Grindr shares rise in post-SPAC debut as supporters weigh progress on LGBTQ integration in the world of finance

LGBTQ social networking platform Grindr is offering a public offering outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the company went public following its merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Tiga Acquisition Corp. on November 18, 2022 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Traders, bankers and tourists weren’t the only ones on Wall Street on Friday morning. Drag queens were also in attendance.

The group of performers, some of whom are best known for appearing on the competition show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” performed on the Rainbow Stage at the front of the New York Stock Exchange. It was part of the celebration of LGBTQ dating app Grindr making its public market debut after merging with blank-check company Tiga Acquisition.

Under its new ticker GRND, the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $16.90 a share on Friday, jumping to a high of $71.51 during the session. The share value more than doubled to $36.50 at the market close.

Grindr CEO George Arison, who was about a month on the job, was quick to point to the debut as a reflection of the inclusion of LGBT people more broadly, both in finance and more broadly.

“It’s incredible that a company whose primary user base is made up of gay and bisexual men, that was built by and for the LGBTQ community, with a heavy employee base in that group of the population as well, is now a public company,” Arison said. “This isn’t something that wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago, and probably wouldn’t have happened even 10 years ago.”

He said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Friday, about an hour after representatives from the company rang the opening bell, that the small amount of available stock and interest in the company helped propel its first rally.

The Grindr party featured a theater of queens, with attendees that included employees, financial services professionals, volunteers for LGBTQ community groups, and social media influencers. The New York Stock Exchange was lined with rainbow signs and pride flags in appreciation of the event.

Before the opening bell, NYSE President Lynn Martin spoke about the importance of an LGBTQ-focused company’s standing in the stock market. In fact, it was only in 2015 when the US Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees same-sex marriage rights. Martin was one of several speakers who noted the impact of the platform holding this celebration in the same neighborhood where the first multiple demonstrations protesting the rising awareness of the AIDS epidemic took place some 35 years ago.

“Can you imagine what those 250 people would think if they saw us all here today?” She said of the protesters. “They were celebrating the fact that through free speech, they were able to pave the way for a fairer future, a fairer society—one that doesn’t discriminate on skin color, race, gender, or who you love.”

“power of application”

The excitement around Grindr’s debut doesn’t diminish the current bear market’s difficulties. Telecoms and IT services stocks have been hit particularly hard, along with those Standard & Poor’s 500 The sectors are down 24.5% and 37.8% respectively this year.

Grindr also debuts in a year when other dating apps falter, with stutter And the match They have decreased by 31.7% and 64.9% since the beginning of the year. Grindr has a mixed reputation, with some saying it’s better known for hooking up than dating, but the company positions itself as an online community space.

The app is also being challenged by Motto, a new unlisted platform created by Grindr founder Joel Simkhai. He left the company five years ago.

Arison said Grindr will separate itself from competitors by promoting, in part, that it’s closer to a social network with LGBTQ resources on topics about preventive medicine for HIV and monkeypox as well as company data that shows the average user spends 61 minutes per day on the platform.

“We have this very unique engagement with our user base,” he said.

He said a bear market does not negate the long-term benefits of being public such as increased employment opportunities, the ability to raise capital and potential mergers or acquisitions. Arison added that in addition to goals of continuing to expand monetizable offerings such as subscriptions and profile “enhancement,” the company could look at adding elements such as travel recommendations to improve user experience.

In the meantime, he said, Grindr is excited to share what he calls its robust business model with Wall Street. He said that the first half of 2022 witnessed revenues of $90 million, showing a growth of 42% compared to the same period last year. The company also saw 26% year-over-year growth in adjusted EBITDA.

Arison said Grindr is unique in that it only spends 1% of revenue on marketing due to its high brand awareness within its target audience of people who identify as men interested in others who identify as men. It had around 11 million active monthly users spread over almost every country in the world in 2021.

He said any concerns about how homophobia might affect trading performance were put to rest by meetings with investors and others in the financial world who seemed interested in the business and how it might trade. Grindr is expected to see a $4 billion addressable market for the entirety of 2022.

Arison was surprised to see “the understanding of the power of the app for the community and its users, and how well investors understand what the app does for people,” he says. “This was very encouraging and exciting.”

‘The picture is bleak’

Advocates say Grindr’s IPO undoubtedly marks a milestone for inclusion within financial services, but it can’t overshadow the many areas where progress is still badly needed.

Banks have moved significantly to support same-sex marriage and equality, said Michael Maldonado, head of communications for advocacy group Out in Finance. But Maldonado said financial services can still disqualify people who don’t fit a straight, white, and cisgender image, pointing to the difficulties that photo and video-sharing platform OnlyFans, known for using to monetize sexually explicit content, has when trying. to the public.

He cited the specific hurdles transgender people face trying to enter the field and the lack of inclusion of LGBTQ companies in ESG investment as two areas that still need improvement.

“It says a lot that there are investors who are willing to put their names on what this company is known for and help bring it to market,” Maldonado said. But, “It’s not the only thing that’s going on within our industry. There are a lot of different things that are happening to continue the progress that I’ve seen in the financial services community.”

There’s also a lack of standardized research on the support LGBTQ-owned businesses receive when trying to raise funding, said William Burkart, co-founder of Color Capital, which helps connect these companies with capital. He also said that these companies could struggle with few investors willing to take the lead, which takes the most risk.

Partial and total assaults continue, Burkhart said. He has heard from a woman owner who was told she needed to bring a man with her to “take her seriously”. Trans asked, “Are you really a woman?” When conducting the due diligence process with a gender-focused investment firm.

“The LGBTQ plus community is kind of this…a gray area on the economic map of the world,” he said, implying that the fault is not with LGBT people themselves. “Actually, it’s kind of like, we know the image is so dim that we can even see through the image.”

However, Maldonado and others note that Grindr’s success could lead to it getting coverage from analysts or possibly being indexed, which would increase its reach. Arison said she adds to a picture of progress that has been improved this week with the House passing a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.

And as Martin prepared for an enthusiastic crowd to watch Grindr’s leadership ring the opening bell on Friday, she felt the importance of free speech in the exchange.

“The only way we can move society forward is through the true expression of freedom,” she said. “Which is why we are so excited to celebrate the Grindr IPO today.”

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