Who knew that working for one of the world’s largest gay hookup apps was like workng in the Trump White House? But according to Landen Zumwalt, Grindr’s former head of communications, that’s exactly what it was.
“There was this small group of people inside Grindr who wanted to leave, but we were too fearful of what might happen if we did,” he recently told Los Angeles magazine’s Steven Blum. “I used to balk when I heard that from Trump people, and I still do, but that was a reality I was living with day-to-day.”
“I left because I didn’t want to be their Sarah Sanders anymore,” he added.
This revelation comes after a fairly tumultuous two years for the app, as detailed in a longform feature by BuzzFeed News reporter Ryan Mac earlier this year. The exposé chronicled the platform’s descent from a profitable hookup app-turned-multimedia company to an ouroboric company “in tatters” following the sale from its American founder, Joel Simkhai, to Chinese social gaming company Kunlun Group.
To make a long story short: Both the BuzzFeed and L.A. Mag reports trace the app’s downfall to a decision to not submit the sale of Grindr to a voluntary review by our government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and the company’s decision to relocate its engineering headquarters from the United States to Beijing.
CFIUS came after Grindr earlier this year, three years after the initial sale to Kunlun, instructing Kunlun to sell Grindr to a company based in the U.S. They fear that with the engineering base in Beijing, personal data from Grindr’s estimated four million daily users (like HIV status, location, email, and other information) are in danger of being accessed outside of the U.S. and shared in non-secure file formats with third-party companies.
Thanks to CFIUS’ intervention, Grindr is supposed to be sold to an American company by June of 2020.
And none of this even touches on the drama associated with Grindr’s (straight) president, Scott Chen, suddenly shuttering its award-winning publication INTO earlier this year, just weeks after the publication broke a story about Chen’s homophobic views on marraige.
In the aftermath of this hubbub, current staffers told L.A. Mag that the app is no longer an LGBTQ+ company.
“Over time, as people have left, they’ve been replaced by straight people,” an anonymous employee said. “Today Scott likes to use the phrase: ‘We’re not an LGBT company anymore. We serve LGBT users.’”
Editor’s Note: Out Deputy Editor Nico Lang formerly worked for INTO as did Zach Stafford, Editor-in-Chief of our sister publication, The Advocate.