A woman who set up a Tinder for women to make new friends after finding herself with nobody to go dancing with has now built a global tech company with 100,000 members in 50 cities across the world.
One Friday night in 2014 when all Elva Carri’s friends were busy, the 33-year-old Dubliner went on Tinder and swapped her gender, explaining she was looking for new female buddies – and within 24 hours had 100 matches.
It inspired Elva to set up GirlCrew Facebok groups where people could meet each other, and while socialising she met Aine Mulloy and Pamela Newenham who she teamed up with to turn the idea into a fully fledged business.
Members can choose from a whole range of gatherings to suits all interests from sport to beauty to professional networking, or set up their own events.
And it has even caught the eye of Mark Zuckerberg who handpicked the team to attend Facebook’s 12th birthday celebrations in Palo Alto, California.
Elva Carri, 33, from Dublin came up with the idea for GirlCrew in 2014 when she was alone on a Friday night with nobody to go dancing with
GirlCrew’s founders Aine Molloy, Elva Carrie and Pamela Newenham with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s 12th birthday party in California
Recalling Girl Crew’s origins, Elva told Femail: ‘It was 2014. It was just an average Friday night for a single gal in her late twenties.
‘There was a club night on that I really wanted to go to, but friends were all either tired or busy or staying at home with partners.
‘A few of my close friends had moved away from Dublin too and I just felt like I had so few people to call on for a spontaneous night out.
‘I had been using Tinder for dating at the time, but that Friday night I changed my settings so that I’d show up to other women who were on there looking for guys, but made a big pink profile picture that explained I’m actually a woman and looking for some people to go out dancing with, and did anyone want to go.
Members at a GirlCrew meet up. There are now more than 100,000 members around the world and its founders say it’s becoming the foundation for countless lasting friendships
Members can choose from a whole range of gatherings to suits all interests from sport to beauty to professional networking, or set up their own events
‘I thought I’d get three or four matches, but within 24 hours, I had 100 and counting. I went out dancing with one of the girls I’d chatted to, and one of my best friends who hadn’t been free the night before and we just had the best time.
‘I think we were all nervous about it because it seemed like kind of a weird thing to do, but as soon as we all met up we just laughed about how nuts it was and settled into lovely chats, a great night out and fast food at 3am together.
‘So that Sunday I set up a group on Facebook and sent all my other matches the link to it, so that we could all do stuff together whenever, and from there it just grew and grew.
‘People’s friends wanted to join, people started asking for it in other cities and before I knew it, myself and my co-founders Pamela and Aine were managing a global community alongside full time jobs.’
A girlCrew careers event: Women are using the app not just for socialising, but to forge new professional connections
Elva met her co-founders through socialising for fun through GirlCrew events, and quickly realised they were the perfect team to make it a proper business.
‘From really early on I felt like it was something that there was a real need for, and we proved that by testing it out in other cities in the US, Canada and Australia,’ she explained.
‘It was so much fun though that initially I just enjoyed it all and went with the flow, I wanted to see what it was before trying to tie it down.
But I kept my eyes open for great people to work on it with, and met those people in Aine Mulloy – who I met at a GirlCrew coffee hangout, and Pamela Newenham who I met away on an entrepreneur’s surf weekend.
Elva said that she hopes the app will help tackle the issue of loneliness and encourage people to forge offline connections
‘The three of us got together for pizza and all agreed we wanted to do whatever it would take to turn it into a business, so that we could give it the time we knew it deserved.
‘We worked on it alongside full time jobs for about 18 months, building the community further, getting advice and learning from people who’d built successful tech companies, raised funding and eventually left our jobs to go full time, and build our own app.’
In the first year, Elva and her co-founders spent £50 on registering the company name and some online adverts and now they have 100,000 members and counting.
GirlCrew members enjoying a get together at a beauty event at the Benefit Brow Bar
Elva believes GirlCrew is crucial in today’s hyper-connected yet increasingly lonely world.
‘Screens are such a seductive, easy distraction from what’s happening around us,’ she said.
‘I think you’re less likely to chat to your neighbour if you’re reading your phone as you pass them on your road, less likely to chat to someone in a queue next to you at the supermarket or while waiting for your order in a cafe.
‘And that’s a pity because I think it leaves us a little lonelier, leaves the people near us a little lonelier, and one of our first impulses if we do feel bad now – is pick up your phone and hop on a social media site. So it just perpetuates.
‘GirlCrew is focused on meeting up locally so the connections made online are taken offline. We don’t want people to forget to have real life fun and connections.
Elva and her co-founders spent 18 months developing the app while working full time
At the end of our lives, I don’t think we’ll look back and fondly remember the evenings or weekends we spent looking at a screen, I think we’ll look back on the times we laughed or cried with people, the adventures we went on, the fun that we had.
‘We want to help people remember to put the phone down and enjoy those really meaningful parts of life.’
If you’re wondering if you can really forge a lasting connection with someone you’ve met through an app, Elva insists it’s not only possible but highly likely.
‘Being a friend to someone and building on the starting points takes effort and care the same way any important relationship does, but we’ve seen this turn into real lasting connections for so many of our members,’ she said.
‘I am starting to lose track of the girls who’ve met through our network and gone on to be so close that they’ve been each others bridesmaids, travel companions and house mates.
‘Brave any nerves and go to an event. I think nerves is the biggest thing that stops people coming along to something in real life, but just comment that you’re feeling a little anxious or private message the host and see can you meet her a few mins earlier to settle in.
‘Everyone’s had a first event some time and people are so kind about making that easier for others.’