Strange bedfellows indeed. Grindr, the top dating app for gay men now has a new majority shareholder, and it comes from an unlikely place. The company sold its stock to Beijing Kunlun Tech Company, a Chinese online gaming company owned by a Chinese billionaire. It is a new interesting coupling indeed.
According to Vanity Fair, Zhou Yahui now owns 60 percent of the app that is valued at around $155 million. Yahui is the first investor outside the company for the free ad-supported app. Grindr founder Joel Simkhai believes this is an excellent move to unite gay men around the world.
“We have taken this investment in our company to accelerate our growth, to allow us to expand our services for you, and to continue to ensure that we make Grindr the number one app and brand for our millions of users,” he explained.
And Grindr gives added credibility to Beijing Kunlun, expanding their offerings. But the partnership is interesting for a different reason, as it may show a change in the Chinese attitude towards homosexuality. Until 2001, the Chinese Psychiatric Association documented homosexuality as a mental disorder. Now, even the People’s Republic of China has an up and coming gay social scene, and Grindr will only improve it.
The Daily Mail is reporting that the purchase of Grindr is still a major coup, even though there is still more Chinese sensitivity in terms of all things gay than there is in the west. Beijing Kunlun, the company that brought Angry Birds to China, is looking forward to making its mark online with the eastern gay community and hoping to push acceptability forward. Grindr is already available in China, but having the majority shareholder be Chinese is a big boost.
“This investment in a social networking platform will further improve the company’s strategic layout in the global Internet market,” the company said in a statement said.
Homosexuality was only decriminalized in China in 1997, which puts the country farther behind is social acceptance than Westerners are used to. Grindr is very hopeful that this aggressive move throughout China will have the added bonus of creating a broader dialogue.
The New York Times is calling the mating of Grindr and Beijing Kunlun an excellent match. Beijing Kunlun now owns 60% and the remainder is owned by Simkhai and Grindr employees.
“We have users in every country in the world, but in order to get to the next phase of our business and grow faster, we needed a partner,” Carter McJunkin, chief operating officer of Grindr, said in an interview.
The pairing also allows Beijing Kunlun a chance to move outside of gaming, and jump with both feet into lifestyle brands.
“We have been very impressed by Grindr’s progress to date and are extremely excited about the future of the company,” Yahui Zhou, chairman of Kunlun, said in a statement. “We will continue to seek out and invest in high-quality technology companies led by top-tier management across the globe.”
The first step for Beijing Kunlun was Blendr, which is an app for bisexual and gay men, so Grindr was a natural next step.
“We experimented in other audiences, but we decided we do the gay audience best,” Mr. McJunkin said. The company’s future growth prospects rest on “solving more problems” for Grindr’s core gay user group, including things like places to go and things to do, he said. “We’ve expanded to make it more of a lifestyle company,” he said.
So congratualtions to Beijing Kunlun and Grindr. May they live a happy life together.
Do you believe that Grindr will be as successful in China as it is in the United States?
[Photo courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images]