Interview : Joel Simkhai, Founder and CEO, Grindr

Dating is no longer a frowned upon thing in India. But what about gay dating?

Grindr: A gay dating app beyond stereotypes in India

Dating is no longer a frowned upon thing in India. But what about gay dating? Well, it’s still conveyed in hushed tones or so we think. Grindr, a dating mobile application has approximately 1 lac registered users in India.

What they thought would be difficult and awkward in a culture like India’s, actually turned out to be Grindr’s one of the most interesting journey. Joel Simkhai, Founder and CEO, Grindr opines that Indians are smart enough to choose what they require.

When they commenced, they had no idea that Grindr would step out of USA, let along becoming a global phenomenon.


The beginning of Grindr

Joel-Simkhai3001Like every other gay man out there, Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO of Grindr, was curious to know who else was gay around him. The only way to know for sure is to go to specific gay clubs or gay bars. Ever since he realized he was gay, he thought there had to be a better way to meet guys. He wanted a more spontaneous, exciting and instantaneous way to meet guys and to help guys meet one another. This is how the Journey of Grindr started.

When asked about the idea behind the Grindr, Joel said, “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”.

The name and logo

There is an interesting story behind the name Grindr. When Joel and his team came up with the app, they wanted a name of it to be a verb to indicate some sort of action. They thought of it as an analogy, like a coffee grinder, a mixing pot or something equivalent to bringing a bunch of people together and mixing them.

“For the logo, we wanted something that brought people back to a primal tribe almost — like an African mask. It reminded us that the desire to connect with other humans is a basic primal need for all us. The fact that we are social beings is a key attribute that has enabled our success as a species,” said Joel.

“We hope that with Grindr we go back to that basic need – to meet and connect with other humans. We also wanted something iconographic that people could attach themselves to. After all, the LGBT community and Grindr guys are kind of a tribe themselves”.

The success story

Grindr is successful with the gay crowd because it solves one of the biggest problems: determining who’s gay around him. It’s become a really useful and fun way for gay guys to connect and to orient themselves in a world where most people are straight.

Commenting on the international success Joel said, “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”.

Joel never expected the app to be an international phenomenon. “When we first launched Grindr, we had no idea that it would become such a global phenomenon. We really owe it to our users; they’re the ones who have made the app into an international sensation in just a few short years,” he recollected. “It’s still hard for me to comprehend, almost four years ago, location-based apps didn’t even exist and today Grindr has become part of the fabric of gay culture and regularly discussed in the mainstream. Grindr is not just iconic for the LGBT community, a lot a straight people know about the app too.”

The app has been referenced on TV shows such as The B- in Apartment 23,’ SNL, Chelsea Lately, The Office and Top Gear.


About the guest author

Raghvendra Shikhrani

Raghvendra Shikhrani is a journalist by profession and dog breeder by passion. Hail from blue blood of a small village in Rajasthan. Family is the priority and community is the responsibility, thus smartly managing the balance between both.