These days finding a man with traditional online dating sites can be a Herculean task, and those looking for a hookup often fall back on the usual websites such as gay.com or go to a local gay club for friendship and fun.
As an easy alternative, Joel Simkhai, chief executive officer of Grindr, created a social networking application compatible with Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.
Simkhai had imagined the concept long before its inception as a viable way to meet gay, bisexual or curious men. He would lock eyes with someone in the grocery store, or catch someone checking him out at the gym, but he was never sure if those contacts were flirtatious or simply friendly.
When Apple produced the second version of the iPhone in June 2008, the technology was finally available to enable an application that could utilize the GPS functionality for the exact purposes Simkhai had envisioned.
Simkhai put together a think tank of developers and programmers in August 2008 to assist on this project. A little over two years later, Grindr has been accessed by over one million users in 180 countries. With an average of 4,000 new users each day, there’s always a wide selection for fearless seekers.
“The key to our success has been our active user base,” stated Simkhai, a self-professed "proud addict" of the application.
Grindr was positioned into the iPhone platform first because of its simplicity for developers, and it allowed for an international distribution channel with virtually no marketing startup cost involved with the App Store. Additionally, the popularity of the device made it the best option.
While the company is currently beta testing a version for Blackberry, it is constantly looking to expand to other platforms.
“We are developers of software, and we are going to try to provide the product where the users are," Simkhai said. "We’re very, very close to finalizing the software, meanwhile you can go to grindrblackberry.com, and be notified when the version is available."
Currently, there are two versions of Grindr: the free application, and Grinder (X)tra, which is offered for a monthly fee of $2.99. Users of the extended service are provided priority response to communications, allowing a user to load 100 more profiles. They also receive a Rapid Swipe function enabling quicker profile scanning, push notification that informs them of new messages, and no ad banners as they browse the application.
However, with the meeting of a complete stranger comes the possibility for potential personal harm, particularly when a GPS system provides such accurate locations of the application users.
Simkhai notes that there are tips on the website for first-time users, and that the programming allows them to not let others view his position. He also encourages users to not drink alcohol when meeting folks for the first time, and to meet in a public area.
The current user base mainly consists of 20-somethings, but Grindr is drawing an increasingly diverse range of clientele. While many of Simkhai's staff members are daily users as well, others are simply supportive of this entertaining venture.
"A lot of people volunteer for us," he said. "The credit really goes to the community and we’re very, very thankful for that."
Meanwhile, now guys may have their guy, and befriend him too, thanks to Grindr.