Disinc.tt launched its mobile app in public beta today and claims to be the only gay app approved in the iTunes store for ages 12 and up.
Founder and CEO Michael Belkin described it as “the gay app you can bring home to Mom.”
“Although we didn’t set out to make an LGBT app for 12 year olds, we do think it’s very important that younger gay people have a safe place they can come to for community and support,” Belkin said. “Being an ‘invisible minority,’ LGBT people face unique issues, like the inability to easily find each other in a crowd. As LGBT people become more accepted in mainstream culture, we move away from simply ‘surviving’ to being able to afford the luxury of openly socializing with the people around us.”
The app aims to connect members of the LGBT community over their interests, rather than putting sex and meet ups at the core. People in Distinc.tt’s community share local events, restaurants, and vacation spots they like, and this information is used to connect people with similar tastes.
The app also uses GPS and user check-ins to gather information about where people are and what they are doing. It will show “where the scene is” based on who is there and who is planning to go. Belkin said it is the only app that combines social discovery, event ticketing, attendee visibility, chat, location-based services, and hot-spot predictions.
Belkin founded Distinc.tt out of his frustration with the social app options out there for the gay community.
Grindr is the largest and most well-known gay social-mobile-local app, with over 6 million users. It is basically a hook-up app — men can search, filter, and see pictures and super short descriptions of other men nearby who may be interested in meeting up.
In the wake of Grindr’s success, a slew of “Grindr alternatives” have emerged to provide a different focus. Hornet aims to provide a less “sleazy,” safer experience for men. Its profiles feature “tame face pics” and more detailed profiles. Mister provides a “grown up version of Grindr,” and even has a “Mister Code” which asks users to “act like adults,” “live authentically and honestly,” and “treat each other with respect.”
However these are still meet-up apps. While Distinc.tt could be used in that way, it is really intended as a tool to help the gay community find fun and interesting local activities.
“We’re not trying replace Grindr and the like — they have their place,” Belkin said. “From interest groups to event ticketing and a focus on friends, we’re a different use case. I think people can have two gay apps on their phone, one like Grindr for hooking up, and ours for everything else.”
Distinc.tt will officially launch early in 2014 with a “Gay Taste Food” initiative, which will include the naming and creation of the “first LGBT sandwich” and a gay dessert contest. This will also include discussions with culinary and food industry leaders and chefs about the gay influence in food and restaurant culture.
Belkin said there is huge commercial potential here because the gay community is one of the highest spending niches and has strong trendsetting power.
He cited a study by Community Marketing Inc that found “Gay men and lesbians travel more, own more homes and cars, spend more on electronics, and have the largest amount of disposable income of any niche market.”
Distinc.tt was incubated at Harvard Business School and at Stanford’s StartX. It is based in Palo Alto and has raised money from well-known investors such as Peter Thiel, Keith Rabois, and others.