BuzzFeed offers an inside look at Grindr’s evolution to Chinese ownership and being declared a national security risk.
On a stormy afternoon in November, employees at Grindr’s in-house digital magazine, Into, were on edge. They’d just left an emergency staff meeting at the company’s West Hollywood headquarters where they had been told the LGBTQ news outlet was about to publish one of the most explosive stories in its 15-month history. The topic: a Facebook post in which Scott Chen, the president of the gay dating and hookup app, wrote that marriage should be “between a man and a woman.”
Don’t discuss the story with your Grindr colleagues, editors told Into staff. Relax and do your best to behave normally at lunch. When the building unexpectedly lost power that afternoon, some paranoid employees wondered if Chen was trying to kill the story by cutting the electricity. (The cause was later determined to be a rain-induced blackout.)
Published by three Into staffers from Zinqué, a nearby French bistro, the article — “Grindr President Says Marriage Is ‘Holy Matrimony Between a Man and a Woman’ in Deleted Social Media Post” — sent shockwaves through the company. It was a humiliating black eye for the popular app, one of the most recognizable gay brands in the world, and another gaffe that severely damaged its standing with employees. Within two months, Into’s entire editorial staff was laid off, and by spring, Grindr had shelved plans for an initial public offering, which had been hamstrung by mismanagement and government scrutiny of its Chinese owner.
For Grindr employees, Into’s untimely demise was the culmination of the internal rifts and tactical missteps that continue to afflict the company to this day. Later this year, Grindr is expected to launch another media venture, its second attempt at an LGBTQ-focused site, and prepare its business to be sold. But six former employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News under the condition of anonymity, citing nondisclosure agreements and fear of retaliation, are not so optimistic.
“There was a sequence of unfortunate events that exposed cultural differences, lack of strategic clarity, and internal angst between those who were gay and straight,” said one former employee. “And that’s what Grindr still is today.”
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