GirlCrew cofounders Elva Carri, Pamela Newenham and Aine Mulloy.
Hacking Tinder created a brand new business and a worldwide friendship network powered by GirlCrew’s platforms, writes co-founder and co-CEO, Pamela Newenham
Online dating didn’t have the best reputation when it first began. People were often embarrassed to say they met their other half online. Tinder changed all this and made online dating mainstream. It is nearly more common now to meet someone online than in a bar or through friends. It has become big business too, with the industry generating over $2.5 billion per year in revenues in the US alone.
What Tinder did for the dating industry, Irish-founded start-up GirlCrew is now doing for friendship. It’s helping women all over the world become friends. GirlCrew’s app and desktop platform immediately connects women with others in their city for nights out, hikes, brunches, holidays, networking dinners and more. It also has careers, entrepreneurship, and personal interest groups, where women can share knowledge and advice on everything from getting a pay rise to restaurant recommendations and make-up tips.
Hacking Tinder to make friends
When it came to making friends online, similar attitudes would have prevailed as in the early years of online dating – people frowned upon it. It was assumed only those with no friends would resort to making friends online. It would have been uncool to use an app to make new friends.
A lot has changed in the intervening years.
More and more people are moving to new cities and countries for work, and thus need to build new networks. They are also getting married and settling down at a later stage in life. GirlCrew is aimed at women looking to make new friends, either because they have moved to area, or because they have found themselves at a different life stage to their friends.
GirlCrew began one Friday night in 2014 when Elva Carri wanted to go out dancing but all her friends were either tired or busy. As there weren’t other friendship apps at the time, she turned to the dating app Tinder.
Pretty much everyone knows Tinder these days, and how it transformed the world of online dating, but back then, it was only getting started. On the app, you create a profile and swipe through eligible matches in your local area. Elva changed her gender to male on the app, so she would only appear to other women, and put up a message saying she was female and looking for some platonic dancing buddies. She had no idea she would quickly garner more than 100 matches.
Spreading the word
As Tinder was restricted to one-on-one messaging, it was going to be very time-consuming messaging the 100 matches to plan the night out. As a result, Elva shared a link to a closed Facebook group with her new matches, inviting them to join that to plan the night out. And GirlCrew was born. By switching to a group, everyone could chat together, create events and get to know one another. It was so easy to do, and such a simple concept to grasp that the first event happened without Elva’s input at all. In fact, she’d left her computer to do some jobs around the house and when she came back the first event had been arranged. It was clear her call to go dancing had struck a chord.
From that initial group GirlCrew continued to grow with new members joining every day. Having gained lots of new friends, and a jam-packed social calendar, Elva was going to need help, so she teamed up with Aine Mulloy and myself, and the three of us began growing GirlCrew groups all over the world.
Iterating and reiterating
We didn’t have the money or technical knowledge initially to build our own platform, so we continued adding groups on Facebook, using that platform to build out our idea and test if it could be a business before we began developing our own platform. By the end of 2015, we had hit 20,000 members, across four continents.
We all kept our full-time jobs and worked on GirlCrew part-time, trying out various revenue streams, and launching in new cities across Australia, the US, Europe, Canada and parts of Asia. We didn’t quit our full-time jobs until we knew we were onto something.
GirlCrew now has its own app on iOS and Android, as well as a desktop platform. Women simply join the group for their area such as Dublin or London or Toronto, and they can see what events are happening, read posts and comments from other members, write posts themselves and create events. They can also join topic groups such as careers, dating advice or entrepreneurs. In the topic groups, members share tips, advice and knowledge on everything from getting a new job to finding a good restaurant for a first date.
The GirlCrew community has surpassed more than 100,000 members, in cities such as Cork, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Melbourne and, Edinburgh. You can make friends at home, but also abroad, if you happen to be travelling for work, or going on holidays to another city. It’s a place where you can find your next gig partner, gym buddy, dog sitter, plumber, or dating advice. Members advertise jobs through us, have found bridesmaids and even shared beers in far flung places like Japan. It’s never been easier to make new friends!