Exclusive Interview with Coley Cummiskey: The Man Behind the Creation & Success of GROWLr.
I've shared the image of my "gay male apps" folder many times on here. If you have just one, which one would it be? Well, I don't have one. I think I'm up to 19. Let's just say I have them all for research purposes. One that I have been a member for ever since it came out is GROWLr and boy, I've loved the research on there.
We discuss a lot of different apps on Instinct Magazine and do not promote just one. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go 'round and apparently it takes more than one app. I most recently chatted about GROWLr when we shared it was third on a list of apps in The Most Time Consuming Social Network Apps Are Revealed, just behind Facebook at #2 and Grindr at #1.
How did GROWLr come to be? And how did it become the third most time consuming app in the world. Let's find out from its creator, Coley Cummiskey.
INSTINCT: How does it feel to be ranked the third most time-consuming app in the world?
Coley: I prefer addictive to time-consuming. It’s a great honor and it speaks to the community we’ve created.
The Bear Social Network or the Bear Social Media. There’s lots more to us that will not fit under the label of a “dating app.”
Lots of different features and goals, dates, hook-ups, talking to friends, making friends. And long distance is becoming more prevalent. You may fall madly in love with someone 3,000 miles away. There are just so many options because we are GPS based, the profiles are GPS based.
We also have the Private Posts. Users can place events on their profile, dating status, location, new private photos.
About the GPS. A pretty newsworthy aspect of gay “dating apps” is the GPS aspect being used in countries to track down men and imprison them. What has GROWLr done to address this threat?
(Related Post: Egyptian Authorities Are Using Grindr To Lure & Arrest Gay Men).
One of the main things we do is that the app has the option to hide your location. That’s not just on the profile but behind the scenes, too. If you select that option, there will be no internal data regarding your location, no latitude, no longitude, nothing.
We are used in some of those nations that are using the apps to track down people. We had a gay advocacy group from the Middle East work with our app to identify and establish safety measures. They actually traveled to me here in Seattle to meet. It was so important to them and we definitely worked with them and were excited and honored to do so. It was a great experience. And the Middle East is one of our more popular areas.
I will attest to you being “very helpful” during my trip to Tel Aviv.
So how did you get into the app designing business, and why GROWLr?
My Background is as a computer programmer. I earned a BA in Computer Science and Computer Engineering. I worked for a lot of communication companies along the way, too, building websites during the pre-smartphone and app days. There was some experience working with gay dating websites, like Out in America, a gay city network. There was one website for every major city. It was around for a while, it did okay, and gave me good experiences in all aspects.
The Internet was a big boom for dating, and then smart phones came out. There seems to be a major change every 7 to 10 years. I was there for both. When the smartphones became the next big thing, I needed to jump on this.
I did have some experience with one app before where you could see who unfriended you on Facebook.
But why GROWLr? When I was looking at the other apps, I was finding myself saying, “These are not my people.” They don’t look or act like me, and I wanted something more bear oriented. I had the experience and I also had the support of the bear community, too.
GROWLr is the complete social networking app for gay bears. And it’s FREE. With over 10,000,000 GROWLr members, you can view profiles from around the world or right in your own neighborhood. Send and receive private messages, pictures, or voice memos. Complete and up-to-date bear run and bear bar listings. Checkin features, notes and more.
Winner of the 2014 Cybersocket award for "Best Hookup App" for gay men!
We had good growth from the start. When we hit the 1 million users mark, it was a big milestone. I was still working my 9 to 5 job building insurance websites, but then I was thinking, do I have to do this job anymore since the app was so successful?
Another exciting moment I remember is when I received a hello from a guy in the UK. Others, were that me and husband attended bear run events, bear prides and what not, so hearing the GROWLr ding on the shuttle bus in Chicago, and looking at the app while in a Columbus, Ohio bar and seeing over 30 people that are 0.0 miles away.
Another thing that has solidified our success is that we have been grossing well. Historically we’ve been ranked the number 1 top grossing social networking app in 100 countries across the globe.
I know that you have the membership fees, but how else are you making money?
One of my favorite features, some competitors have copied it, is the shout outs. We were at an event, the Texas Bear Round-up, and the shout out feature really evolved over there. We had a shout out competition during the event with about 100 shouts a day. Competitions we ran were to come up with best, funniest, most clever, etc., and we gave out prizes like free upgrades and shout credits. It was a blast.
We have a rich site even if you do not pay for it. But how we make money … there are different ways to pay for the Pro Memberships, we’re subscription base, in app purchases, shouts, flashes, banner ads, direct sales, and so on.
Top In-App Purchases
- GROWLr PRO Membership$7.99
- GROWLr PRO Membership$3.99
- GROWLr PRO Membership$19.99
- GROWLr PRO Membership$9.99
- SHOUT! (5 Miles)$4.99
- GROWLr PRO Membership$29.99
- SHOUT! (20 Miles)$19.99
- SHOUT! (10 Miles)$9.99
- GROWLr PRO Membership$59.99
- GROWLr PRO Membership$17.99
Another issue “Dating Apps” and “Social Apps” face is the age requirement. 17 plus?
There’s age verification and questions on both sides. The app has a rating of 17 plus, correct. It depends on if you get the app via iTunes or on the phone how it presents itself. We do require people to put their age into the profile. If they lie then they violate the agreement. We do outsource to a moderation team, mainly done in India, and everyone does that.
- Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes
- Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
We covered more ground with Coley, his start in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, time in Columbus, Ohio, and his getting married to his partner (whom he found pre-GROWLr creation) in California and settling in Seattle, Washington. He mentioned that GROWLr is small. Even though it has 10 million or so users, it’s still run by two full time employees, him and his husband.
What do you have planned for the next update to the app?
We’re always trying to make improvements in the app. As smartphones become smarter, for example with facial recognition, GROWLr will integrate that. And as other tech goes, as it advances, we will do that. We will continue to grow the GROWLr user base. More and more people using the app.
We will look at bring in other communities to the app. It seems that everyone states that we have the friendliest users, which might be why people spend the most time on ours. We're an app that's good for the bear community, good for the over all community.
I really enjoyed my time with Coley. His company reminded me of Instinct. Keeping it simple, down to earth and remembering we are here for the user, in our case, the reader. Coley's vision from the beginning has been to make a great place for people to gather, meet, socialize, learn, and grow. We are excited to see how Coley will adapt to new technology and make GROWLr even more addictive, but in a good way.
The screen shots below were provided by GROWLr.
What's interesting about this next one is that I know two of the guys on it. The guys are chatty, friendly, and respectful, no matter if they are right around the corner or 1/2 way across the globe.
Coley Cummiskey Bio shared from GROWLr
Coley Cummiskey is the creator and brains behind GROWLr and "the wingman you never knew you had." Having faced many of the same coming out challenges that every gay man experiences at some point in his life, he was determined to use his skills as an IT developer to create a safe space and online community where gay men around the world could meet and connect in ways that were never possible before. He graduated at the top of his class from Bucknell University in 1993 with a degree in Computer Science and Computer Engineering. He went on to work for several online and communication giants including AOL, CompuServe, and AT&T. His unique experiences and education allowed him to create GROWLr - one of the largest Gay Dating and Social Media apps in the world with over 10,000,000 users worldwide. Since 2010, GROWLr has seen consistent growth in users and revenue.