The Kinky Ménage à Trois Startup That Tinder Wants to Kill (and How It's Fighting Back)
This morning I deleted a swinging email pitch from 3nder, the so-called “Tinder for threesomes.” My thought process: First, how the heck do you say 3nder? (Oh, it’s pronounced “thrinder.” I get it.) Second, why would a startup brag about being sued by a corporate colossus?
Also, it stunk of a half-baked publicity stunt, yet here I am writing about it anyway.
Turns out my editor received 3nder’s pitch, too, and he thought it was “interesting.” Upon further digging, it is (and I’m not just saying that because I was assigned this, boss). In the lengthy pitch, the London-based maker of an app for “kinky, curious and openminded humans,” complains that it’s in the midst of a legal tango with Tinder, of course, to no fault of its own.
The popular Match Group Inc. subsidiary’s beef: 3nder sounds too much like Tinder (that is, if you can somehow spit it out correctly). Therefore, it should “immediately cease operations.” At least that’s what 3nder claims Tinder demands in a lawsuit it filed against the upstart. We reached out to Tinder to verify that such a lawsuit indeed exists, to which it replied “no comment” through a spokesperson. The spokesperson did, however, say that “The claim is public and has all the pertinent details from our end,” confirming its existence. Entrepreneur later obtained copies of said legal documents.
3nder’s legal troubles with Tinder began on Dec. 15 of last year, Kelley Drake, 3nder’s head of marketing tells us. That’s when 3nder founder and CEO Dimo Trifonov received a letter from the company accusing him of infringing upon its trademark and name. The letter called for 3nder to shut down within 29 days of the letter’s receipt, Drake says.
Trifonov, determined not to be silenced, responded to Tinder in a Jan. 7, 2016, letter. In it, he detailed what he maintains are several distinct differences between the two dating apps. The primary dissimilarity: “Unlike Tinder’s gay or straight limitations, 3nder covers the complete 23 sexualities recognized today, meaning 3nder is more than just LGBTQ ‘friendly,'” per a statement 3nder released today.
Tinder fired back at Trifonov on May 10, he says, claiming that he was given only two weeks to respond to its demand to cease operations. Today, Trifonov fired back with another letter to Tinder, and made a lot of noise in doing so with a perfectly timed defiant press release and protest Medium post.
You could say he’s raising a stink -- he simultaneously launched #TinderSuckMySocks, a social media campaign to “share your dirty laundry with Tinder.” Those who feel the urge to join in the protest can do so by snapping a pic of their sock-covered feet and posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or wherever accompanied by the vaguely provocative hashtag.
Classier yet, Trifonov also invites you to ship a pair of your soiled socks direct to Tinder’s West Hollywood, Calif., headquarters, if you’re so moved. He’s even publicized the company’s main mailing address, which he lovingly sent his own “napalm” socks to.
We doubt a few putrid socks are enough to hold off Tinder’s deep-pocketed legal hounds, but they were enough for us -- and several other media outlets -- to take a second sniff at.
“When a multi-billion corporation is after you, you don’t have many options but to fight back hard or just let them destroy you,” Trifonov says in a Medium post he published today. “Now that this fight is happening, I have to work whenever I am not asleep (around 16 hrs daily maybe?). Naturally, I will forgot to do my laundry so all my socks (and my girlfriend’s) are dirty. I sent them to Tinder (say Yuck). If you have any compassion for me and my superteam at 3nder who is involved in this nonsense fight, please do the same thing I did few hours ago:”
Freaky sock selfies aside, let’s get back to this morning’s wonky pitch. Why would 3nder be so openly boastful about being sued by Tinder for allegedly copycatting its name, other than for the sticky burst of publicity it’s drumming up? We asked. Here’s 3nder’s response:
“We are a start-up and refused to be bullied by a big corporate giant. If we don't speak up, then who will? We would be failing not only ourselves but our members. 3nder does not want to be Tinder and believes its mission, audience and focus on design and users make it clearly distinct. And a giant corporation trying to shut down a small business that exists out of love - that’s something worth fighting for.”
Odd. Nowhere in the above did we see a mention of the ménage à trois facilitator’s imminent Android app launch, slated to go live in about a week. 3nder is currently only available for iOS. The company claims 700,000 sexually adventurous folks are on a waiting list for the Android version.
Oh, and speaking of love, or something like it, Trifonov founded the app in February of 2014 after his girlfriend, Ana, admitted to him that she had “feelings” for a French girl (“Who doesn’t fall for the French?”). “He was so touched that he wanted her to know that there were many more people like her in the world,” Drake says, “and that people fall in love all the time regardless of gender, so he built 3nder as a love letter to her.”
Hey, sometimes it takes three to tango. Who are we to judge?
As for Trifonov’s “love letter” to Ana, he’s willing to go down in flames for it, if necessary. “ I won’t let greedy white collars destroy my love letter,” he says. Kind of sounds like love to us. At least we want to believe it is.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.