You could say that Grindr pioneered the location-based mobile networking trend. In the last year, Highlight, Sonar, Glancee, Intro, and many others have all tried their hands at connecting people based on proximity with mixed results. But Grindr, the dating app for gay men, has been doing it since 2009.
Today the company announced it hit four million users with 1.1 million daily actives. Last year it launched an app for straight and lesbian users called Blendr. And it’s expanded into 192 countries.
But, because it’s earned money from ads and premium services from the beginning, the company has never taken on a dime of outside capital. As it seeks to expand beyond simple messaging tools, the profitable 40-person company finds itself at a crossroads.
It’s clear from speaking to Grindr’s founder Joel Simkhai that, even with the launch of Blendr, the company is firmly focused on gay men. Case in point, today Grindr launched a new version of its app that includes filters, a new menu and a new design. Grindr was built to serve gay men, and it will expand to offer them more services, content, and features. Even though Blender is growing faster than Grindr did in its early stages, the product is ancillary because it doesn’t drive as much revenue, he says.
Further, the company doesn’t plan to expand its meet-up tools to platonic encounters. Grindr started with a broader approach because Simkhai thought people were looking for friendships as well as dates and hook-ups. He quickly realized that 90 percent of Grindr’s users were looking to date. “People know how to date, and its a strong desire,” he says. “The desire of wanting a new friend is not as strong.”
So, now that it’s proven the business model and expanded globally, what is its next step? A better, richer experience for gay men. Right now 60 percent of Grindr’s revenue is from premium subscriptions to Grindr Xtra and 40 percent of its revenue is from ads. The company plans to grow its network of sales people soliciting targeted ads from local vendors relevant to its gay audience.
Further, it plans to roll out more features this summer that make Grindr into more of an information network for its users. Almost half Grindr’s uses occur while traveling. Men use the app to find “where the gay is” from local users, Simkhai says, so he wants to be able to surface those recommendations and other information in a more seamless way. “No one else out there is focused on the global gay man,” Simkhai says. He estimates there are a minimum of 100 million gay men in the world.
His company hasn’t taken on outside funding to date because it hasn’t had to, but in order to get Grindr to the next level of growth, Simkhai admits that outside capital may be necessary. The app will always have a primary function of meeting people and Grindr’s first priority is to make that as easy as possible. But based on what its users are asking for, the company’s next step is to help them find what they’re looking for beyond the date.