- Former ‘Made in Chelsea’ star Ollie Locke is well known for coming out on the reality TV show.
- Business Insider caught up with him at Curtain members club in East London.
- Locke has launched a gay dating app, Chappy, backed by Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe.
- Chappy and elite dating club Social Concierge are launching a calendar of gay dating parties in London and New York, under the brand Mr Social.
- Mr Social is trying to open up their event network to corporates at companies like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Clifford Chance.
30-year-old reality TV star Ollie Locke famously came out as bisexual while filming London-based series “Made in Chelsea,” having dated a number of women on the show. Now living openly as a gay man, he’s currently a contestant on the new series of “Celebs Go Dating.”
But when he’s not out searching for his own soulmate, Locke says he’s on a mission to shake up the gay dating scene on both sides of the pond by providing an alternative to an “immediate hookup” through his app, Chappy.
“Being gay and coming out is still terribly hard,” Locke told Business Insider when we met him at a private members’ club in Shoreditch. “A lot of people think it’s this big parade of ‘I’m gay!’ But for that individual person it’s terribly difficult. I didn’t have the guts to do it until I left university.”
He added: “We’re sitting here in Curtain in east London where we can do whatever we want, but not everyone’s as lucky.”
Locke said one of the issues facing the gay dating scene is a lack of safe places to meet someone for more than just a brief encounter, something that apps like Grindr are known for.
“Don’t get me wrong, Grindr was amazing back in the day, it was the best thing for the gay community then,” he told Business Insider. “You know it was the the first ever dating app? It is extraordinary what they have done. But I wish they’d progressed slightly since then.
“Suddenly as a gay man you can have it all: get married and have families,” he said, adding that while progress has been made in this sense, it hasn’t in the online world. “It just doesn’t represent what we’ve spent the last 100 years trying to build.”
Sick of the stereotype that “gay men only want sex,” Locke saw a gap in the market for something less “seedy” and more “personal.”
“The platforms weren’t reflective of the gay community and that’s where we came in – we said if they’re not going to do it, we will.”
So in 2016 Locke and his co-founders Jack Rogers and Maxim Cheremkhin created their own gay dating app, Chappy.
Introducing ‘Bumble’s lil’ bro’
Chappy, which Locke describes as “Bumble’s lil’ bro” on his Instagram, was partially a product of his own fear of using apps like Grindr when he first came out, he claims.
And it all started to become a reality while he was sitting on the rooftop of the Ham Yard Hotel in London’s Soho, he told us.
“I was with a friend (Rogers) who worked at Happn at the time, and we spotted Whitney Wolfe, [founder] of Bumble. After several glasses of wine we went over and said hello. We said we wanted to do for the gay community what she did for women.”
A couple of weeks later, Bumble, which is majority-owned by dating app Badoo, agreed to invest in Chappy.
The app introduces an element of choice for its users in a similar way that Bumble does for its female users. You can set your filters based on what you’re looking for to Mr Right, Mr Right Now, or Mr Who Knows for something a little more “spontaneous,” Locke explained.
“The name has undertones of it being a gentlemanly place,” he said. “We’re not an immediate hookup. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you’ll probably be very disappointed.”
Here’s Locke with some of his rather handsome Chappy team.
The app has a few ground rules to promote respectful behaviour.
Users have to take “a pledge” not to discriminate against other users when they join. Their faces must be visible in every one of their profile photos, which Locke said means no torso-only photos.
You also have to sign up using a Facebook account which has over 30 friends. “That way we can make sure we get the correct name and date of birth,” Locke said. They hope to soon add verification through a phone number, too.
The team have also introduced specific features to help deter unwanted behaviour.
“Men will always send [nude photos] – it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a part of the culture and always will be,” Locke said. “Although the idea of being sent one by someone you’ve never met before or have no interest in is slightly archaic.”
If someone screenshots a photo that they have been sent by someone on the app, the sender will receive a notification alert, which, Locke says, they hope will act as a deterrent.
Bringing canapés and string quartets to the scene
The partnership will offer a series of “high-end” application-only dating events for professional gay men in their 20s and 30s, launching in London in March, New York in the summer, and Hong Kong by the end of the year. Eventually, they hope to throw similar parties for gay women.
Wereko-Brobby told Business Insider that the club, which until now has only arranged these kinds of invite-only parties for straight singletons, is promoting the events to LGBQT+ factions within corporate companies with whom it’s notoriously hard to “open doors.”
“[Social Concierge has] already had some really good conversations with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Clifford Chance,” she added.
According to Locke, these are the “golden gays” who are “the hardest to get hold of.”
“It’s because of the manly attitudes typical of the city,” he added.
Mr Social, they say, will offer alternative settings for millennial gay men to meet prospective singletons that don’t involve loud house music or a nightclub scenario. They promise fancy cocktail bar venues, live jazz, and free-flowing Champagne.
Chappy already hosts it’s own events, but Locke stressed they’re not exclusive and range from brunches to sporting to events to huge parties. Locke’s colleague Benn Moore just so happened to meet his current partner at one of them.
A recent highlight was the lavish Autumn Fling Party at the Barbican Conservatory in September 2017, complete with a string quartet, because, as Locke said: “Just because it’s gay why can’t it be canapés and a string quartet?”
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