For Dublin-based start up GirlCrew, the focus this week isn’t on Valentine’s Day but on Galentine’s Day, a relatively new event which celebrates female friendships.
Female friendship is the raison d’être of the start-up, the first company in Ireland to create an online platform which allows women to find other women with whom to socialise.
Three years after being set up, it’s gone international and has over 100,000 members across 46 cities and is planning a launch in the US next month.
In countries such as the UK, Australia, and particularly the US, GirlCrew is going up against some stiff competition, but, according to co-founder Pamela Newenham, it does something that its rivals can’t: Allow its members to organise spontaneous events.
“This is our unique selling point — they can arrange a meet up at a pub, a cinema, or on occasions like Galantine’s Day,” she said.
Galentine’s Day, which takes place on February 13, began 10 years ago as a joke on a US sitcom and has now become a real event.
Similarly, GirlCrew was created for fun, but has now become a real business, which, according to Ms Newenham, is about to gain global traction.
It all started one night in March 2014 when GirlCrew co-founder Elva Carri wanted to go dancing but none of her friends were available to go with her.
Reckoning that there had to be other women out there in the same situation, she got creative with Tinder and set up a male profile to send out a message that she was a woman looking for other women to go on a night out.
“She thought she might get one or two replies but got over 100,” said Ms Newenham, explaining that it worked so well that Ms Carri created a secret group on Facebook who called themselves the TinderCrew.
Although it started as fun, Ms Carri, Ms Newenham, and the third GirlCrew co-founder, Áine Mulloy, quickly realised this had potential as a business.
Continuing their day jobs, they set up GirlCrew and worked in their spare time on swelling the numbers. “We had 10,000 members in June 2015 and in December over 20,000 in 43 cities,” said Ms Newenham.
The company earned some revenue from advertising and events, and the founders — a magazine editor, a journalist, and a marketing professional — decided to get involved full time and take the next logical step: Create a GirlCrew app.
Although they invested their early revenues in getting one developed, this didn’t work out. It was a learning experience. “After that, we decided to get a technical adviser on the board who could help us hire developers to create the app,” said Ms Newenham.
Although the company didn’t launch an app as planned in 2016, it did get a major profile boost when Facebook, as part of its 12th birthday celebration, filmed a video about it and invited the founders to meet Mark Zuckerberg.
Later in the year, GirlCrew began fundraising in order to hire developers and scale up for global expansion. They found an investor and, the following year, secured an additional €250,000 in High Potential Start-Up funding from Enterprise Ireland.
The funding was used to set up operations at the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin and hire two software developers to create the GirlCrew app, which was launched in Cork last summer.
Since then, the company has taken on an additional developer, bringing the full-time staff size to six.
Ms Newenham said the app already has 21,000 users, mainly in Ireland and that the next step is to move into the US.
“We would like to get 100,000 users on the app by the end of the year and in 2019, we would like to scale up to one million,” she said.
Next month, GirlCrew will launch its app in the US at the South by Southwest media event in Austin, Texas.
“We already have thousands of women in the US on waiting lists for the app,” said Ms Newenham, adding that a launch will also take place in Los Angeles next month.