The first thing you’ll notice about Robyn Exton is her accent. She’s a Brit—which, to North American ears, instantly makes her an authority on whatever she wants. Robyn took time out of her day as founder and CEO of HER, a dating app for LGBTQ women and queer people, to chat with us during Pride month.
Robyn founded HER in 2013 as a cure for hook-up apps like Tinder (typically used by straight folks) and Grindr (the granddaddy of them all, typically used by gay men). As a bisexual woman, Robyn found that the dating app market for queer women sucked. So she learned to code, moved from London to San Francisco, the queer capital of Earth—we in Toronto would dispute this but we’re too busy being polite and apologizing for something—to create an app truly for women.
HER wants members to feel welcomed into a community, no matter who they are or what they’re into. This explains why the app offers users a choice to self-identify among 18 different sexualities and 23 gender identities. The ability to express who you are in a friendly and supportive environment helps set the app apart.
While HER is in many ways a dating app, fully 20% of its user base are people already in relationships and are just looking to meet more people.
In addition to matching users, HER features a newsfeed where members can post and interact with each other, keeping people engaged. The company also uses Facebook to share long-form articles, and Instagram to promote members of the community, share user handles, and publish stories about their team.
Unlike many dating services, HER organizes events to bring its two million users together both on- and offline. It currently hosts up to 12 of these each month in 24 countries. Past events include camping trips, raves, and dinner parties. Their most successful to date was a soccer tournament held in London that saw over 1,000 people participate. In total, Robyn and her team have brought together 40,000 app users to meet face to face.
She has no qualms with nudging users together online either.
“I find it really satisfying when we discover new ways to help people meet. We had this big problem in our user base where people just weren’t messaging each other. They’d get matches but they wouldn’t start talking, so we introduced a feature where we start the conversation for them if they haven’t themselves in 24 hours.”
This led to a 20% increase in messaging on the first day, which, at their scale, means tens of thousands of new conversations and hundreds of thousands of new messages.
Throughout our phone call we felt slightly intimidated—and we mean that in the best way. After all, we’re on the line with a smart, straight-to-the-point, fierce female founder. We already mentioned she has a cool accent, right? So when we asked her for some parting words on community building, we were floored by her humility.
“You can make mistakes. You can screw up copy on one day. You can do a stupid Facebook post the next day. But I think as long you have always been doing something with the right intention, to make the world better for people and to provide them a better experience, they will trust you and have patience with you.”