennis Keohane is a teacher, journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.