How This Singapore Start-up is Making Surveys More Attractive and Addictive

Donate to a cause and get a chance to win a prize – all for answering five questions

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BY Adelle Chua - 14 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Greg Lipper has led an unconventional life, so it is no surprise he created an unconventional business. He first moved to Asia from his familiar, secure surroundings in New York so that he could learn a new language. This was in 1987, right after he finished college. “My mother, who is Danish and can speak many languages, said she could not respect a man who can speak only one language,” he says.

He intended on staying in Japan for just a year, but 13 years later, he was still there. He ended up not only learning Japanese and the culture, but changing his life course altogether. He moved to Singapore in 2001, and has built his life and career there since.

After leadership roles with management consultants and enterprise software vendors, Lipper established Happi in 2015. Happi is a mobile app that makes answering surveys not just attractive, but addictive. Users get a chance to win a prize and donate to a cause by just answering five questions on their mobile phone. 

Lipper ran HP Software’s Software as a Service (SaaS) business when he decided to implement the idea for Happi. He saw a presentation from a marketing CMO who was proud that his company spent only $32 in digital advertising for each buyer they acquire. Lipper thought he could engage with consumers for less money, create more loyalty, and benefit the community at the same time. “When was the last time you picked up the phone to tell a friend how an adword made you feel that day? Never, that’s when,” he says.

Lipper thought that supporting groups people are passionate about would be faster, cheaper, and stickier. He then came to the idea of the user’s survey responses being the only currency the app takes from users in exchange for the donations and chances to win.

He talked it over with his friends – all of whom gave constructive input and were encouraging. A friend from Google said, “This is a crazy big idea. There are billion dollar companies that started with worse ideas than this.”

One day, one of his reports at HP invited Lipper to his home  and handed him a check for $25,000 saying, “I don’t know what this will buy me, but I know it is a great idea and I know you are the guy to do it.” Recounting the incident, Lipper says, “I remember taking the elevator from his unit, getting all choked up, and thinking ‘Wow. Now I have to do this.’”

Next-generation surveys 

“Your father’s survey was about ensnaring somebody for a 45-minute ordeal, which, by the time they complete, leaves them in tears of boredom,” Lipper says.

Today’s young people – the main market global brands want to know – will not endure long surveys. 

Happi avoids user fatigue by “chunking” the questions in to groups of five and provides material and emotional rewards for every chunk. This keeps people coming back again and again. “The rewards come in the form of concert tickets, mobile phones, laptops, vacations in nice hotels, as well as fast moving less expensive items,” he says.

Aside from these rewards, Happi also empowers survey takers to force the brands that want to talk to them to support their cause.  The cause can be a registered charity, a team, a club, any group or cause people care about. “We only have one rule:  No hate, no harm. We won’t allow groups that promote hatred or destruction of any kind on Happi. Other than that, all welcome,” he adds.

With these material and emotional rewards for a fast, free easy act, taking a five-question survey, easily done in a minute, is no longer an issue for 18-24 year olds.

And this enables brands to understand, engage, and converse with young consumers in the developing world faster, easier and cheaper. Happi conducted a survey for Google which gathered over 50,000 responses from over 1500 students at 17 campuses in two countries in 4 days.

Happi develops deep profiles of each user which enables clients to save time and money by effective targeting of questions to segments. Questions posted one evening typically receive over 300 responses by lunch the following day and can be targeted to people by age, gender, nationality, location, the prizes they have tried to win, and their responses to previous questions.

Prices range from $1 per response for low volume ad hoc surveys to $0.50 per responses in subscriptions.

It is now being used in Singapore and Manila with roughly 10,000 users in each location, and will have partners and users in every country in Asia by the end of this year. Since January 2016, Happi has processed over 2.5 million survey responses from 18-25 year olds in Singapore and Manila. Happi will also have selected countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East covered by April of next year.

“Brands need growth and these are the markets which offer the greatest demographic and income growth. The combination of young populations and rising incomes makes these markets very important for global brands and we want to be their conduit to young consumers in these countries,” says Lipper.

Not without challenges

While Happi has been successful in terms of engaging respondents, Lipper identifies three main challenges he has had to deal with. First, getting brands to take a look at what they are doing. “We take a very unconventional approach to market research. People who have been doing it the conventional way or 30 years take some time to warm up to our approach.” Lipper says.

Second, global brands want to do just that – be global. “They do not want to use a tool just in Manila or just in Singapore. And so our first year was all about proving that the value proposition and the application works, our mission now is to provide the global scope our clients need.”

Finally, every country is different from legal and cultural perspectives. “We need to localize our approach in each country. This is why we need strong local partners.”

Your “why” must inspire you first

Lipper muses, “Employment offers the illusion of security. Entrepreneurship offers the illusion of control. Both are illusions. We are never secure, we are never fully in control. If you find that you are more comfortable with the control illusion, then be prepared for lots of challenges and make sure you truly believe in why you are taking the hard route.

“For me, that’s my source of energy and inspiration. When the challenges seem great, I remind myself of our ‘Everyone Wins’ mantra and feel that the world needs a business like this.”

Every day for the past 18 months, Lipper has worn a black shirt with a Happi logo on front and “Everyone Wins” on the back, as a reminder to himself and all around that, when everyone wins, everybody is, well, Happi.