Grindr’s Founder on Politics, Safe Sex & Allowing Users to Specify a Type
Some take particular issue with the way many users flat out declare that they’re "Not into Asians," or "Sorry. No blacks. Just a preference."
Canada’s Globe and Mail, in an article entitled "No Asian. No Indian:’ Picky Dater or Racist Dater?," stated the objection this way: "In an endless parade of shirtless beefcakes, many state racial biases as openly as other turnoffs, like flab."
In an op-ed piece published in Out magazine, Alexander Chee said that men who specifically write that they are not interested in a specific race are not stating a preference but "using the disguise of a semi-socially acceptable way to say you’re a racist and looking to hook up with other racists."
The issue has even inspired a website, "Douchebags of Grindr," that allows users to upload screen caps of other users they find offensive. One of the most recent photos shows a screen cap of a 24-year-old man named "LT" whose profile says, "Bored, so looking to chat. Not interested in black guys."
Looking Back at the Beginning
Simkhai never dreamed how much Grindr would impact on the gay world when he launched it back in March 2009. He claims he created it because he thought, "I want to meet other guys."
"I just thought wouldn’t it be cool if I could see guys nearby based on location and be able to chat with them," he related. "Even to this day, I think about how we have tens of thousands of Japanese users on Grindr. I have no concept of what being gay in Japan is all about."
Simkhai was born in Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv. He moved to New York City with his family when he was three. He always struggled with meeting guys and the different dating sites he used didn’t seem to work for him.
What he really wanted to know was who the other gay guys near him were at any given time. At first he considered a mash-up of Craiglist and Google Maps. Things only clicked when Apple launched its second-generation cell phone, the iPhone 3.
"I immediately knew that this is what I need because it had the technology: it had the GPS, it had the App Store, it had the ability to distribute apps a lot easier," he said. Simkhai found a developer in Denmark and got a friend, Scott Lewallen, to help with the design. After six months of work, the three just "put it out there" with no business plan.
"We only had $5,000 in investments and really no concept of what we were doing," Simkhai recalled. "We just kind of put it out there - we thought it would be neat."
Very quickly, Grindr grew from just another of the tens of thousands of offerings in Apples’ Apps Store to one of the leading dating tools for gay men. Grindr first spread through word of mouth and some press but one of the most pivotal moments was when it was mentioned on "Top Gear," a British television series about cars.
Grindr’s reach is truly international. London is the app’s most popular city. Users range from Brazil to Russia and even parts of the Middle East.