Unlike straight people who are looking for members of the opposite sex who might be friends or dates, gay men often still need help to figure out who in their city, and so many rely on apps to find other people.
"Apps make this easy. In some places in the world, apps are the only option. In gay friendly countries, apps help expand a welcoming community into a much larger one. Not every town has a gay bar to make new friends and that is exactly what Hornet is online," Christof Wittig, CEO of Hornet, a gay social network for chatting and dating, told me.
"Hornet creates a new digital home for the gay community by uniquely combining content and dating functions. It takes the gay app to the next level."
The company has just raised its first round of institutional funding, it was announced on Tuesday. The round was led by Ventech China, a Shanghai-based venture fund. The company had previously raised a $500,000 angel round all the way back in 2012, bringing its total funding to $8.5 million.
Founded in 2011, Hornet says it's "committed to strengthening the gay community by providing quality social interactions with more ways to meet and engage in local gay communities." Its features include an activity feed and a discover platform, along with buzz, which helps users welcome new members to the Hornet community and to see who is new to their city.
The company recently made its first acquisition buying Vespa, a gay city guide, for an undisclosed amount. Vespa features over 5,000 places and 300 city guides in 70 countries and has now been integrated into the Hornet app.
Hornet bills itself as "the world's second largest gay social network," with 15 million total and three million monthly active users. The app is number one in markets around the world, including France, Russia, Brazil, Turkey and Taiwan.
Currently, the largest gay social network is Grindr, which has six million active users as of earlier this year, and raised $93 million when it sold 60 percent of the company to Beijing Kunlun in January, valuing the company at $155 million. The remaining 40 percent of Grindr will continue owned by Grindr employees and Joel Simkhai, the company’s founder.
It's interesting that both Grindr and Hornet both took their first funding this year from a Chinese investor, though Wittig says that the money it raised won't necessarily be used to expand into that market.
"Ventech has a strong understanding of the gay app space, especially given their past investments in Blued, a gay dating app based in China, and other social networks, making them uniquely qualified to understand the strong metrics and value of Hornet more accurately than less experienced players," he said.
Hornet says will use the new funding to "support rapid business growth and user adoption across the globe." That means a greater focus on hiring and marketing efforts. The company currently has 47 employees and has eight openings.
"We already have a strong global presence, so we would like to shift our focus to marketing and sales," said Wittig.
Along with the new funding, it was also announced that Eric Huet, Managing Partner at Ventech, will be joining the Board of Directors at Hornet.
"We're thrilled to have the opportunity to invest in Hornet. The platform combined with the user functionality is unparalleled. In such a short time, Hornet has claimed leader position in many markets across the globe," Huet said in a statement.
"Eric Huet brings his knowledge of the app space to the table, offering Hornet the insights to up level our position even further in the gay app space," Wittig said.
Ultimately, Hornet's goal is to be the number one gay app and to "help define what a gay app stands for."
"Hornet has shown very strong organic growth while being cash flow positive. Given Hornet’s success within the competitive industry of gay apps, it felt like the right time shift up a gear and take Hornet to the next level," said Wittig. "The time has never been better for Hornet to make its mark in the gay app space."
(Image source: hornetapp.com)