Grindr founder: don’t let your balls hang out

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Love it, hate it, ignore it, or obsess over it, every gay man with awareness of his surroundings has a stance on Grindr. App creator Joel Simkhai adds yet another new take that you probably haven’t considered: Grindr as love connection. Yes, really.

“Absolutely, sex is going on,” Simkhai (top photo) tells the New York Times.“But it’s more than that, because there’s always the possibility you will hit the jackpot and find someone who will move you. It has this potential for making a huge impact in your life.”

A self-professed daily user of the app to mixed results, Simkhai thinks that Grindr is more like a gay bar than a sex club.

“If you go to a bar, you don’t want to see someone with his genitals hanging out,” he continues. “Outside the gay community, people would probably say it’s just a hookup app.”

Wait, what? First of all, dick and balls are in fact hanging out for the asking on Grindr. We’ll also go out on a limb and say that people inside the gay community think it’s just a hookup app too. But don’t, Simkhai says. Call it an “online meeting place.”

Simkhai conceived, workshopped and launched the GPS-as-wingman app in 2009. Clearly, he thinks of his creation as a kinder, gentler, more romantic experience than its “Mr. Right Now” reputation. The 38-year-old native Israeli, who makes Grindr’s home in Los Angeles, also has lofty visions of the app’s global impact on gay culture, though it didn’t start out that way.

“I never had any master plan to shift a culture,” Simkhai says. “I made something because I wanted it for myself. … I was thinking about what was out there at the time. Craigslist was so anonymous and explicit. And on Craigslist, you have no real identity. It’s just a post. It’s not your face or maybe not even a real ID.”

Because Grindr is never anonymous and explicit, always shows a face and always contains real IDs. But we digress. So besides keeping your balls tucked away at the onset, what’s Simkhai’s best advice on maximizing Grindr’s potential? Shut up and show it.

“Grindr is a very, very visual experience,” Simkhai tells the Times. “I’m not really a big believer in words… Grindr made me get fit and go to the gym more, get better abs. People criticize it for being superficial, but I didn’t invent that in human nature. What Grindr does is makes you raise your game.”

Simkhai’s new interview is no less a bundle of contradictions than the man himself, according to the Times.

[Simkhai] wears his paradoxes lightly and can sometimes seem like two very unalike personalities in the body of one small man.

Close to 40, he appears far younger and has about him the air of an overgrown adolescent. Head of a successful privately held and far-reaching international business, he is so low-key as to be easily be mistaken for a parking attendant. Boyishly handsome, with a toothy smile and a shock of dark hair, he claims to be beset by physical insecurities.

And there it is. Checking in “10 times a day” in a daily search for love, Simkhai doesn’t get a lot of action, he suggests. That just means he has more time to oversee upgrades like Grindr's new trick timer or PSAs for PrEP. Or maybe it means that he heeds the warnings about Grindr no-nos and unseen dangers can make those jockstrap three ways can go awry.

Photo by Kendrick Brinson for the New York Times


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