Gay-dating app finds financial boost

Gay-dating app finds financial boost

A former policeman who founded a dating app for gay men said he wanted to liberate fellow homosexuals across the world after the app pulled in $30 million in third-round financing.

Geng Le, founder of Blued, made the high-profile announcement after Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged his homosexuality, which Geng said was a great encouragement.

With the investment, "we now have a long-term plan to design and introduce a lesbian networking application, 'Pinkd,' to help them find friends and possibly true love," he told China Daily.

"We are aiming high for a final IPO, which would celebrate gay culture and business and, more important, demonstrate ever increasing social tolerance in the country," he said.

China legalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from the list of mental diseases in 2001, but "social stigma and discrimination against it does exist today," he said.

Currently, Geng's 40-member team - two-thirds of whom are openly gay men - is working closely to make Blued more user friendly and to lure more users, he said.

Blued has about 15 million registered users, some of whom are from abroad, and an average of 3 million log into the application each day.

Previous estimates put China's gay male population at around 40 million.

"The investment for Blued marks a record high among all investment going to a gay-male related business, and I am so proud it happened in China," he said.

Apart from a lucrative market incentive, "it reflects more social tolerance for homosexuals," he said.

Geng said he knows well the struggle, if not desperation, of the community to gain self identity, dignity and social respect.

Before Blued launched in 2011, he had been running the website Danlan, which is dedicated to gay culture.

"That website had been temporarily shut down for no substantiated reason before 2007, but luckily we've seen a sea change, particularly in the past five years," he said.

In 2009, Geng quit his job in his home city of Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, and settled in Beijing to operate Danlan.

Knowing gay friends affected by HIV/AIDS, Geng began to disseminate prevention and treatment information on the website in partnership with public health agencies.

A free HIV testing outlet run by his office now helps about 10 gay men each day.

"With such initiatives backed by the government, we could survive and prosper," he said.

In 2011, to honour his contribution to HIV/AIDS control, Geng was among a small group of NGO leaders to meet with Premier Li Keqiang.

Even today, a report of the event is on the website, and he said he recognises that it requires methods like this to run an NGO well in China.

Wu Zunyou, head of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, said such groups could help with more efficient epidemic control work among susceptible groups like gay men.

shanjuan@chinadaily.com.cn

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