It’s not an understatement to say Joel Simkhai changed the gay community forever when he launched Grindr in 2009. Now, less than a decade later, the Israeli-born entrepreneur has left the company, which boasts more than 100 employees and 3.3 million daily users.
In 2016, Chinese mobile-gaming company Beijing Kunlun purchased 61.5% of Grindr for $93 million, and scooped up the remaining 38.5% for an additional $152 million in May 2017. Now that the sale has been finalized, Simkhai is stepping aside.
“I’m beyond proud of what we’ve built as a team and how Grindr has been able to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to the global community,” he said in a statement, “We have achieved our success because of the strength and global reach of our community. I look forward to Grindr and Kunlun’s continued commitment to building tolerance, equality, and respect around the world.”
Beijing Kunlun’s billionaire chairman Zhou Yahui will serve as the app’s interim CEO, while Grindr vice-chairman Wei Zhou has been named executive vice-chair and CFO. Former Facebook and Instagram vet Scott Chen has been hired on as chief technology officer.
“On behalf of everyone at Grindr, we would like to thank Joel for his inspiration and service as the founder of Grindr, and wish him all the best in the future,” said Zhou. “Looking forward, we are extremely excited about the excellent work Grindr is doing in becoming a leading global technology company, serving and supporting our users no matter where they are in the world.”
Grindr has continued to grow beyond a tool for guys to get it on: Last year the company launched a news portal, INTO, sent out warnings to members in unfriendly countries, and addedfeatures for trans, female and nonbinary users.
But how will its push for social awareness and LGBT advocacy play out in mainland China—where conversion therapy is still legal, HIV education is woefully undervalued, and most gay people are pressured into sham marriages?
The country’s biggest gay hookup app is still Blued, started by a former policeman in 2013. It claims more than 27 million users, most of whom are based in China.