“I Nearly Got Arrested At Apple HQ”: How A Founder Fought For His ‘Casual Sex’ App In Silicon Valley

Colin Hodge, CEO and Co-Founder at Bang With Friends talks about the trials and tribulations of launching a raunchy app in Silicon Valley

 I created Bang With Friends, a Facebook app that let users find out which of their friends wanted to… you know.

We hit the top of the App Store (briefly beating out Tinder), and within 3.5 months, we had 1 million users. We were everywhere, from The Wall Street Journal to The Colbert Report. But then came bans from the app stores amongst other troubles.

Here’s the inside story about how I fought for my app in Silicon Valley.

Rocket launch

News of our scandalous app spread like wildfire: we quickly hit 10k user signups in a single day!  Fast Company called our company “disruptive” and “the beginning of a sexual revolution.”

Stephen Colbert joked about Bang With Friends in front of millions of viewers. We reached over 1 million users in just over 90 days, faster than Instagram.

When it Rains, It Pours

As bright as things looked, the rain started suddenly. One day, Apple banned us from the App Store. We were cut off from our top source of users with only the vaguest hint at why, despite repeated outreach.

This was such an existential threat to our company that I nearly got arrested when I drove down to their Cupertino HQ!

After removing the word ‘bang’ from the app, we got reinstated three months later. 

Years later, Google banned us from their Play Store for “adult” keywords like “hookup,” despite allowing similar competitors. We submitted a new “cleaner” version, but our app remained suspended (and with it, millions of downloads and a 4+ star rating).

Two months after Apple’s ban, Zynga sued us for alleged trademark infringement on their game, Words With Friends. We felt that “with friends” was a generic descriptor and it seemed consumers wouldn’t confuse the two different products. Still, we resolved the issue in mediation and rebranded to DOWN, evolving the brand for broader appeal not limited to “friends” or “banging.” 

DOWN still has a playful side with its wink to the colloquial phrase “Are you down?”, yet allowed us on the app stores and a broader product.

The Revival

Nearly 2 years after selling the company, I bought it back in a fire sale. The app was in a downward spiral, dropping quickly in revenue and users, its team and tech in disarray. We spent the past 5 years fixing the core product to increase user success, crafting a robust, data-driven marketing engine, and building a team.

In January this year, DOWN celebrated its 10 year anniversary. We reached over 10 million users, and since 2019, our user match-rate has gone up 500%, while our revenue has grown 268%!  As a profitable top 20 dating app in the USA with millions of downloads and dollars of revenue annually, we’ve persevered and we’re still driving the sexual revolution we started a decade before!