How the GirlCrew grew, from a Tinder hack into a global network for women

GirlCrew co-founders Elva Carri, Pamela Newenham and Aine Mulloy.

By Pamela Newenham

Tinder doesn’t seem like the most natural place to find female friendship, but a Tinder hack in 2014 led to a global social network for women called GirlCrew.

It all started one Friday night in 2014 when Elva Carri wanted to go out dancing but all her friends were either tired or busy. As there weren’t other friendship apps at the time, she turned to the dating app Tinder.

Elva changed her gender to male on the app, so she would only appear to other women, and put up a message saying she was female and looking for some platonic dancing buddies. She had no idea she would quickly garner more than 100 matches.

As Tinder was restricted to one-on-one messaging, it was going to be very time-consuming messaging the 100 matches to plan the night out. As a result, Elva shared a link to a closed Facebook group with her new matches, inviting them to join that to plan the night out. And GirlCrew was born.

By switching to a group, everyone could chat together, create events and get to know one another. It was so easy to do, and such a simple concept to grasp that the first event happened without Elva’s input at all. In fact, she’d left her computer to do some jobs around the house and when she came back the first event had been arranged.

From that initial group GirlCrew continued to grow with new members joining every day. Having gained lots of new friends, and a jam-packed social calendar, Elva was going to need help, so she teamed up with Aine Mulloy and myself, and the three of us began growing GirlCrew groups all over the world.

Elva Carri addresses a GirlCrew careers event.

We didn’t have the money or technical knowledge initially to build our own platform, so we continued adding groups on Facebook, using that platform to build out our idea and test if it could be a business before we began developing our own platform. By the end of 2015, we had hit 20,000 members, across four continents.

We all kept our full-time jobs and worked on GirlCrew part-time, trying out various revenue streams, and launching in new cities across Australia, the US, the UK, Europe, Canada and parts of Asia.

By 2016, we knew the time had come for us to raise money, launch our own app, and go full-time with GirlCrew. Raising money is not an easy process. A lot of people said “no” to us. It was difficult as they would give different reasons each time. One investor would say no because we didn’t have a certain thing in place. We would put that in place, and then another investor would say no because we had it.

Some investors wanted us to focus on growth, while others were more interested in revenue and profits. We learned that you can’t please everyone, so you must follow the right strategy for you.

A GirlCrew Female Founders Supper Club.

We raised over £650,000 from investors including LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner, Reddit director of data Joe Gallagher, Wrigley chief marketing officer Orla Mitchell and Hazel Hutchinson, managing director of Aegis Corporate Strategy.

GirlCrew now has its own app on iOS and Android, as well as a desktop platform. Women simply join the group for their area such as Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen, and they can see what events are happening, read posts and comments from other members, write posts themselves and create events.

They can also join topic groups such as careers, travel, bloggers or entrepreneurs. In the topic groups, members share tips, advice and knowledge on everything from getting a new job to getting more followers on Instagram for a business.

The GirlCrew community has now surpassed more than 100,000 members. You can make friends at home, but also abroad, if you happen to be travelling for work, or going on holidays to another city.