Hornet Takes Aim at Grindr with $500K Raised and Massive Growth

By Andrew James , written on July 30, 2012

From The News Desk

The latest and fastest growing gay networking app is Hornet, the mobile app taking aim at Grindr since the latter seemingly lost focus to launch the straight dating app, Blendr. Hornet only launched in January (with its Android launch in April), yet it's already raised $500,000 through AngelList, hit 150,000 users, and has reached an organic growth of 150 percent month-on-month with 100,000 sessions per day.

Hornet connects up the gay community with a well-planned design and more features than competing products, like multiple profile photos, the ability to search other locations, and store private notes on other users. With Grindr's focus on its straight app, Blendr, the core product has had several issues creep up, like service outages and security breaches.

Hornet's CEO, Christof Wittig aims to “jump in where Grindr dropped the ball,” which just a year ago seemed to be an unlikely proposition. But with a few recent stumbles including a security breach and several outages, it’s opened the door wide for the likes of Hornet.

Hornet aims to be a lasting social network, not just for quick connections like Grindr, where friends and acquaintances can be saved and bookmarked. “Meeting people and staying in touch is something that the gay community really craves for,” says Wittig. Their prime focus is on simply building a strong gay brand rather than, “trying to be everything to everyone.”

A key aspect of Hornet is how well the product has been developed. Wittig says the user interface has been designed for more interactivity with multiple photos, as well as a private option for some photos and the ability to save details on users. Instead of just searching nearby, users can check out the potential in other locations. One significant feature, says Wittig, is the focus on safety. Both by being a private "special interests" group to ensure user's privacy, as well as health-wise – which encourages users to get tested for AIDS every six months. Lastly, Hornets servers are significantly more secure.

“Some of [the users] are closeted so don’t want co-workers, friends, or family to discover it.” says Wittig, which was a serious issue when Grindr was hacked.

One of the most interesting problems Hornet tackled ahead of launch was the way they populated their initial app. Knowing users would quickly bail out on an empty app designed for meeting up, Hornet poured $100,000 into marketing the app on the ground. The plan was to build up enough buzz around the product to quickly draw in users, instead of tackling it after the fact. By offering drink deals to anyone in line at clubs who were using Hornet, they were able to build up a solid community inside and gain interest from those waiting to gain access. It shows in their launch numbers, which exploded out of the gate on launch, and then again when their Android app was released in April and nearly took down their servers.