After graduating from university and taking a gap year in Iceland, Halyna Virt wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do. But after hearing from a friend that the employees at TAIMI, an LGBTQI+ dating and social media app, “had the same values as [she], were active, and wanted to change the world,” she said: “If they want to change the world, why not?”
Virt joined TAIMI as a Project Manager in November 2017, when the company was just comprised of a few developers. It was the very start of the project, and “no one really knew what [Virt] would do.” But now with more than 100 employees, as the Head of Business Development, Virt leads a department of 15 employees and continues to influence the growth and development of TAIMI in all business aspects including public relations, social media, and product management.
When Virt started at TAIMI, the app was a “raw” version, one Virt characterized as almost a different app than what TAIMI looks like today. But by using direct feedback from their users, TAIMI made numerous changes. For example, after extensive research, the team found that there was “no place on the Internet where the [LGBTQI+] community could communicate without facing any kind of hate or discrimination.” As a result, they decided to add a social element to the app: a discussion tab where people could leave their thoughts on particular matters. And what they found was that people really engaged with the feed and shared their opinions. Virt explained: “We could see that the things they were talking about there were more straightforward and more brave . . . than on any other social network they had seen.”
Over time, the team added more social aspects to TAIMI including the ability to create and subscribe to groups based on shared interests. The app has also added other features including 24/7 tech support, and a section where users can get fast replies about the LGBTQI+ community and relevant terminology. These changes have all been made thanks to user feedback, and Virt hopes to continue in that direction so the app is “an app for our users and by our users.”
In addition, when the app first launched, it was catered to gay men. But in August 2019, the app expanded to include the entire LGBTQI+ community. Virt explained: “At first we were scared. But then we realized that users liked that they could interact with each other.” This change made TAIMI the first social network and dating app for the entire LGBTQI+ community, something that Virt is very proud of.
Since the launch of TAIMI, Virt has also done a lot of work to coordinate partnerships around the globe. So far, she has worked with the Trevor Project, LA Pride, UNAIDS, the LGBT Foundation, Bisexual Resources Center, Rainbow Foundation, Pride of the Americas, PAINT LGBT, and the Ella Lesbian Festival, just to name a few. With these partnerships, she hopes to make the app available to many more LGBTQI+ people across the globe and foster connections across the community.
And that’s certainly what we need as the coronavirus pandemic continues to interfere with our daily lives and our social relationships. If anything, right now, it seems like the perfect time for TAIMI to thrive.