As many of you around the world know, today is the Valentine’s day!
To celebrate this special day, we had a quick chat with our Seedstars rockstar and alumna, Magdalena Rodriguez, the CEO and co-founder of GPSGAY, an app that puts technology to work to help people find love.
How would you describe GPSGAY? How was the idea born and what pushed you to actually make it happen?
MR: My wife, Rosario, and I became entrepreneurs guided on the firm belief that companies help to shape the world and so improve other’s lives. It's difficult to be openly gay in Latin America and we want to change that.
GPSGay aims to revert the wrong image that many people still have about the gay community, which provokes isolation, fear and despair to 10% of the human population. What happened in Orlando is a proof of that.
At the same time, it seems that most of the online services for LGBT are dating and sexual encounters apps, focusing especially on men or on women. Yes, sex is a part of our lives, but as with any other human beings, that is not the only thing.
We are a for-profit company looking to become the epicentre of the LGBT culture online. With more than 500,000 users, GPSGAY provides a safe space where the whole LGBT community can interact with each other, then can find gay friendly places, things to do, events or NGOs. They can also find LGBT themed articles, books, as well as documentaries, short films and movies.
What would you consider as your main achievements so far?
MR: Our users love us. We already have half a million users, and generating a very real tangible impact on their lives. We know this not only because of the comments and emails that we receive every day, telling us stories of how their lives changed for the better with GPSGAY; but also let me give you two short examples.
Before we started working with IBM Uruguay, a company that has around 500 hundred employees in the country, only one of them was out of the closet. After the actions we did with them, they now have a group of people out, and actively working on LGBT issues.
With the United Nations, we did a survey of how many people had taken the HIV test, and if they had not, why. It turned out that many had not taken it because they just didn't know where to go. That is when we added a map of all the places where you could take an HIV test for free. Thanks to the partnership with the United Nations, we are also able to provide our users an online consulting about sexuality and health issues.
How did the company grow since you first started? What are your plans for the future?
MR: GPSGAY was born in September 2013, starting with a Beta version for only 5,000 users. In December 2014, we released our first versions for both Android and iOS, and they were winners of the App Circus contest as the best app in Uruguay.
But that was not all! In March 2015, we were awarded with the Audience Award as the "Best Up and Coming App in the World" at the Mobile Premier Awards in Barcelona, and the following December, GPSGAY won the Seedstars contest in Uruguay.
We were also selected by Agora Partnerships to attend their accelerator programme for companies with a social impact, and we ranked among the top 6 finalists at the pitch competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley.
We hope to continue growing in Latin America, impacting people's lifes and improving the network for our users. We are already in the process of launching GPSGAY in the United States, hoping to customise the network in English in the coming month.
You have participated in the Seedstars World competition last year. What did the experience bring to you? How did it impact your business?
MR: Thanks to Seedstars World, we closed an investment with an investor that we meet last March at the Seedstars Summit. Not only that, but the whole experience was amazing. To have the opportunity to interact with amazing entrepreneurs all over the world was life-changing for us.
How do you think technology is connected to our need to find love? Considering the booming market of dating apps, how do you think the market will evolve?
MR: We are not a dating app. Of course dating happens in GPSGay, but from a diferent angle. We don’t want to became a “Grindr” or a “Tinder,” because these apps are oversexualized, and we are tired of people always associating us with sex.
GPSGay is a safe place to interact with your pears as a community, to find role models, to find great information and content, to increase your self esteem and maybe find the love of your life.
It sounds like a really inspiring product. What kind of feedback do you receive from your users?
MR: Our users love the approach and the spirit behind the app. They thank us every day for having created GPSGay, and we have over 200 volunteers that help us not only with the content, but also to have the network clean of pornography, homophobia and any kind of offensive content.
Was there a backlash when you started the company? How much is the LGBTQ community accepted in Uruguay and in the rest of Latin America?
MR: When we traveled across many countries in Latin America, it was very difficult to find safe places to go out to, where you don’t feel discriminated. That’s why we decided to create GPSGay. Uruguay is a now very progresive country, in fact is the most gay friendly country in Latin America, but 10 years ago the reality was completely different.
I truly hope that in the near future Latin America will become more open minded with the gay community, but I believe that GPSGay will continue to grow because, as any other community, we have the contant need to interact with our peers.
Anything else we should be expecting from GPSGAY?
MR: We are convinced that GPSGay will become the biggest network for the LGBT community in the world and we truly want to make the world a little bit brighter for our community one day at a time. Your readers can also have a look at our institutional video here.
Here at Seedstars we have decided to celebrate love in all forms by giving you the chance to bring someone in love with tech to the #SeedstarsSummit 2017.