Hopin, “Allergy to the World,” and the Human Side of Innovation

by Federico N. Fernández

Hopin is one of the recent technological unicorns (companies whose valuation reaches one billion dollars). The company presents itself as a more human, dynamic and interactive version of Zoom. On their website, they describe what they want to achieve in the following way:

“When we started designing Hopin a few years ago, our aim was to give organizers the ability to recreate the in-person event experience as closely as possible, but online and all in one place. Nothing like this existed and we knew it would be a tall order. But over time, we have come up with a few innovative features that help you accomplish this. With Hopin, you can create live online events that are interactive and personal.”

The company just closed its second round of investment (Series B) in which it raised $125 million. This is in addition to the first round, held just a few months ago, in which it had raised another $40 million. In turn, the new round was made estimating a valuation of the company of $2.125 billion.


Allergic to the world

Hopin’s history is inseparable from that of its founder, Johnny Boufarhat.

“Five years ago I had a rare and severe reaction to a medication I’d been taking, and ended up allergic to the world. That isn’t an exaggeration either. My immune system went into a seemingly permanent hyperdrive. It was so bad that for years, I could barely go outside. Which, among other things, means that I was stuck inside against my will before it was cool,” says Johnny.

Boufarhat is the first to admit that, despite everything, he was lucky. When he suffered this health drama there were already tools like Facebook, Twitter, Slack or Facetime. They allowed him to stay active and connected, even though he couldn’t go outside.

However, something was missing. In the words of Hopin’s founder,

“there was something I couldn’t do, something I missed from my previous life that I couldn’t reproduce in my digital world. I wanted to go to events. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to hear great keynotes. I wanted to go to breakout sessions where I could learn from people and interact with them. And I wanted the chance to experience those organic networking moments that can help make your career.”


The human side of innovation

To make up for this lack, Johnny undertook to create that “virtual environment” capable of replicating as closely as possible the experience of a face-to-face event. The task was not easy and he confesses that launching Hopin took a year and a half of programming.

His creation is today a double unicorn that is used by giants like Unilever, the Wall Street Journal or the United Nations (UN).

However, the main lesson left by the history of this company is not monetary, so to speak. What Hopin teaches us is how, through innovation, creativity, hard work and entrepreneurship, we can engage in problem-solving. And how we can effectively improve the world.

Johnny Boufarhat’s story shows us someone who set out to improve his situation (and that of many others). The really important lesson is to understand how innovators improve our lives in ways that go far beyond material aspects.

Hopin’s valuation of more than $2 billion is secondary when it is qualified with respect to what it truly provides us: the real possibility of connection between people who, for different reasons, cannot meet in the same physical space.

Thus, innovation is a way, as Pope Paul VI explained in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, to achieve authentic development. That is to say, the “transition from less than human conditions to truly human ones.” If we want a more human world, we must embrace innovation.

Federico N. Fernández is Senior Fellow of the Austrian Economics Center and President of Fundación Internacional Bases.

Originally published in Spanish at Somos Innovación


The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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