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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Social Network Dedicated to Happy Moments

Facebook and Twitter are all-purpose social networks. People can post anything on them, from saccharine sweet nothings to snarky one-liners.

But what if you wanted a place to just celebrate and share the small moments of happiness in life? Happier, a Boston start-up, has created a niche social network aimed at exactly that.

Think of it like one of those radio stations that feature “love songs, nothing but love songs.” Happier is meant to be a place for photos and status updates about things that make its users happy â€" pulling off a headstand in yoga class, say, or seeing a butterfly.

No happy moment is too small, and no negativity is allowed.

It’s less wacky than it sounds.

Nataly Kogan, the co-founder and chief executive of the company, said that Happier was trying to build a social network with a single trigger that would get people to post to it: a positive life experience that they wanted to share.

While you can do that on Facebook or Twitter or on photo-sharing sites like Instagram, she argues that those sites are so broad that users feel like they have to make an impression with each item. The small moments of joy can seem too trivial to post.

“On Facebook, God forbid I post a comment that I took five minutes to have a cup of coffee,” Ms. Kogan said in an interview. “You post the best latte in your life on Facebook.”

Happier has been operating in earnest since only February, when its iPhone app came out. It is also available through the Web, but no Android version is planned anytime soon.

Ms. Kogan â€" an experienced tech and finance executive who presented her elevator pitch about the company to a panel of judges Monday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. â€" said that so far, a million happy moments have been posted to the site by more than 100,000 people.

Her target audience, she said, isn’t West and East Coast trendsetters, but women in Middle America age 18 to 35. “Regular people,” she said, comparing her audience to avid fans of Pinterest and Martha Stewart.

Initially, Happier was set up for users to share posts with only friends, but Ms. Kogan said that when the company allowed people to share their posts with everyone, use shot up. “Seeing what makes other people happier is as valuable, or maybe more valuable” than sharing your own happiness, she said.

So a new version of the iPhone app due Aug. 1 will make all posts public by default, although users can still choose to restrict access.

Ultimately, Happier hopes to make money by selling products that celebrate happiness, much like the Life is Good founders created an apparel empire centered around that simple sentiment.

Happier has attracted $2.4 million in seed funding from Resolute.VC and Venrock.

The company didn’t end up winning the contest on Monday.

One of the judges, Casey Wasserman of the Wasserman Media Group, said he was skeptical that there was much money to be made from Happier’s business model. But “you can always be a gathering place for therapists,” he quipped.

But another judge, Jeff Richards, a partner at GGV Capital, was a bit kinder. “We all want to invest with people like you,” he said. And Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo, said the idea sounded promising.

That’s enough to make any C.E.O. at least a little bit happier.