After launching a limited edition athleisure clothing line and publishing a sexy coffee table book inspired by the mass shooting in Orlando, Grindr says it’s ready to make the leap from “hookup helper” to “lifestyle brand.”
“The next ‘problem’ I want to solve with Grindr is: ‘What do I do tonight?’ That’s what we’re optimizing for Grindr today,” CEO Joel Simkhai, who launched the app in 2009, tells Broadly in a truly all-over-the-place new interview. ” I want you to get out of your house and do things. That could be hooking up, or not.”
Ultimately, Simkhai says, he wants Grindr to become “more holistic” and “help unlock your world around you.”
“No one’s doing this [with a] specific focus on your needs as a gay man,” he asserts.
The hookup app, which is valued at around $155 million, attracts over two million daily users, who spend an average of 54 minutes on the site. Execs think this means it’s ripe to “become the preeminent global gay lifestyle brand.”
“As we talk social networks—the Snapchats, the Facebooks, the Instagrams—they’re not really bringing people together,” Simkhai says. “We’re one of the unique apps that actually brings you to meet someone.”
Of course, it’s pretty easy to bring people together when sex is the motivating factor. The question is: Can the app still do that without the promise of an orgasm?
Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The app has even loftier goals, like tackling homophobia and transphobia the world over and helping LGBTQ refugees in war torn countries get the help they need.
“It’s illegal to be gay in over 70 countries in this world,” Simkhai continues. “We’re in a unique position where we can take technology and our mass audience and bring them together to advance gay rights.”
The app has already being laying the groundwork for this with it’s Grindr for Equality department, which is overseen by Jack Harrison-Quintana.
“People are moving out of Syria in droves, and in most refugee systems these people get introduced into, no one is tracking if people are LGBT,” Harrison-Quintana says. “As a result, they don’t get access to what they need. If you’re a trans woman leaving Syria and you need to get hormones in Lebanon—what do you do?”
Grindr helps these refugees by sending them targeted in-app advertisements altering them as to where they can find LGBTQ-specific refugee services.
Another item on the app’s agenda is raising awareness to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. One thing it’s not so interested in doing, however, is tackling the whole “no fats, no femmes, no Asians, no Blacks” culture it has helped create among gay men.
“It would be great to foster a kinder community, potentially,” Simkhai says, “but we’re a platform where we want people to meet. That’s not my job, to solve societal problems.”
He continues: “Dealing with life-and-death issues and access to healthcare—that’s where we’re interested in the social side, and less so, ‘Are people being nice enough?’ To say, ‘I’m only into black guys’—is that a bad thing? I think we should allow you to say that, because that’s your preference.”
“My goal, I don’t think, is to have people be nicer in this world,” he says.
After all, if people, in general, were “nicer,” there wouldn’t be any need for all those targeted in-app advertisements aimed at refugees that have helped make Grindr the $155 million global company it is today.