Metro Weekly

Zero Feet Away

From coming out online to meeting all the party people, Scruff's Johnny Skandros has brought new meaning to the term ''Woof''

Scruff app screenshot from iTunes

Scruff app screenshot from iTunes

MW: When did Scruff launch?

SKANDROS: July 2010.

MW: When did you realize you were on to something?

SKANDROS: I think it was after the first week.

MW: That long?

SKANDROS: [Laughs.] There were just thousands and thousands of downloads. When we saw how many people were downloading it in the first week, Eric and I just kind of knew, ”Okay, we’re on to something here.” But we also wanted to build a business and make it a sustainable one. That’s a whole other feat, and not an easy one.

So, I lived at home for a year. I left New York and went home to work on Scruff. In the beginning, we weren’t making any money. Any money we did make went into keeping our servers running, not into ourselves. So I moved home with Mom, and Eric moved home with his mom. I had to explain to her why I was leaving my entire life in New York that I worked so hard for. She was really supportive. Now she thinks it’s really cool. She knows what bears are, she knows what apps are. She knows everything.

MW: Scruff is the company that moms built?

SKANDROS: Yeah. [Laughs.] We wouldn’t have been able to do this [otherwise]. Scruff launched in July 2010, and I was at my full-time job. I left that job in October and moved home. I was home from October 2010 to January 2012.

MW: Wow. Welcome back to New York.

SKANDROS: Thanks! [Laughs.]

MW: How do you run Scruff? What does it look like behind the curtain?

SKANDROS: Eric writes the code and manages the servers. There’s Jason, who’s been with us pretty much from the beginning. He does a lot of the product-management side – his specific title is product manager and founding partner. Then we have Joey, who does customer support. He lives in Orlando. And there’s Mark, an engineer we hired, who just moved here from San Francisco. That’s our staff. We have weekly meetings.

MW: With lots of Skype action?

SKANDROS: It’s all Skype. Lots of Skype action.

I feel like we have the best team in the world. We all bring different skills to the table. They’re really, really smart guys. And we’re able to go out and have fun together. We’re all gay. It’s pretty awesome that we have such a close team. I feel really lucky. Scruff is not because of me. It’s not because of Eric. It’s because of all of us. It really is. The Scruff you see today is the hard work of several people. I feel very lucky to have these people in my life. We’re really close, a wonderful, smart team of hardworking people.

You made me cry! [Laughs.] I’m having a moment.

MW: Is Scruff the Goldilocks app? More bearish than Grindr, but less bearish than Growlr?

SKANDROS: I think that’s what it is. We’re not 100 percent bear. And we’re not Grindr, which is everybody.

I think Scruff was more bear in the beginning, and then broadened itself. I think just because of its popularity, it was inevitable.

MW: Is there a typical Scruff guy? If so, can you define it?

SKANDROS: It’s an attitude. There is a certain look and feel when you log on Scruff. You see more Scruffy guys, guys with facial hair. We do tend to get that guys on Scruff are more friendly. But I don’t want to say there is one kind of guy who is Scruff. They are diverse.

MW: Looking at that animal lexicon, do you self-identify? Otter, maybe? Do you use any of that?

SKANDROS: No, I don’t. [Laughs.] Not that there’s anything wrong with labels. Labels can be really healthy. There’s a whole debate around labels. But, if someone can identify as an otter and feel good about that, wonderful.

MW: You’re on a big fitness regimen now, aren’t you?

SKANDROS: Yeah. It’s been hard with the summer events.

MW: What’s your motivation?

SKANDROS: Well, I need to stay healthy. Traveling is really tough. It’s tiring. Running a business is tiring. If I’m not in shape and not eating right – for me, at least – I’m not going to be 100 percent myself. I’ve been working out for many, many years. I know how to do it right, but it takes a lot of discipline and a very strict diet.

MW: What’s your diet?

