San Francisco-based HORNET APP launched in January 2012. It offers social and dating features for “gay, bi, and curious guys” with profiles, messaging, and “stealth mode” for anonymity.
The service has been growing quickly even while facing competition from Grindr, the reigning king of the gay mobile-social space.
Sean Howell, CEO of the trending gay-dating app HORNET, answered our question just before the HORNET OFFICIAL PARTY that will be held in NEO CLUB/ISTANBUL at January 17th,Friday.
-Can you introduce yourself and your bio to us? What did you do before Hornet?
Hornet was started by technologists, I was a tech analyst in stocks. My co-founders were very serious technologists from companies like Linkedin, Microsoft, Zynga. I’ve served on lots of gay non profit boards, including PFLAG.
– How and when did the HORNET app idea come up? And also why the name HORNET has been picked for this app?
We didn’t like the competitors, we thought they lacked sophisticated coding and thought their ads looked like Spam. We also thought mobile apps could be a powerful tool to advance social justice issues and health for gays. We’ve help support some of the largest HIV testing days in the world, including one in Manila where 700 people got tested. We’ve also made social justice campaigns for Serbia, Russia, USA, Uganda, Egypt, India around gay issues.
-Other than hooking up gays, what are the goals of Hornet?
Gays are one of the most powerful demographics, they’re trend setters, often highly compensated and politically active. As a minority, we need to often fight for our rights. While in the USA many gays have advanced to high paying jobs, this isn’t true for all. Even in the USA we often face discrimination. We’re working on these issues and support a lot of gays in the work place non-profits. The rest of the world, this fact can be even worse. We want to help make a difference and with 40% of the internet traffic happening on mobile our social network is a very tactful way to reach everyone. From a business perspective, we also help organize gay parties around the world in place where it is often still quite secrative to be gay, you can imagine those countries that still have very serious penalties for being gay. Bringing people together is how we get ahead. We also deserve best in class marketing, from major brands like Orbitz, American Airlines, and BMW, Google, etc. You need to create a venue that isn’t all about sex. Some of our competitors are so sex focused that it makes the gay community unapproachable for advertising. However, because gays are trend setters advertisers really want to find ways to work together. Despite some conservative values in the world, you see major companies fighting for marriage equality, Microsoft and Starbucks for example. This will only continue.
-How many Turkish users do you have? Do you have any feedbacks about Hornet from Turkey region ? What are these?
60,000 and that has been growing at 20% month over month. There are lots of reasons for that. Grindr is sadly blocked. This isn’t good for anyone, gay or straight. The big volume of new users seem to be quite impressed. If your readers are fans of Hornet, giving us a good review with lots of stars really helps us.
-Is Hornet forbidden in any country?
We aren’t forbidden in any country and work very hard to make sure we help the gay community get ahead. Our Know Your Status campaign is very popular with health ministries even in some conservative countries. We are always looking for non-profits to work with in countries. The EU and USA State Departments have been very focused on gay rights. Sometimes you see push back from countries because of this, but Hornet is available all over the world, from China to the Vatican.
-What are the most interesting feedbacks/stories about Hornet app and hookups?
Just on twitter yesterday someone posted about being sad about gay dating and then they met the man of their dreams there. That’s a great story, but what makes me happiest is the users who were too afraid to ever tell anyone that they’re gay who make friends online. They get to share stories and then someday meet in person and get courage to be who they are. I think for all gay men we go through this evolution one way or the other. I can remember when it happened for me.