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Monday, October 10, 2011

Bringing Scruffy Back

By Stephan Horbelt

Let’s face it—finding a date by engaging someone face-to-face is practically passé these days! With the advent of social networking and online hookup sites, not to mention mobile phone apps that let you cruise on the go, tons of guys are meeting potential matches with their fingers. And while you’ve surely heard of certain gay faves—Manhunt, Adam 4 Adam, Grindr—there’s a possibility you haven’t yet discovered SCRUFF, a mobile phone app for the gay man who’s a little rough around the edges. Frontiers4Men sat down with Johnny Scruff, co-founder of the wildly successful app, to discuss his initial inspiration for SCRUFF, what sets it apart from similar social networking services and what we can expect from the app in the near future.

When you meet people who aren’t familiar with the SCRUFF app, how do you describe it to them?
SCRUFF is a gay social network on iPhone and Android. We are one of the most active and fastest growing global gay social networks in the world, with more than one million members worldwide. Our members use SCRUFF for a variety of reasons—making friends, seeing who’s around in a new city, finding dates, hooking up and checking out local gay events.

What was your initial inspiration for creating SCRUFF?
My co-founder Eric and I wanted to build a social network for the gay community that resonated with gay men. We were both frustrated with other services and wanted to create a new community with a brand people could get excited about. I’ve always liked scruffy guys—guys who are more rugged, a bit more masculine—and so I thought that “Scruff” would be a great name that a diverse group of men could identify with. We launched SCRUFF in August 2010 and the rest is history.

What sets SCRUFF apart from other, similar apps?
The guys on SCRUFF are definitely what sets us apart! All kinds of guys use SCRUFF—servicemen, firefighters, jocks, bears and lots of everyday guys.  We have an inclusive community that welcomes all kinds. On that note, I love that we have famous drag queens on SCRUFF!

What kind of team does it take to create a mobile phone app like yours?
There are three of us, but we all wear many different hats. It takes a lot of heart and hard work. We plan on growing our team in the upcoming year and are excited to build SCRUFF even faster in 2012.

Scruff has become more than an app recently, cross-promoting itself with nightlife events and such around the country. How are you liking that aspect of your work?
Events are definitely a perk of running SCRUFF! I absolutely love being out there at the bars aand clubs meeting other SCRUFFers. We have been fortunate to be able to cross-promote with so many incredible events, such as Bearracuda, Lazy Bear and Folsom Street Events. Our recent SCRUFF night at Town in Washington, D.C. drew more people than Pride! The owners were very happy, to say the least.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating SCRUFF for you personally?

The personal messages I receive from members on SCRUFF are one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. I’ve heard countless stories from guys who feel better about their own identity because of the different images they’re seeing on SCRUFF. Plus, guys on SCRUFF are a lot friendlier. One of my favorite stories is from a transgendered gentleman who said, thanks to SCRUFF, he’s made close, accepting gay friends that he hadn’t ever had before.

What can we expect from SCRUFF in the future—as a brand and as an app?

We have a lot of exciting things in the works. In addition to growing our team and building new features like search into the app, we’re expanding our media presence. SCRUFF will be featured in an upcoming gay film in Spring 2012. We’re also exploring both a SCRUFF-themed reality TV show and a SCRUFF book. We’re really humbled and excited, and thanks to all of our members who made this future possible!

For more info on SCRUFF, or to download the app, direct your smartphone to

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