SKANDROS: It was five meals throughout the day. A lot of protein, a lot of vegetables.

MW: When was the last time you had french fries?

SKANDROS: When I was at the airport the other day? [Laughs.] That’s the thing – traveling can really mess things up. You’re at the airport, there are all those fast-food joints. It’s so easy – so easy – to ruin a diet. I admit I have, but it’s fine.

MW: I’m getting the impression you’re not a very uptight guy.

SKANDROS: Well, good. [Laughs.] I try to be relaxed. Things can get stressful, of course.

MW: What do you do when things get stressful? Do you start screaming at people?

SKANDROS: My God, no! [Laughs.] I get very quiet. If I’m out and I meet people and I seem really quiet, some people might observe me as an asshole. I’ve had to deal with that. When I go out, I really try to be animated and bring the party and smile and laugh. That’s hard to do when you’re stressed out or you’re having a bad day. The times I’ve had a bad day, I tend to be quieter and people are like, ”Who are you? You’re quiet. You’re mean. You should be jumping up and down and doing shots and screaming and dancing!” And it’s like, ugh, I can’t do that 24/7.

MW: As the face of Scruff, you have this celebrity. You’re being assessed all the time. How do you handle it?

SKANDROS: I get it all. Haters are going to hate. I try to see the good that comes out of it, read the positive messages that people send me. The good feedback far outweighs any negative feedback. But I deal with all of it. That’s what I signed up for. I’m fine with it. When I go out to an event and I meet a couple that has met on Scruff, that makes my day. That far outweighs anyone who comes up to me and automatically assumes I’m an asshole. Or someone I may have spoken to for five minutes, and they’re angry that I didn’t speak to them for 10 minutes. I get that all the time. When I’m out, I try to just meet and talk to as many people as I can.

MW: Where is Scruff most popular?

SKANDROS: Obviously, the U.S. is our largest market. Then the U.K. We threw a Scruff party in Manchester, which turned out to be the biggest night this club, Legends, had seen. They got 6,000 people. The U.K. became the second to the U.S. You’d never know, but Brazil is a huge market for us. Taiwan is also a very large market. Then Australia. I’d say those are our biggest. We’re translated into 12 different languages.

MW: You said you’re gratified when you meet a couple who’s met through Scruff. I have Scruff on my phone and I’m happy when I see a message from a guy who says he lives in Saudi Arabia or some other place where being gay is a crime.

SKANDROS: There are some countries that block us. Definitely Iran.

But on that note, there are guys in remote areas who are able to log on to Scruff. It’s an amazing thing. I’ve heard stories from guys in foreign countries, guys just in remote areas where there are no other gay people around, that Scruff has helped them come out of the closet. Scruff is doing that for people now. That makes it so worth it.

MW: Can you tell me what the company’s worth?

SKANDROS: I cannot tell you that.

MW: Do you still fly coach?

SKANDROS: It depends. [Laughs.] Yeah, I do. I fly first and I fly coach. Someone asked me if I had a private jet. Are you kidding me? No.

MW: So, you’re comfortable.

SKANDROS: Yeah, I’m comfortable. And Eric’s comfortable. We want to keep this business going. The profits that come in, they don’t go to just me and Eric. They go to staff and to our offices. They go to all kinds of things.

MW: So you still drink tap water sometimes?

SKANDROS: New York tap water’s the best. [Laughs.]

MW: Even though Scruff hasn’t found you a husband, are you hoping it might?

SKANDROS: I’m going with the flow. I’m dating. I’ve met so many wonderful guys through Scruff. When the right guy comes along, whether through Scruff or out and about, I’ll know it. In the meantime, I’m not anxious to find a husband. I’m just having fun, just going with the flow and trying to embrace what’s happening in my life right now, which is really wonderful. Yeah, I hope that guy comes along. I’m sure he will.

Scruff is available for the iPhone and Android. Visit scruffapp.com.

Leave a Comment:

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!