Grindr CEO: 100 Percent of My Audience Does Not Have Equality
The creators of Grindr, a gay dating app, are sending a call to action to Americans. #Grindr is hoping to steer its 1,558,031 U.S. users — all of legal voting age — toward ballot boxes this year, in what’s bound to be an historic election.
The app’s community of 4 million users is unique. There was nothing like the location-based app when it emerged onto the iPhone market in 2009. Grindr changed the way gay, curious and bisexual men connected and socialized. By July 2010, the company grew by word of mouth to nearly 700,000 users worldwide.
Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based company, believes another fundamental difference sets the userbase apart.
“We don’t have the same rights as everyone else,” Simkhai tells Mashable. “We are a unique company where 100 percent of my audience does not have equality.” He believes Grindr has a responsibility to change that.
The team launched the Grindr for Equality: Election 2012 campaign for the first time this year.
The end goal is to rally about 1.5 million users together to vote for LGBT-friendly initiatives and their congressional supporters in all 50 states. Grindr hopes to educate users about local elections, and advocate for the president, representatives and senators who are supportive of #same-sex marriage and gay-friendly initiatives. Grindr users will be encouraged to vote on federal, state and local level.
The upcoming elections will change life in the United States as we know it. Party stances on gay marriages are clear-cut. The Democratic Platform officially endorses same-sex marriage, while the Republican base plans to constitutionally ban it.
The campaign will send geo-targeted, in-app messages to users in specific districts. In the four states where same-sex marriage decisions will be included on ballots — Washington, Minnesota, Maryland and Maine — in-app prompts will convey to residents that they have the power to repeal or keep the gay-marriage laws in place.
In addition to raising awareness with news pertaining to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, prompts will also ask users to make a phone call to a local senator, sign a petition or attend a rally.
Grindr’s sophisticated in-app messaging system can target audiences down to the block, making it easier to reaching important constituencies. There’s no worry the messages will be bothersome to users because the community has been receiving in-app targeted messages since its inception.
“From day one, we’ve been sending messages to our users about parties and with different advertisements,” Simkhai says.
In 2009, the discreet app let gay men cruise safely on a mobile screen — showing how far (in feet) other members are from their present location. The geo-social app was shocking to some, but surely helped safeguard gay men in countries — including Rwanda, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka and Yemen — where GLBT people are subject to brutal cruelty.
“We have a responsibility,” Simkhai says. “I have a responsibility as CEO, as a gay man, and as a human, to try to change that.”
Members in all 50 states will be asked to register to vote. Efforts will focus on swing states. Grindr users will be directed where to register online, to nearby poll locations and when to vote. The initiative will also concentrate on states like Maine, Arizona and Missouri where a few thousand votes can change the state’s party lean.
“We will tell them who the candidates are and where they stand on issues,” Simkhai says. “We will let them know their vote will make a big difference. You don’t need tens of millions of votes, just a very vocal core. Five percent can swing an election. If we become that five percent that would be great.”
The community using Grindr’s iOS, Android and Blackberry apps is already incredibly engaged and interactive. Each day, 1,056,819 users send 7 million chat messages, 4 million push messages and 2 million pictures around the world. Grindr’s impact at this year’s elections can’t be measured, but is foreseeable.
The elections campaign is a part of a larger movement called Grindr For Equality, launched in February of this year. The goal of Grindr For Equality is to promote equality globally. It also encourages the LGBT community to stand together, avoid complacency and ask for civil rights as a powerful social block.
In the end, Grindr is really about enjoying life, being more engaging and interactive in the community, Simkhai says.
“You have to be able to marry the man you meet on Grindr,” he says. “That’s what we want to be able to do.”