Joel Simkhai -CEO of GRINDR- (Exclusive Interview)

joel simkhai

For those who may not know, (still? really?) Grindr is a geosocial networking application geared towards gay,bisexual and bi-curious men which is available on IOS and Android platforms. Grindr comes in both free and subscription-based versions (Grindr Xtra). The app makes use of the device geolocatrion which allows users to locate other men within close proximity. This is accomplished through a user interface that displays a grid of representative pictures of men, arranged from nearest to farthest away. Tapping on a picture will display a brief profile for that user, as well as the option to chat, send pictures, and share one’s location.

On the March 2nd 2013, HELLO ISTANBUL party was held by GRINDR in  XLARGE CLUB. For this occasion the CEO of the GRINDR, the man that helped many Turkish and all other gays  to find a suitable partner, Mr.Joel Simkhai was in İstanbul.

As far as we’ve understood he tested his application here in istanbul also (as a user) and he was really appreciated about his visit in Turkey.

We talked to Mr.Simkhai about -of course- GRINDR and asked him the questions about Turkish Grindr Scene and new features of GRINDR.

What’s the motive that led you to invent Grindr? What inspired you most? What was your muse?

Like every other gay man out there, I was curious to know who else was gay around me. It’s a simple problem – you just don’t know whether or not the men around you in everyday life are gay. The only way to know for sure is to go to specific gay clubs or gay bars. Ever since I realized I was gay, I thought there had to be a better way to meet guys. I wanted a more spontaneous, exciting and instantaneous way to meet guys and to help guys meet one another. The idea stuck around as a concept in the back of my mind for a long time, but it wasn’t until the second-generation iPhone launched – with GPS – that all the pieces finally came together. If there was any specific moment, it must have been when Steve Jobs made that announcement. Since smartphones took off, I knew I could use this location-aware technology to connect with other people around me in real time by using the device. The idea was a natural fit, and Grindr was born.

As a geosocial networking application Grindr is one of the best execution of the genre. This success is really important as this app’s being in the gay-bi and curious category. Because the LGBT’s are accepted as minority. What do you think of this speciality of your product? and have you ever noticed any “discrimination” to your product in the market in any area?

Grindr is successful with the gay crowd because Grindr solves one of the biggest problems for the gay man: determining who’s gay around him. Grindr makes that happen, so it’s become a really useful and fun way for gay guys to connect with other guys and to orient themselves in a world where most people are straight. Guys today are increasingly using their smartphones to connect and would prefer to meet guys spontaneously who are nearby. That’s what drives the appeal of Grindr. It’s a great example of how technology is helping guys become more social and meet more people in real life. Everywhere I go, I see guys using Grindr to check out who’s around them to chat and meet up. While many meet and find dates on Grindr, we have great success stories of guys finding long-term relationships and even marriages.

Even though Grindr is used usually for hook-ups you are cautious to sexual content. Why?

Guys use our app for many different reasons – to meet new people, make friends, and find boyfriends, lovers and husbands, and sure, some guys use it to find sex. What makes Grindr so appealing is that users are free to use the app whatever way they like. It’s totally up to them. The goal of Grindr is to help guys know who’s gay around them, and we’ve been helping gay guys solve this age-old problem since we launched, especially in cities and countries where the GLBT community isn’t as open or accepted. That’s the message we’re trying to put out there, and that’s what we really believe in.


Can you tell more about “Grindr for Equality”? What’s the aim of this project?

With more than 4.5 million users and the ability to provide assistance within the GLBT community, Grindr created Grindr for Equality, a social movement to raise awareness for GLBT issues and spur action across the globe. We work on creating awareness both domestically and internationally. In fact, Grindr for Equality’s largest victory was the more than 57,000 clicks to a petition denouncing St. Petersburg, Russia’s ban on ‘gay propaganda’ which would effectively silence the community of Russia’s second most populated city. Recently, Ukraine’s legislature was scheduled to vote on Law 8711, which would have made it illegal to “spread homosexuality” by “holding meetings, parades, and mass events aiming at intentional distribution of any positive information about homosexuality.” If passed, this law would have effectively silenced the Ukrainian GLBT community. Grindr for Equality sent out a broadcast message urging users to sign an petition asking Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine, to condemn the law. The message was sent the day before the vote was to take place and received more than 24,000 click-throughs.

And what about Turkey? How many users of Grindr located in Turkey? And have you ever witness any interesting things about Turkey as a Grindr experience?

There are 44,966 Grindr users in Turkey. During my recent trip, I’ve met some great people and have had some wonderful experiences.


grindr2What are you planning to add as a feature of Grindr in the future? Do you have any interesting/fun stuff about the app’s new versions to let us know beforehand?

The revolutionary new Grindr, which we’re really excited to release soon, will make meeting the right guy a lot easier and faster. The new app will have a lot of great new features: better filters, a new slide-screen menu and a fresh look and feel that still maintains the classic Grindr experience our users know and love. It’ll be a totally new build as well – we’re redoing it from the ground up and making it much more stable. We’re also trying to personalize the app by allowing users to specify what kind of guys they are – for example, are you a bear, a jock or a twink? – and to search by these communities. As I mentioned previously, one of those communities will be “Poz,” for HIV-positive guys. Overall, we hope to increase our users’ odds of finding someone who’s just their type.


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