China’s competition with U.S. industry has triggered allegations of corporate espionage targeting U.S. solar energy giants and attempts by a business tycoon to reinvent Hollywood in a northeastern Chinese city. And by some indicators, the People’s Republic has invented a gay hook-up smartphone application more popular than its U.S. competitor.
China’s homegrown gay matchmaking app Blued has 15 million users, according to one of the company’s staff members, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. News of the growth of Blued’s user base comes after the company was recently buoyed by a $30 million investment obtained through Silicon Valley venture capital firm DCM.
Both developments serve as a reminder of the might of China’s gay market, which Blued founder and CEO Geng Le estimates is about 13 million men strong.
“He’s right next to you,” reads the slogan on the company’s website.
Blued’s top competitor, Grindr — the popular U.S.-based gay matchmaking app with arguably broader international name recognition — has had 10 million user downloads since it launched in March 2009, more than three years before Blued. Both services employ GPS to locate the nearest users, featuring profile pictures and cursory details on their appearance and preferences.
The lion’s share of Blued users are based domestically, and with as vast a population as China’s, the Chinese-language app appears not to need to internationalize its brand in order to succeed.
“We are the first in the industry, using a number of indicators, including activity,” the Blued staff member said.
Less than a year ago, Geng told Al Jazeera that he aimed to surpass Grindr’s user base. He said then that there were 2 million Blued users in China and just a few thousand abroad. Since then, Blued — which Geng said has received support from the Chinese government in attempts to spread information to combat HIV/AIDS — has garnered some 10 million more domestic users, with 3 million Blued users abroad, the staff member said Tuesday.
In December 2013, just over a year after it launched, Blued was popular mostly in China’s second-tier cities but has since grown in prominence in the nation’s three largest cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — according to the company’s statistics.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the number of Blued users at the time of publication. Geng was ill, his colleague said, and not immediately available for an interview.