Over 9 000 members in Helsinki alone. A party practically every night. Free drinks at bars. Squash, karting, bowling and what else. Fun, fun, fun.
The slogan of this fun-having society called Jolly Dragon is “serious about fun”. The idea is both simple and effective. Anyone can throw any kind of an event and announce it in Jolly Dragon`s website calendar. Anyone can show up, get to know new people and have fun. Membership is absolutely free and does not carry any responsibilities with it. You`re always free to join the fun.
The father of this brilliant idea is a 31- year-old Irishman called Paul James. Resident in Helsinki for three years, he works as a managing director in a marketing firm. In his free time he wants to make Helsinki a happier place.
“Why should someone else always introduce me to new people? Why can`t I do it myself?” James wonders as we sit together in one of the coffee shops in downtown Helsinki.
“Last week I introduced myself to four persons in the tram”, he adds.
Picture it: an English-speaking young man offering his hand to total strangers in a tram in the middle of our bleakest November.
“The people in here are not that different, but the culture sure is. And we are anxious to make our own culture!”
In this culture invented by James, strangers are always appreciated above acquaintances. This is because strangers are full of unknown possibilities.
“Why should someone first be nice to us? Isn`t it the responsibility of each and every one to be nice to others?”
James and his friends founded Jolly Dragon two years ago. In those two years, approximately 9 500 people have registered to the website. Most of them are between 20 and 35 years of age and live in Helsinki. Students and foreigners are well represented.
“And they all make relatively good money”, James adds. “It is expensive to have a good time in bars.”
James tells us that twelve cities around the world are expressing their interest to kick off with Jolly Dragon. James has conceptualized the idea to the detail. In any new city starting the business, the action would be a minute copy of the Helsinki way of doing things: every Wednesday Weekly Welcome night out, every Thursday Fire and Ice -party, on Sundays Hangover Hangout.
On the table, Paul James`s mobile phone blinks every now and then to announce incoming calls. In a few hours, the biggest party in Jolly Dragon`s history is about to start in Den Kungliga Klubben. James expects to see over 300 party-goers, and he tells he is going to give away 900 coupons entitling the holder to a free drink. He has collected 8 000 euros of sponsor money to get them.
James asks me to include an invitation in this story.
“So that people would not stay home and simply study the website but came to the party and met people instead!”
The following day I`m – despite the invitation – getting acquainted with the Jolly Dragon website. I also find the homepage of Unfair Advantage, the marketing firm James works for, as they too are located in Jolly Dragon`s server. Services offered by Unfair Advantage include promotions, product placement, recreational activities for company guests and staff as well as expat integration.
This is how the page describes their promotions service:
“Unfair Advantage has access to a word of mouth marketing engine consisting of 1500+ of Helsinki`s most trendy and a team of people on the street promoting anything to do with fun. So long as we put something of interest into that engine, the message will be spread all over Helsinki. We have many volunteers helping us so our costs are super low and our market are the socialites, sports enthusiasts and hip fun lovers of Helsinki.”
Paul James assures that his work and the Jolly Dragon -network have nothing to do with each other.
“I have over 9 000 people in the group. I work with three of them. So three of them are my business partners.”
Photograph Claudio Santori