I had a theater teacher in college who was a little eccentric. As he gave a lesson, he rocked back and forth on his feet with his hands in his pockets. It didn’t matter what question he posed to the class, ie “What was the underlying theme of the film?” “What was behind the relationship of the two main characters?” “What was the subtext of the script?” It was always the same answer, and no one dared say it out loud. so he would stand on his tiptoes, take both hands out of his pocket, point his fingers in the air, and thunder “SEX!” “It’s all about sex!”
I’ve never been on Grindr, but unless you live under a rock, everyone knows what Grindr is for and why it’s been around for 13 years. SEX! No matter how you cut it, Grindr is all about sex. Try as you might put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. And no, it wasn’t a sexualized pun.
If I was single and available, I would more than likely be on Grindr. In fact, a study from a few years ago found that 84% of Grindr users fell in love. So it’s probably not an exaggeration to say it’s a dating app, even though it ranks far behind sex.
Grindr has bold intentions as it enters its 14e year of existence. He announced the hiring of a new CEO, George Arison, who was the founder and CEO of Shift Technologies, an online platform for buying and selling used cars. He has been on Grindr’s board since May. It’s all part of Grindr’s plan to go public.
Now, period. Recently it was revealed that Arison could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to be a wolf of Wall Street selling gay sex while trying to hide his past support for a real wolf who bit LGBTQ+ progress. .
In the past, Arison has expressed his support for Donald Trump on Twitter, and Grindr users are threatening to take down the app following the revelation. That would be easy to do, as there are a litany of other apps out there that can satisfy the needs of those looking for sexual gratification.
Here is what he tweeted during the presidential campaign in 2020:
“For your information, I’m a conservative and agree with some Trump policies. I think at least 10% of Republican voters and 1/3 of moderate Independents are the same (like some of Trump’s policies, I can’t stand having him in power). So Democrats need a candidate who can tap into that electoral spectrum.”
Now this is where it gets weird. Hours later, he ripped Trump:
“Re:politics // I view Trump as everything our founders feared most – who was a demagogue focused solely on self-advancement and self-interest. For this reason, to ensure that he is not re-elected is essential for our future.”
A bait and a switch? Well, it looks like Arison’s tweets give a clue as to what he and others are trying to do with Grindr’s image. It’s a sex app. Wow, not so fast. It’s a dating app. It is a community application. My grandfather had a saying for people who were hesitant about a problem: “You can’t go to bed Catholic and wake up Jewish.
Having worked on a few initial public offerings as a PR consultant, I can tell you it’s a painstaking and meticulous process. It’s about positioning the business well and getting a lot of ducks to line up. For Grindr, that means changing its public image to be more than just a hookup app.
The company’s website says it’s “a location-based social networking and online dating app for members of the LGBT community.” That doesn’t say, of course, that it’s the primary hookup mechanism for men, which in my day was gay bars.
Of course, Grindr has had its share of problems, including affecting the mental health of usersa trial for sexual racism and one that involved a man send more than 1,000 other men to her ex-boyfriend. Buzzfeed reported in 2018 that the app shared users’ location and HIV status with an outside party. And there is no doubt that the MPV outbreak has kept and still keeps many people off the app.
Now any prominent company is bound to have lawsuits and issues with their customers. Think of the airlines; however, when it comes to sex, Grindr is still in a precarious position. Craigslist, for example, shut down its personal ads in 2018 due to a law passed by Congress regarding sex trafficking. At the time, Craigslist said in a statement, “Any tool or service can be misused. We cannot take such a risk without jeopardizing all of our other services, so we regretfully taking contacts offline. from Craigslist. Hopefully we can bring them back someday.”
Not yet, because who needs Craigslist when Grindr is so much easier and faster? There was a time back when you would log on to Craigslist and become partners, and you were reluctant to say how you met. But times have changed, and Grindr has become a fixture in the lives of millions of gay men, so if you meet on a sex app, most people shrug their shoulders.
And after being around for 13 years, it will be a monumental task for Grindr to be known as something other than a sex app. As a PR manager, I know it’s a huge struggle for companies to try to turn themselves into something they aren’t, or at least not known for. But that’s what Grindr is forced to do to some extent. It needs to soften for future shareholders, because making money from men who have sex with men isn’t something most investors would brag about. But then again, if they were bragging about it, would most people just shrug their shoulders?
Cory Weinberg, senior reporter for Information, one of the nation’s leading tech outlets, and certainly one of the most important when it comes to covering Silicon Valley executives and business. Weinberg wrote a terrific piece this week, “Can Grindr’s New CEO Sell the Gay Sex App to Wall Street?”
I asked Weinberg why Grindr goes public in the first place. “Its current owners, an investment firm headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Raymond Zage, bought it for $600 million,” Weinberg explained. “That was just two years ago. They brought in an almost entirely new management team, which improved the technology, workforce and financial profile during the pandemic. But Grindr had a ton of debt on its books as a result of the deal, and now this push to go public is partly to pay off that debt.
OK, now let’s get to the heart of the matter: if sex does indeed sell, is that why the Grindr IPO story intrigues investors so much? “No, not really,” laughed Weinberg. “There’s an interesting dynamic – and why a lot of information readers found this story interesting because there simply aren’t many well-known companies hitting the public markets for the first time this year. There was Getty Images, and there could be Instacart, and that’s about it. Markets have had their ups and downs, so investors have been wary of less proven companies that may have more unpredictable actions. It’s certainly a challenge for Grindr, which is introducing itself to investors for the first time, really.
As this may be the first time some investors have heard of the company, is Grindr doing everything possible to avoid the sexual element of its story? “The way the executives tell the story of Grindr is also interesting,” Weinberg pointed out. “The business has real, real profits, which is unusual for a tech company. subscriptions. Investors love these things.
How, then, does Grindr talk about the sexual element? “There’s obviously a lot to explain,” Weinberg finally disclosed. “It’s not just about the gay sex part, which executives sort of dance around calling it a ‘dating app’. But also, data privacy, law enforcement and other complicated issues of running a global consumer application.
What about the consumers of the application? Will things change for Grindr users because the company tries to revamp its image? “The short to medium term plan certainly doesn’t seem to involve changing the way people use the app much,” Weinberg said. “I think they are trying to improve the rate of paid users versus free users. They are trying to reduce crashes and improve the basic functionality of the app. The leaders want to paint a story about the future long term that goes beyond what is largely an app for people to meet for sex.
He added: “Don’t get me wrong. People meet for dates, friendships, etc., but that seems largely incidental, at least in the big cities.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what it is, but people have different experiences, and it could be something different if the company wanted it,” Weinberg pointed out. “But the design of the app and the way it’s been built seems to have one purpose, and it’s a means to sex. Which is great and fine, for the most part.
“But it begs the question of how the gay world relates to sex in a new commercial light. For example, a big stat touted by executives is that users spend an average of 61 minutes on the app each day. Is it good? Seems… a bit unhealthy, at least to some people. But it’s great for business. It’s a question we should at least be asking, just like we ask about people who are glued to TikTok.
In that vein, and as users threaten to quit Grindr because of its new CEO, will they abandon the app and ditch hookup? Or will they just download another app and fish Grindr?
John Casey is editor-in-chief for The Lawyer.
The opinions expressed in the lawyerOpinion pieces are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the lawyer or our parent company, Equal Pride.
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