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Inside the Grindr app relaunch: ‘We’re making the hook up easier than ever’

Grindr's Vice President of Branding, Tristan Piñeiro, talks to City A.M.
Grindr's Vice President of Branding, Tristan Piñeiro, talks to City A.M.

This Pride month they’ve become the first dating app to provide free STI testing kits, delivered straight to users’ homes. Tristan Piñeiro, Vice President of Brand at the Grindr app, talks to City A.M. about plans to turn the app into a lifestyle destination for LGBTQ people, and about making hook ups easier. “We believe sex is part of the human experience,” he says.

If the last year had been a hookup, it had been the type Grindr would hope to never see again. Lawsuits about alleged data breaches on the platform, revealing users’ HIV statuses to advertisers, have been strenuously denied. Law firm Austen Hays says more than 650 users are suing.

In 2023, some staff began a unionisation campaign that is ongoing, and nearly half left after CEO George Arison made in-office working compulsory, and there were complaints about representation on the Board of Directors, with leavers apparently costing the company more than $9 million in severance pay. Since Grindr went public in 2022 its stock has fallen so bosses have been looking for new ways to bring in the cash, hoping to monetise the app by responding to user behaviours by adding new features.

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As well as people looking for a casual hook-up, there has been a spike in people using the app to make friends, find where is safe to go when abroad, and meet people for longterm connections. “We are still a casual dating app but there’s so many other use cases that we’re starting to pay attention to, and productising to really take advantage of the fact we are the premiere global location for the community to contact each other,” Tristan Piñeiro, VP of brand and content marketing, tells City A.M.

Grindr has become the first dating app to offer free STI tests to its users. People can check their status at home, without going to a health clinic

Users have suggested that the Grindr app relaunching to become a broader LGBTQ lifestyle platform may be too “complicated,” but Piñeiro stresses that functionality – and the casual sexual meet – will always remain central to the app’s DNA. “That is always going to be at the heart of what we are,” says Piñeiro of hookup culture. “That’s not going away, if anything we are going to lean into it, because we are about casual dating and hookups and there’s nothing wrong with that. We believe sex is part of the human experience. Down the line it’s something we’re going to be productising more, the immediacy of it all and the right nowness of it, through our communications and imagery and material.”

Piñeiro says the “beauty of Grindr is its simplicity,” something they will “always” keep at the focus of app development – but they believe there are ways to make it more versatile. “There is room for so much more and we know people are using it for so much more. We can see in the app, and we have all kinds of focus groups and research. What we want to do is sharpen it. By building around real behaviours we’re just making it better than it already is. Not everyone will use all the functionality and that’s fine.”

Grindr became the first location-based dating app when it launched in 2009, inspiring a legion of copycat apps including Hinge and Tinder. It is now available in 190 countries, with people using it to meet other LGBTQ people when they go abroad. The new Roam feature allows users to place their profile in a different location ahead of travelling in order to plan meet-ups with people in that destination. “We’re starting to refer to it as the global Gaybourhood in your pocket,” says Piñeiro.

More Pride month: Fra Fee on BBC Pride month drama Lost Boys & Fairies: ‘It’s Heartstopper for adults’

Piñeiro says he may consider adding a holiday booking platform on-app and going into “other areas like healthcare or financial services”. In partnership with PrEPster at The Love Tank and Sexual Health London (SHL), Grindr has this May become the first dating app to offer STI tests that can be ordered in-app and delivered to your home free of charge. “Having these kits available through Grindr is removing a lot of barriers that exist to testing and obviously testing is the gateway to treatment and we can give out information on prevention,” says Piñeiro. “We know that for a huge proportion of people ordering the kits, it’s the first time they’ve tested.”

There remains a huge amount of stigma around in-person STI testing, and many barriers to entry, including clinic operating hours, transportation, and fear of judgement. So far, 250,000 kits have been delivered in the US and 500 were ordered within the first 48 hours of the initiative going live in the UK last month. “You can do it in the privacy of your own home. It is then sent to Sexual Health London, who will get back to you on results.”

Naturally, changes to the app will not keep everyone happy. “There are a number of challenges because there are many sides to every argument. It’s very difficult to create a Nirvana app where everybody’s happy.”

Grindr is providing free STI self-sampling kits for users of the app. Order the kit in the ‘profile’ section of your app. The initiative is part of the Grindr for Equality programme. Go to grindr. com/g4e for information.

More Pride month: London Pride 2024: here are 15 amazing events to book this June