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'Be scrappy,' says Grindr founder

Grindr CEO and founder Joel Simkhai told the C2 audience how to build an app

Modern life is full of choice. Where to eat, what technology to use, and navigating the thousands of TV channels and brands on offer. We are connected to more people than ever and the opportunities to explore new worlds are more achievable. We have almost any information we need at our fingertips, and there really is an app for everything.

When it comes to choice, modern dating has it in abundance. Apps like Grindr and Tinder give consumers the ultimate power to take control of their love lives and the connections they make. In a virtual world where one connection isn’t enough, we swipe as many times as we want (and for whomever we want), to build a relationship based on algorithms and location data.

Opening doors and providing choice for the LGBT community is a central message to the original "swipe for love" location-based dating app, Grindr. Speaking at the C2 conference in Montréal, Joel Simkhai, founder and CEO, went through the creative and technical process involved in creating one of the world’s biggest online dating apps.

"The idea is just the beginning," Joel said. "What’s the solution? You want to find a very simple solution – the simpler the solution, the better. We often try to overcomplicate things so the solution becomes an even bigger problem. So find a really easy way to solve the problem," he added.

Joel went on to say that for the solution to be simple, you must be able to explain it in a few seconds. And whatever problem it is that you’ve identified, lots of other people have already developed the solution. It’s a race to market. But the key is to execute and not waste time developing the perfect app.

"You want to get a very basic solution out to the market as soon as possible — be scrappy," he said.

"Users are the ones who will tell you whether your idea is good or not. They are the only people who can truly validate your idea."

Joel Simkhai of Grindr
Grindr CEO and founder, Joel Simkhai, talks to the audience at C2.

Joel explained that for Grindr, their first version was created with very little money behind it — a few thousand dollars — and with very little knowledge of the technology required. But what they did have was the belief in the solution and passion to fulfill it. What really motored the dating app into a position of market dominance, were the changes that followed.

"Getting feedback and data from users was so important," he explained. "What’s working, what’s not working, and what kind of questions do they have."

"Let [users] give you the information you need — let them make the decisions. Then when you have that information you want to iterate quickly, you make additions, you take things away; all based on data and feedback."

After an app has been launched a lot of people lose focus. "Your audience comes first and the user experience should reflect that," he said. "Don’t copy anyone. Features don’t win. Solving problems wins."

On how you find fans, Simkhai said that "if you solve a very big problem and you have a very good solution people will gravitate towards you. Once it resonates they will become your advocates. They will talk to their friends, their family, and they will post it on social".

He used Waze as an example; fans spread the word about the community-based traffic and navigation app. Live traffic updates are user-generated, as are many of the apps on the market today with the content they produce.

Dating apps have become a phenomenon in recent times, with the likes of Tinder, Happn and Bumble dominating the marketplace. But the original app, Grindr, was the first of its kind. Paving the way for start-up dating apps, Grindr has been the solution to the siloed dating world problem of the LGBT community.


Video interview by Georganna Simpson


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