Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg celebrated with this startup on its birthday in California, to give props to an initiative that has given 1.3 lakh fun, strong and inspiring women-buddies to its members across the globe.
Women are amazing.
Need a tampon in a room full of strange women? They will all dig into their bags to hand you one within seconds.
Do you need a touch-up? Ten hands will go flying in the air holding out seven different shades of eyeliner. Your song is on and you want to dance on the bar? One of them will heartily prop you up while another waits on the other side, ready with a cocktail.
It’s a safe space and a crazy place rolled into one.
Therefore, it’s no wonder that every so often, you just want an evening out with the girls.
To further this spirit of girls helping girls, GirlCrew was created, sparked by a Tinder experiment that serendipitously led to the formation of a 1.3 lakh strong community, for women to connect with gal pals for any social or professional need.
It all happened on a Friday night when Irish digital marketing professional Elva Carri was itching to go to an event at a neighbourhood bar in Dublin with her girlfriends, but they were all either too busy or too tired. So, she 'hacked' Tinder. She changed her gender setting to male so that her profile would pull up all the other single girls in the area, and put up a profile picture explaining she was actually female and not looking for dates but just looking for some people to go out dancing with.
She did consider the fact that people might think she’s crazy, but she had a good feeling about this did it anyway.
Within 24 hours, she had a “crew” of over 100 enthusiastic matches, all of whom Elva added to a secret Facebook group in Dublin. This was the simple yet genius way in which GirlCrew was created.
Having gained lots of new friends, and a jam-packed social calendar, Elva was going to need help. She teamed up with Pamela Newenham and Aine Mulloy, and the three co-founders decided to take GirlCrew groups to cities all over the world.
Elva Carri hails from Ireland and studied fine art at university. Pamela Newenham, is a lawyer and journalist, while the third co-founder, Aine Mulloy, has a degree in English and History, and a MA in Literature and Publishing.
Elva was working as a freelancer, editing a magazine called Positive Life while helping companies with social media and content, when the idea of GirlCrew was taking root. Pamela, at the time, was a journalist in the legal/court beat, and was rather disturbed by the largely negative stories that she would end up covering, and hence, in her pursuit of positive stories, started reporting on startups and innovators – who, in turn, inspired her to take the plunge.
Aine, who had worked in publishing throughout, was interviewing with another publishing house in Dublin when the discussion arose about moving to GirlCrew full-time. “We realised that if we were to make the company a success we’d need to spend more time on it. The change was scary but exhilarating,” she recalls.
“We realised that with GirlCrew, we didn’t have to be the ones to organise events. Members of the community could organise events themselves. Unlike sites like Meetup, anyone could post an event in GirlCrew, and sometimes things would be arranged really spontaneously. There are lots of last-minute events in our groups. A member can post in the afternoon and see if anyone is free after work to go for food/drinks/the cinema,” Pamela explains.
Their members are mostly women who are strong, fun, ambitious - but who all have tough moments that they need friends for. When a member signs up, they follow some steps to verify their account to help ensure there are no men, catfish, or trolls joining to cause trouble, and then they’re in! After selecting a city group as their 'Home Crew,' one can also follow other groups - either based on locations or topics one is interested in.
The Home Crew screen lets one see local posts and events – right from grabbing a drink to taking a trip - while one’s newsfeed contains posts and events from all the groups one follows. “Unlike other platforms where you post as an individual, to a personal wall or stream, on GirlCrew, all the posts are within groups. It's about us as individuals within a community. You can also tap on events to just get straight to the offline adventures!”
They have a website as well as an iPhone and Android app. “We didn’t have the money or technical knowledge initially to build our own platform. We learned that you can utilise other platforms to build out an idea, and test if it could be a business before we began developing our own platform. We all kept our full-time jobs and worked on GirlCrew part-time, trying out various revenue streams, growing the groups, launching in new cities etc, and only quit when we knew we were onto something,” explains Elva.
They mostly created buzz through media coverage and word-of-mouth and even tried Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, content marketing and competitions on social media to cast a wider net. In fact, having a blog also wonders for sprucing up their SEO.
GirlCrew makes money from a number of different channels, including advertising, events, partnerships, and subscriptions. “We have a premium subscription offering – for a monthly fee, premium members get four hosted events per month, as well as various discounts and their own private group,” she says.
They have now started organising careers events called GirlCrew Pro in partnership with Microsoft, and entrepreneur dinners called the Female Founders Supper Club in collaboration with Dell EMC, for which, they sell tickets. “We don’t have in-app advertising yet, but we plan to roll that out in the future,” she reveals.
Just over a year later they hit 10,000 members and doubled that within six months. The groups now have more than 100,000 members across 46 cities worldwide, including Dublin, London, Melbourne, Toronto, Edinburgh and New York. In fact, their app is also live in India, but they are yet to have a formal launch. At last count, the GirlCrew family is 130,946-strong.
In 2016, Facebook flew a film crew to Dublin to document GirlCrew’s successes and featured the video on Facebook Stories for their 12th anniversary. They also flew Elva, Pamela, and Aine out to California to meet Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and celebrate their company’s birthday with a small group of select Facebook users from around the globe.
“People often underestimate us not only because we’re an all-female team, but they perceive us to be girly as a tech business too - because women are our market. In terms of recognition, and what publications feature us and how they write about us, that may work against us to some extent. But it's also probably going to work in our favour in other tech companies underestimating us as competition,” says Aine.
Having raised funding from private investors as well as the Irish government state agency Enterprise Ireland, the trio underlines their global aspirations. “The United States and the United Kingdom are the main markets we are targeting in the first-half of this year. However, we are also looking at India and further afield. We have demand for GirlCrew everywhere, and a waiting list of more than 100 cities worldwide where women have requested GirlCrew,” she says.