Building a Global Community from Dublin - Accidental Entrepreneur Elva Carri
The first question we ask each of our featured speakers at the Idea 2 Scale Meetups is simply “How did you come up with your idea?” and last week, Elva Carri of GirlCrew gave us the best answer we’ve had so far. Like many of our speakers, she was frustrated trying to solve a problem and thought of a creative solution.
One Friday in 2014, Elva simply wanted a night out in town, dancing with a group of girls rather than staying in or going on a date. She was 29 at the time and a lot of her friends had settled down and had prior commitments. Frustrated, she took to tinder, changed her gender to male and started swiping right on 25-40 year old straight women having replaced her picture with a graphic saying “let’s go meet guys in the real world.” Pretty soon she had hundreds of matches – clearly, there were many in similar shoes who were craving a night out. After a successful first night out, Elva invited her matches to a Facebook group called Tinder Crew (That name didn’t last long).
Working as a digital media consultant, she knew the typical conversion rates for ads across social platforms, so didn’t expect many to actually join the group after this unorthodox recruitment technique. To her surprise, two hours later when she logged in to Facebook, most of her matches had not only joined, but started introducing themselves and the community had already organized their own event. For the next 9 months, Elva socialised regularly with the growing community, tirelessly researching the market, learning what worked and what didn’t.
Elva had never planned to start a business, in fact she actively resisted it. She had strong morals about capitalism and felt most corporations were greedy and existed mostly to take advantage of many for the benefit of a few. Her dad was self-employed and had thought her the difference between a business that relied on the founder and one that doesn’t, the latter being scalable. Elva quickly realized that Dublin needed a community like this and saw that it somewhat ran itself making it scalable. In some ways she was an accidental entrepreneur and the accidents continued.
Elva met her cofounders Pamela and Áine through interactions with the platform and some of her biggest learnings have been around having the right team. Having the right cofounders who share a similar vision is crucial. When building their app, they decided to employ an agency, did their due diligence, spoke to their clients etc but soon realized they would never deliver and were essentially fraudsters. They decided to keep things in-house instead and hired a developer so they could iterate over time. They used a recruiter for their first hire and since then, have grown organically through recommendations from the team, which has worked well.
As the platform grew, they kept getting press which helped drive the community. While one of her cofounders, Pamela was still working with the Irish Times, she got an exclusive interview with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. She had mentioned GirlCrew, a project she was working on and by the end of the interview, Jeff said to send him a business plan, that he would invest. GirlCrew have gone on to raise almost $1m so far.
For me, it’s a great example of a business that’s grown organically, through the community, something we’re trying to emulate with Idea 2 Scale with entrepreneurs. Whether by accident or design, their timing was perfect as people were becoming disillusioned with major social media platforms and online dating apps. Women especially are placing less value on consumer goods, favouring memorable experiences and connection instead. Trends such as the #MeToo movement have empowered women to speak out, share experiences but also to think differently. GirlCrew, a community strictly for women (or those who identify as women), gives members a safe, fun environment to build authentic relationships and share experiences. Today they have grown to 150,000+ members across 50 cities. FYI, their most popular event type is Book Club Brunch.