The Happiness App: 5 Questions With goHappy CEO Shawn Boyer


goHappy panel SXSW

In our careers, we’re often asked to set goals, typically oriented around our professional development and productivity. We focus our time and energy to prioritize work; however, outside of major landmarks like marriage and children, we rarely set goals for our personal relationships. Studies show that spending quality time with family and friends is key to a fulfilling life—and can even impact our health. So why do most of us find it so difficult to set aside time for what impacts our happiness?

Shawn Boyer - goHappyShawn Boyer, Founder & CEO of the goHappy app, decided to change how we think about our priorities, make personal relationship goals easier to manage, and help people commit to the relationships that truly contribute to our wellbeing.

Shawn spoke at SXSW 2018 on a panel entitled “Not Only the Lovely: How We Can All Be Happier” (sample comment: “The good life is built on good relationships, but the average person spends three times more on social media than socializing”) and also brought mimosas, a “happy wheel” and the ingenious concept of goat yoga to Austin, Texas. We had a chance to chat with him about this lack of balance and how goHappy wants to help.

From a brand perspective, goHappy isn’t just a tech solution—it’s a relationship-builder for a happier life. There are a lot of theories out there, but since you’re in the business of happiness, what’s your take on why we are so bummed out? And what can we do about it?

Well, we certainly don’t claim to be psychologists, but we do have a take on why loneliness is a growing issue based on the 1,000s of interactions we’ve had with people about this issue. The first thing I would say is that there is a very broad spectrum of loneliness, and the particular segment that we’re most focused on are middle-aged people with kids.

Shawn BoyerAnd, one of the key issues that we see for people who are at the stage of life—when their kids, who have lots of activities, are still at home and work is very busy—is that life is just so busy that they don’t spend as much time on and are not as intentional about the one thing that influences our happiness more than anything else—relationships. [That’s Shawn and his family, at right.]

So, the first thing that we encourage people to do is to take a step back and take the time to think about what’s most important to them. We think one of the best ways to do that is to draft a life mission statement, similarly to how any great organization has a mission statement—it’s the “why are you in existence in the first place” question.  Inevitably, that mission statement for most folks is very relational-oriented, and that then provides a lens through which to look at things and helps to “reprioritize” how they’re spending their time.

Second, we encourage people to think through and list who their most important relationships are with, and to write out how you would want them to describe you in relation to them (e.g., “My Dad is caring, a supporting father who….”).

Third, think through what you want to do with them and for them, and get at least one thing scheduled with them face-to-face on the calendar (we think the easiest way to do this is through goHappy, but we’re biased of course!) And, hopefully, make that face-to-face time get-together a recurring thing so the likelihood increases that it’s not just a one-off.

goHappy helps people coordinate social outings and get-togethers—while avoiding the dreaded group text. How do you see the brand as differentiated in the market next to platforms like the Doodle app or Evite? And how do you anticipate evolving the service?

We want to be a relationship-builder, not just an event coordinator. We’re starting with helping people get together face-to-face because that is one of the absolute keys to building great relationships. And, the primary focus for us initially is the planners of the family and friend groups. Every group has one, and we want to make life so easy for them and their friends that they do stuff more often, and because we make it so easy, some of the other friends start to bring the group together, too.

Another aspect to what we’re doing is to allow people in the group to collaboratively share photos of the things they’re doing in a more private way. One of the cool things we’ve seen with this is that by capturing all of the photos and getting them back in front of people, it acts as an impetus to the group to do something together again because the pictures remind them of how fun that last thing was.

Over time, we want to make it easier for you and your family and friends to share other things to be helpful to each other as well—recommendations of things they’ve done, etc. And a place to keep track of the things that are important to your important people because if those things are important to them, they are to you. So, almost becoming a “CRM tool” for your personal life.

Including your work with former companies Snagajob and Gazzow, understanding people and human connections seem to be a thread throughout your career. Right now, goHappy is focused on current relationships but do you see it extending to new ways to network or date or be more professionally fulfilled?

Our thought is that this will be much more about your closer friends and family, but there could be ways that people use it to be helpful to others that extend beyond that closer network. Things like sharing family traditions that others might find interesting and fun—as long as it’s in the vein of being helpful to others.

What does success look like to you? Are there metrics within the app that you’re tracking, or are you more concerned with personal stories from users? How do you measure the effectiveness of the brand, both from a business and a personal perspective?

Ultimate success for us is measured in whether we’re actually making people happier. So, that is a question we ask of our users and is our #1 metric on which we’re focused. In regard to metrics within the app, the main one we’re focused on now is the number of new plans a person is creating.

And, we love hearing the personal stories. My thought is that even if we only help one person build a better relationship, and because of that make them happier, then this would have been worth it. Here’s one that we just got today: “Love the new features! I have been sharing it with everyone I know. It truly is useful and saves me time that I can be spending with my family! Look forward to planning many more of our monthly family meals with the app!—Nikki”

From a brand effectiveness standpoint, it really comes down to Nikki’s quote feedback above—it’s, are we making it easier for people to get together in real life? And if we do that, they’re able to improve their relationships, and thus, live happier lives.

The New York Times ran a great article in December about the effects of loneliness on health. What’s one simple thing that everyone can do to increase his or her happiness quotient? And how do you define happiness?

Happiness to me is living a life that is in alignment with your life mission statement or at least trying to do that. So my one “simple” thing to do (after hopefully you draft a life mission statement and write out who you really want to start being more intentional about) is to get something on the calendar with one of those people and let them know how important they are to you. And, hopefully, make that face to face time with them a recurring time on the calendar. Sure, you may have to move it sometimes, but simply getting it on the calendar as a recurring thing significantly increases your chances of having regular face-to-face time with them, enabling you to build a deeper relationship with them.

Nicole Diamant is Senior Marketing Manager, InterbrandHealth. Get more insights in our Q&A series and suggest a Q&A to Illustration by Mario Zucca.