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Millions of HIV Testing Reminders Later, Hornet Side-eyes Grindr

Grindr appears to be taking credit for 6 years of Hornet innovation in sexual health with reminders. My shade is real.

For the past six years, Hornet app has led the sexual health revolution amongst all the gay/bi dating and hookup apps by implementing a user notification for HIV testing reminders.

Hornet estimates that they have sent millions of health reminders in six years and already has free listings connecting users to LGBT health centers and HIV testing sites across the country.

KYS Reminder
From 2014 (imstilljosh.com)

By contrast, Grindr, in an effort to increase their visibility as a health-conscience gay/bi dating app, is just now implementing the testing reminder feature and are boasting they are aligned to proactively give away tons of free ads to LGBT Centers nationally, according to a surprisingly fluffy New York Times article.

Besides the fluff, which I can appreciate now and again, I felt less than a minimum of warm and fuzzy. I thought: “Okay, well that’s good, I guess?!?”

WHY? ???

Are we glad Grindr is implementing these features? Sure.

Is it groundbreaking? No.

Innovative? No.

Worthy of a NYT article? Eh, they must of had an excellent publicist with this one.

So, what’s my beef?

In the NYT article, there is misinformation from an expert and Grindr never set the record straight. It’s not really that honest:

“Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and an expert in gay male behavior, called the decision “excellent.”

and then:

“Dr. Halkitis predicted that similar apps like Scruff or Hornet would soon imitate Grindr. Reminders could be especially effective, he said, if they appeared on apps that appeal to black men like Jack’d or Adam4Adam.

Mr. Harrison-Quintana said Grindr would welcome such imitation and not sue to stop it.”

So either Dr. Halkitis is a bit of a psychic for only events that have happened in the past or events that are currently happening–like Hornet’s HIV testing reminder feature–or he’s losing his edge as the expert. (I’ll go ahead and say: he is losing his edge as the expert in this context.)

And Grindr certainly played the hand pretty low by saying they won’t sue. Really, sue? First off this wasn’t your innovative idea. Second, who would sue of a feature like this anyways? They weren’t kidding. But they will be called out, here, by me.

It sounds like Grindr was worried they would get sued for stealing an idea. No worries boys!

Gay APP Hornet HIV Awareness Initiatives

Sexual Revolution 6 Years Ago

What Hornet first did in the sexual health space on popular gay/bisexual dating and hookup apps was innovative and revolutionary, but not because of the actual technology–we have had similar features available before in other health areas like receiving a telephone call automatically to remind us of a dentist or doctor appointment.

The reason I find this innovative by Hornet is because they have always been a part of the community—the LGBT community—and they appear to actually care about health within their company.

Alex Garner, Senior Health Innovation Strategist at Hornet tells [imstilljosh] in an exclusive statement that, “Hornet has a long history of ensuring that gay men have access to information and resources so they can take control of their sexual health. I have been living with HIV for over 22 years and I understand the impact of a positive test result. Features like KYS are not just about testing and reminders but also about creating a space where people can speak openly and honestly about their status. We must do all that we can to combat HIV-stigma and empower our community.”

But, Grindr was recently bought completely by a Chinese gaming company entirely. In 2016, “Grindr sold 60% of its stake to Kunlun in 2016 for $93 million, valuing the company at $155 million according to Reuters . The same company finished the full purchase in 2018 for an undisclosed amount (with estimates of over $152 million).

Grindr NYT

But are these reminders helpful?

It shouldn’t take a large amount of data scientists to use more than common sense to conclude that proactively engaging the demographic most affected by HIV on their mobile devices—regularly as an opt-in—makes sense.

Hornet doesn’t stop at just HIV prevention, they have integrated the messages to remind those living with HIV to stay in care and make sure they are seeing their doctor. It’s impressive and innovative.

For me, that is what being sexual health minded is about for dating and hookup apps in the gay/bi space.

Apps that help facilitate sexual encounters between gay/bi men should all be facilitating HIV testing, risk reduction, and offering health reminders. It’s simply the ethical thing to do.

6 years later, I won’t give Grindr a standing ovation for this–it should of been done years ago… when Hornet did it. But I will shake my finger at Grindr for unethically attempting to take credit for a competitor’s forward innovation and thinking.

**Bro… don’t take credit for someone else’s work. (Maybe we should blame that mistake on Grindr’s new Chinese ownership.)

Score on this today:

Hornet – 1  Grindr – 0

?

Xo!