The story of happiness.com - from poppen.de to happiness.com
It took a decade to let the vision of the happiness.com community come to life. As any personal happiness journey needs time and takes a few unexpected turns, this project also needed time to grow organically, from a combination of the development of the company and the personal pursuit of happiness for its employees. Here I try to recount our history transparently and provide some background information of the story of happiness.com and the entanglement with Ideawise Ltd.'s other projects.
The first vision for the happiness project was formulated by its founder Julius Dreyer in a message to his friend Nithya Shanti in 2009 when Julius had just bought happiness.org (.com would be bought years later).
“I came to believe that the Internet is the perfect tool for changing this world to a better place. [...] the digital seeds you spread fall on fertile grounds everywhere around the world. Well formulated thought turned into ones and zeros are being reverted into real feelings and channels of blessing on the other side of the world again.
Buddha created forest monasteries, which were the right approach in that time, but today people are connected all around the world. Flying from Miami to Delhi for a happiness joyshop is nice but not feasible on a larger scale...
Maybe, I am thinking, it would be possible, to connect people online in a social network dedicated to happiness, where you can share your thoughts and findings and organize yourself locally. Spiritual teachers can be found everywhere, maybe all it takes is to gather them.”
Julius to Nithya - 13.11.09, 13:16
By the time this first documented conversation happened, Julius and his brothers David and Robby were successful entrepreneurs in the area of online communities with offices in Shanghai (The NetCircle Network Co., Ltd.), Berlin (SmH GmbH) and Barcelona (Playamedia S.L.). The holding company connecting the offices and projects is called Ideawise Ltd., based in Hong Kong.
Between the first message outlining the idea and the launch of the first official happiness.com community in 2019, almost ten years went by.
As teenagers, Julius and his older brother ventured out to make money on the internet. Their idea after just leaving high school was to become what today is known as "digital nomads". They got far but didn't get around as much as they'd hoped. Their first ticket was to Shanghai in 2004, where they stayed and built their online community empire (which at the time was mostly a sex-positive German hookup site called poppen.de
.) Shortly after, I joined them in Shanghai to develop our online marketing department. The portfolio grew in diversity as more sexual interest sites were added to the mix: fetisch.de
and its international equivalent, fetish.com
, and kaufmich.com
, a website for sex workers in Germany.
What do all these sites have in common and what makes them stick out among their competitors?
Ideawise's portfolio doesn’t only offer their members social platforms, but they focus on everyone's best interests, as well as the core values of openness, acceptance, tolerance and authenticity. Most of the sites are freemium models; the membership fees are low and mostly not a prerequisite. The projects aim to enhance their users' lives by sexual liberation of all kinds, acceptance and tolerance and advocate for improvements and visibility in their field. Gays.de, for example, supports the Gay Prides while Kaufmich.com is a powerful voice in the fight for the safety, acceptance, and rights of sex workers.
Personal growth as a driver for a new project
In addition to the business's success, the company, its founders and the employees matured, and with that came the big questions:
What is our purpose?
How can we serve?
2017 proved a ripe time as Julius had been through a long journey of spiritual development and I, meanwhile working in the area of SEO and realising smaller projects with Björn
, had become a meditation and MBSR teacher on top of my usual tasks in the company.
, Playamedia's Online Marketing specialist also doubled as a yoga teacher. And so arose a keen interest around happiness and well-being, and a pull towards a more wholesome embodiment of our values; not only in our own lives but also in our professional work.
How to start an ambitious project that doesn't exactly fit the existing portfolio, and with a low budget?
First: Keep the team tiny.
Björn and I are two long term employees with their own journeys of personal growth. We, therefore, had a deep understanding of the happiness mission, "To cultivate a safe and supportive community and share tools, practices and experiences that empower everyone to live happy and fulfilled lives"
long before it articulated. We were the first ones to work on happiness.com, beginning with a blog, and publishing articles around the topic. Björn and I are until now the only two full-time employees working exclusively for happiness.com, supported by amazing part-time employees and freelancers: Calvin
Second: Reuse and recycle.
In happiness.com's case, this meant reusing the community structure already built and implemented for other projects. This saved both time and money; and a realisation that the existing framework enables openness and intimate conversations in a safe environment. These conversations have mostly been about sexual preferences so far, but might also be about mental health, personal struggles and the pursuit of happiness.
It was then agreed to copy the software of an existing project, in this case, fetish.com, and alter it to suit happiness.com's requirements. Hence, the look and feel of happiness.com as it currently is. It took months of tweaking, changing, and adding the Academy. However, the core is still the Ideawise Ltd. legacy of openness, tolerance, and acceptance, which reflects in all the company's products.
Where do we go from here?
A kind, conscious, peaceful and loving humanity
To cultivate a safe and supportive community and share tools, practices and experiences that empower everyone to live happy and fulfilled lives
Besides our vision and mission, happiness.com is very much what you - our members - make out of it. Just like you, we are students of life - of happiness. We want to build this project with you. We are here to listen to your needs, wishes and requirements in order to build a safe, supportive, accepting and tolerant community for us all.
Reach out, connect with us, share and explore.
Everyone has a different story, different interests, priorities, needs, backgrounds. In the end, all these different pieces paint the picture. The happiness.com picture is being painted by each of our members, with every new member inspiring the community to come closer to our vision of “a kind, conscious, peaceful and loving humanity”.
Thank you for being part of it and shaping happiness.com into the project you need it to be happier and spread happiness!
I am looking forward to exploring and building happiness.com with you.