The SCRUFF team invaded Columbus for an incredible night of fun at Axis Nightclub in early November. Quorum Columbus chatted with Johnny Skandros, the founder of SCRUFF, about the visit, his company’s impact on gay culture, how they give back to the community and what’s next for SCRUFF.
What did you most enjoy about your Columbus visit?
I loved how friendly everyone was. People weren’t hesitant to jump in front of the camera and take pictures with us, so that made it really easy to meet people. Overall, I can tell you that our team felt very welcomed, and we definitely want to come back!
Why did you choose to visit Columbus?
We chose Columbus because we heard through the grapevine that SCRUFF was extremely popular in the area. One of our new models, Kyle Kline, is a bartender at Union Cafe. I also adore Nina West. I met her in NYC during the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 premiere party, and she was wearing her SCRUFF dress, so I immediately fell in love with her.
What are your favorite moments with SCRUFF?
It’s great when the team gets together outside of the office for events or other social activities. Everyone works so hard, and I enjoy seeing them be able to let their hair down.
What’s new at SCRUFF?
BenevolAds™ is our new in-app global advertising platform that aims to connect LGBTQ nonprofit organizations to our worldwide base of more than 7 million members. We are donating a percentage of our ad space, which will be worth 1 million dollars! Members will see BenevolAds™ in the same place that current ads are on their screen. By tapping on the ad, they will be greeted with a pop-up notification with a more detailed description of the nonprofit. BenevolAds™ is really an extension of our core mission: connecting guys to one another and to the global gay community. It’s also entirely FREE.
How can a nonprofit organization get involved with BenevolAds™?
We’ve made it very simple for everyone to get involved. A nonprofit looking to reach our members can go to Scruff.Com/Advertise and follow the steps. You must have 501(c)(3) status or have ads that we think will be relevant to our community.
How does SCRUFF encourage safer sex habits?
First and foremost, most health organizations can now use BenvolAds™ to reach and educate our members. Also, we recently partnered with the National Minority AIDS Council to educate members about HIV prevention and raise awareness about the stigma of living with HIV or AIDS. They will be using BenevolAds™ to focus on issues related to PrEP, but their messages will be tailored throughout the year to focus on events such as National Coming Out Day and World AIDS Day. Gay men have turned to mobile as the norm for meeting other like-minded men, and we’re glad to be able to educate our members around an issue that’s still of vital importance to our community.
What steps is SCRUFF taking to help protect members in anti-gay countries?
We’ve struck a partnership with ILGA - International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – the world federation of national and local organizations dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBTI people. They publish a comprehensive website dedicated to documenting laws that criminalize same-sex acts worldwide. SCRUFF members who travel to one of the nearly 90 countries listed will be alerted via an in-app notification of the consequences of conviction under these laws. By increasing the awareness of these laws, we hope to keep our members vigilant and raise the global pressure for reform.
What has been the impact of GPS-based apps on gay dating and on LGBTQ nightlife?
Gay dating has definitely changed with the use of GPS-based apps. More than ever, gay men can feel connected to one another and to the global gay community. We’ve had dozens of marriages result from guys chatting with one another from different parts of the globe. Hearing these stories is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. The internet changed nightlife in the same manner that newspapers once did. Gay men still want to go out and socialize face-to-face, so I don’t see nightlife going away any time soon. SCRUFF has an in-app event listing that any bar or club can utilize to feature their event to our members.
What is the next step for SCRUFF in 2015?
There are many exciting things happening for SCRUFF. We are launching SCRUFF 5 next year with more cool features. We are also planning some international SCRUFF events in London and Paris. There are some upcoming media opportunities in the works, so you might be seeing me on TV again sometime in the near future.