Meet Elin Wibell, Co-Founder of Gayze, avid traveler, activist and newly wed.
Tell us why you are involved in this project? - I am very interested with how brands can decrease their negative impact on society or even contribute to it. I worked a long time at Pernod Ricard and Absolut Vodka where I was involved in sustainability projects. In 2015 I decided I wanted to work with combining social impact to brands. So I moved to Asia and started Social Good Agency. I truly believe that business and brands are part of the solution whether it be environmental issues (circular business models) or by shaping society and norms.
I wanted to create a product that serves a higher purpose. When Stelios came along and explained his dream of a travel app for the LGBTQ+ community and our idea evolved, I am finally able to create a product that strives for something good, during all stages of development.
'I wanted to create a product that serves a higher purpose'
How involved were you in the gay-community prior to Gayze?
- Not very. A bit through my work with Absolut Vodka, a brand which supported the LGBTQ+ community since its beginning in the 1980’s.
But growing up in liberal Sweden I assumed that equal rights where the norm rather than the exception.
Has that changed now? - Yes certainly. By research, travel and meetings with our local editors I have learned a lot. I am also living in Singapore and Malaysia which makes you much more aware. In Malaysia the scene is underground. I love going to gay bars, they are often very friendly and welcoming to everyone. I like that very much. My husband is also always tagging along.
What have you learned about the gay-community? - Even though we are trying to avoid labels, I have learnt that they gay community is using loads of them. I have understood what a twink and a bear is and that all these video stores are not really renting out films. I love that the community isn’t so judgemental! On a serious note. After the decision to decriminalize homosexual sex in India a DJ in Singapore has filed a court challenge arguing that the same law in Singapore should be considered unconstitutional. So, I have learned that progress can be made in some regions while in others the development seems to go in the wrong direction. I have learned about the hardship for some of our local editors in Eastern Europe where the community has experienced violence and harassment. I have heard stories about coming out and stories about love. This triggers me to work even harder and proves that I’m in the right place. Our mission grows even bigger for each day. What are your hopes with this app? -That the community can work together to spread support to areas where it is very hard to be LGBTQ+. That no one should feel afraid of travelling. That we can spread information for all on how to be safe and that we can create pride!
What’s your favourite destination? - Right now that would be sparkling and unexpected Tbilisi in Georgia which despite old traditions and a strong influence of the church has a great gay scene. Also the amazing secluded Perhentian Islands in Malaysia are worth traveling to, but just keep in mind the precautions recommended in Gayze.
Favourite gay bar and why? - I always have a great time at friendly neighborhood bar Bacchus in Waikiki, Hawaii. A great place to get to know new people. A mixed bar with incredible drag performances in Kuala Lumpur is Suzie Wong. Where you can for sure have a great time.
Elin, do you have any role models? - I think Elon Musk is doing a great job. You can only do so much as one person, but his achievement to transform the car industry’s dependence on oil is huge.
What advise do you have for someone starting a company?
- Allow yourself a long runway and be prepared to work hard and stay focused.
Join a startup community online or in real life to gain inspiration and support. It can be very depressing working alone so co-working offices and contact with people in the same situation is a comfort.
Surround yourself with the best, whether is is your partner, advisory board or developers. There are also many resources online, with a small budget fiverr and Freelancer can help you create mock-up’s and other material needed to visualize your concept.
Don’t give up, do something you are passionate about. If you believe in your idea don’t get depressed if something similar exists - find your niche.
Elin, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas!
/STELIOS VASILANTONAKIS, CO-FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR