I’ve said for a while now (and there are theories and books on the subject) that the general world needs to wake up to lessons the porn world can teach us. While not dealing — at least directly — with porn, “Bang with Friends” is the latest in a long line of apps that does not shy away from the fact that people like bumping hips. The latest insight being that people may want to ‘bang’ others in their immediate friend group. It’s a simple premise and one that has not gone unnoticed by the civilised world.
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Some have smirked, others have been outraged but few don’t have an opinion. I caught up with the 28-year-old Founder Colin Hodge for a quick deep dive into an app that has been banned from the app store (Apple only right now) and yet still managed to garner over a million users in under four months…
Paul Armstrong: For those that don’t know what is ‘Bang with Friends’?
Colin Hodge: Bang With Friends is the most honest way to create or strengthen offline relationships. We help you break the ice in a safe way with your Facebook friends to discover mutual attraction. With over 1.1-million users in just four months and over 200 000 successful matches, we’re growing quickly and bringing the fun everywhere! Users can join now via bangwithfriends.com or get our Android app (we hope to have our iOS app back in the store soon as well). It’s pretty simple: You login (discreetly) with Facebook — no one sees that you joined. Then, you’ll see a Pinterest-like wall of your Facebook friends (filtered by gender). You can anonymously mark your friends who you would like to bang (it’s secret until they mark you) using the “Down To Bang” button. If that friend marks you as well, we’ll connect you for private messaging to set up your first rendezvous.
In order to increase your chances, you can also invite your friends anonymously through email by using the Share the Love link in the upper right of the website. You just login with your email address and select the friends you want to invite, then we’ll send an email to them that cannot be traced to you.
PA: Sounds like the perfect list creator… Before you were yanked from the App Store, how many downloads had you received?
CH: We gained over 200 000 signups in the first week after launching our mobile apps, rising to the category’s top 20 list on our first day. We were pleasantly surprised by the natural traction internationally – Brazil and Germany join the US as top countries.
PA: And what did being yanked from the iTunes Store mean for BWF?
CH: We want to be mobile to make it as convenient as possible for our users, so we’re working with Apple to come to a resolution.
PA: Cagey! What’s next for you and BWF?
CH: We’ve got lots of work to do in order to make it even smoother to discover mutual interests! Our event in NYC (“Bang With NYC”) was a smashing success, so we’re excited to do more fun events around the world.
PA: Let’s talk about love/sex 2.0 for a bit — it seems like a lot is changing with the introduction of mobile — why is mobile such a disruptor in this case? After all love/sex and the internet is nothing new…
CH: Mobile allows people to quickly and privately discover other people without a big time commitment. We like it since it makes the actual meetup easier. One of my favorite stories is from a couple who had been friends for four years and never seemed to be able to break the ice. They’re now in a long-term relationship and report a very enthralling sex life.
PA: Interesting. Time is the biggest factor. Yet cybersex, sexting, virtual sex and now vibrating clothes activated through your iPhone are somewhat mainstream… Do you think we are at the start of revolution or are we most of the way through?
CH: I think we’re in the midst of a shift in how people form and evolve relationships. We still think there’s too much taboo surrounding sex and since it’s a crucial part of healthy relationships, we should be able to straightforwardly say we’re interested.
PA: You have an interesting viral loop going on in BWF, let’s talk about that, what it means for society and what can regular app developers learn from BWF?
CH: The key thing that we’ve learned is to not bullshit people. We love being able to take such an unabashed, honest, and simple approach, whereas many companies sugarcoat everything. People love to talk about BWF and get their friends on it so they can find out who reciprocates their interest.
PA: Unabashed is right! What is your ‘vision’ for the future of sex and the internet?
CH: I see technology becoming more and more of a utility instead of a detriment in our search for companionship, sex, and love.
PA: What do you think about the backlash you have seen, what don’t they get about BWF?
CH: We’re just providing a safer alternative to meeting strangers and connecting consenting adults. Many relationships form with sexual interest and we want to have a more open approach than most other options.
PA: BWF seems to be the embodiment of my next statement: sex is getting more social. We’ve got a Pinterest for sex, a Kickstarter for adult toys and I’m sure a lot more stuff I don’t want to Google! Do you think we’ll regret all this in five or 10 years time?
CH: Although we include social in BWF, a key aspect is that we keep your participation and choices secret. As a society, we’re opening up more and more, but hopefully in 5 or 10 years time we are considerably more comfortable honest with our desires.
PA: Your mobile phone is like your bag these days. Describe it to me and why you use what you use.
CH: Of course, I keep our BWF app handy [laughs]. I’m on Twitter and Facebook a lot to post updates to our followers and keep updated on what people are saying about us. For getting the work done behind BWF, I rely on Gmail, Trello, and am always updating my calendar with impromptu appointments. Getting around SF or any of the many places we visit can be a challenge, so my Navigation folder is packed with options. Same with the search folder, which has some apps for finding a last minute hotel room, flight, or what’s going on around me. When I want to relax or take a break, I use the Browse folder and crack open Reddit, Flipboard, or some of my favorite sites (e.g. a Seattle Sounders blog to keep updated on the team). Finally, I keep the Clock app in front so I can wake up when I am able to grab a quick nap.