Grindr, the popular dating app used by millions of gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, on Tuesday named a new CEO who is scheduled to take the company public this fall with an ambitious $2.1 billion valuation.
The company’s board of directors tapped George Arison, the founder and former CEO of Shift Technologies, a website for buying and selling used cars, as its new chief. Arison, who led a taxi-hailing app before he started his own company nearly a decade ago, has been on Grindr’s board of directors since May.
Arison will take over on Oct. 19 as Grindr prepares to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company. In a statement Tuesday, Arison called Grindr, which had about 11 million monthly active users around the world last year, an “unbelievable business.”
“Their hard work and a laser focus on delivering great products to a starkly underserved market are inspiring, and deliver incredibly strong business results,” said Arison, who is openly gay.
He will take the wheel as the app reckons in the immediate term with its role in addressing the outbreak of monkeypox, which has been shown to spread primarily through sex and among men who have sex with men.
He also takes the reins after years of controversy that have at times complicated the identity and mission of the app, which fundamentally changed gay culture after it launched in 2009. In recent years, Grindr has faced accusations that it negatively affects the mental health of its users, poses an exploitation risk to minors and fuels “sexual racism.” The company told NPR last year that it takes seriously its responsibilities to prevent misuse and identify misconduct.
In 2018, BuzzFeed News uncovered that the company had been sharing its users’ HIV statuses and location data with two outside vendors. The night the BuzzFeed report broke, the company said it would put a stop to the practice. Later that year, internal strife at the company reached a fever pitch when the app’s then-president, Scott Chen (who left the company for Meta in 2020), made comments that appeared to suggest he believed marriage should be between only a man and a woman.
Leaders at Grindr have tried to move past the controversies with a number of initiatives, including Kindr, an effort it started in 2018 to combat racism on the app by updating its community guidelines.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Their type. Their tastes. But nobody is entitled to tear someone else down because of their race, size, gender, HIV status, age, or — quite simply — being who they are,” says the Kindr page on the Grindr website.
Following concerns about exploitation, the app “refreshed” its Help Center, community guidelines and safety tips, among other measures. It also partnered with another company to integrate machine-learning algorithms to prevent the transmission of exploitation and abuse materials.
In 2016, the Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech acquired Grindr for $93 million. The company reportedly had plans to take Grindr public, but it ultimately divested its shares for $620 million after the U.S. raised concerns that China could use the information on the app to blackmail Americans.
The current deal to take Grindr public, which is set to take place later this year, was made public in May.
In addition to announcing a new CEO, Grindr also announced Tuesday that it will bring on a new chief financial officer, Vanna Krantz. Krantz, the CFO of the financial tech company Passport Inc., will start her new role on Sept. 26.
Grindr’s outgoing CEO and CFO, Jeff C. Bonforte and Gary C. Hsueh, will move into advisory roles.