HomoTech :: The Interview with the Founder and CEO of Grindr, Uncut
This month, Grindr celebrates its two-year anniversary, and the app has recently gone through the biggest changes since its debut - a major redesign and the release of the highly-anticipated Android app. I spoke directly with the founder and CEO, Joel Simkhai, and got to ask him the ultimate question of the Grindr generation...
Oscar: Are you cut?
Joel: Am I what?
You know, cut/uncut.
Like am I circumcised?
I’m just joking with you. You don’t have to answer that.
Well, I was born Jewish...
Are you a Grindr tease?
I don’t think so. Some people are looking to meet, some people aren’t. I’d hope that users are honest and indicate what their interests are. If you ask someone to meet and they consistently make up excuses, move on.
You just mentioned being honest on the app, how do you guys deal with people using fake photos in their profile?
We don’t have anything in place; it’s a hard thing to prevent. But if we’re notified of someone using a fake photo, we’ll verify that and remove it.
So those guys "looking for friends," isn’t Grindr primarily a hook-up app?
Grindr is for whatever you want.
But, primarily, people use it to hook up, right?
I don’t know.
You don’t know how guys use your app?
I don’t think there’s one thing that everybody’s doing. Grindr shows you the guys around you and let’s you talk to them. That’s what we do as a company. Some people use it for different things, and that’s their prerogative. We don’t get involved in that.
But you do get involved in throwing parties.
They’re just a great way to help guys meet. If you go to a venue, like Wet and Wild or Club Dragon in San Francisco, and there’s 50 guys within 500 feet, that reinforces the experience and what we’re after. We’re all about helping guys meet.
What is something that you know now that you wish you had known two years ago, right before the app launched?
When I started this, I always had my frustrations in meeting people. I was always looking for an easier way to do it. And what I know now it’s a similar experience for everyone, gay men, straight men, straight women. We’re all looking for an easier way to meet each other.
Is Grindr coming out with a straight version?
Yes we are! We are working on a version that would work for straight folk and lesbian folk.
I’m assuming it’d be a different name, a different brand.
That’s right, it would be a different app. One of the things we’ve heard from the guys is that the Grindr app is their app. They don’t want others to be a part of it, that this is our community. And I agree with them. [Since the interview, Grindr announced a forthcoming version "for everyone" called Project Amicus].
Is the straight version in development? When will it come out?
In the next couple of months. We don’t have an exact launch date, but hopefully the first part of this year. We’re actually going through somewhat of a complicated process because Grindr was built for men. Gay or straight men, I think, could use Grindr - the technology and the way it’s set up. But women are a little bit different in the way they socialize and what they look for. [Project Amicus is in beta testing now and available invite-only].
And when will we see Grindr for the Android?
Android is now one of the most popular operating systems, so we’re very eager to release it, but we’ll only release an app if we love it, if the user experience is perfect and if it meets our standards. [Grindr released an Android version on March 5, 2011].
Out of all people, you must understand the value of coming first. Grindr was the first of its kind, and everything that’s come out since has been an imitation. When Manhunt and Adam4Adam tried to do it, it was modeled after Grindr.
Obviously, we’ve identified a huge market opportunity, and a lot of people are eager to have a piece of that. I recognize that. I also recognize that technology constantly shifts, Android is now growing at a higher rate than the iPhone, and we’re trying our best to stay on top of things. My first and foremost responsibility is to our existing community, that’s who I answer to. We came in partially because our competitors were not evolving.