Publicity Stunt Captures Everything That's Hilarious and Awful About SF Startups

For most people, spending an afternoon in the park means picnicking with friends, putting back a few beers, and maybe playing a halfhearted game of catch. For the French company behind the dating app happn, this past Saturday at Dolores Park was the perfect opportunity to make an awkward first impression on the people of San Francisco.

How did happn, which launched in 2014, choose to make its SF debut?

[jump] With a bubble party.

The startup, which aims to follow in Tinder's gilded location-based footsteps, works by matching its users with “the people [they've] crossed paths with” previously in the real world. And just like many other new arrivals to the mobile scene, happn counts on promotional stunts to help grow its user base. It was with this goal in mind that the company hosted last Saturday's Dolores Park “bubble battle.”

The battle, which came complete with happn branded bubble content, was well attended by happn employees in company-branded tees standing by ready to field questions from confused onlookers. To the company's credit, a segment of park goers seemed into the bubble-themed promotional event. One representative participant, who looked to be about 12 years old, explained that he had heard about the event “on the Internet,” but that was pretty much all he knew about it.

It seems clear that the startup, which raised $8 million in funding this past December, failed to see the irony in hosting a bubble party that involved passing out 500 bubble-shooting toy guns emblazoned with the happn logo. They did encourage people to share pics with a bubble-themed hashtag, so at least they've got that whole user-generated-content thing figured out.

Perhaps associating your Series A-funded attempt to disrupt Craigslist's Missed Connections with a sea of popping bubbles is just the 2.0 version of not giving a damn. Or maybe there really is just so much money floating around that no one thinks twice about pegging their company logo to the very symbol of overvalued excess.

At least one thing's for sure: the bubbles on Saturday burst. 

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