Queer social app Lex gets a new CEO and $5.6M to grow | TechCrunch

3 min read
Queer social app Lex gets a new CEO and $5.6M to grow | TechCrunch

Lex, the app inspired by vintage lesbian personals, just raised $5.6 million in seed funding and elevated co-founder Jennifer Lewis from COO to CEO.

As a result, founding CEO Kel Rakowski steps into a new role — chief creative officer, while former Hinge product boss Michelle Parsons joins as chief product officer.

“We’re proud to have successfully raised,” Lewis said in a statement, calling it “no small feat” for the 11-person team, given the venture industry’s abysmal funding rates for women- and queer-led startups.

At three years old, Lex doesn’t look like the next Reddit, Tinder or Twitter, although its scope grows as more folks publicly identify as LGBTQIA+. On Apple’s U.S. charts, Lex ranks around No. 350 among iPhone social networking apps. Still, if you’re queer and live in one of the app’s top cities (such as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles), you might already use it.

Folks I know in LA turn to Lex to find roommates, sell concert tickets, vent and horny post. On any given day, my feed of text-only posts might alternately read like a local LGBTQIA+ paper, Craigslist missed connections, a chaotic poetry subreddit or trans Twitter.

In February, Lex codified a broadened focus on community with a redesign that drove some folks to lament the app’s deemphasis on dating and hookups. “I’m def in the ‘keep Lex filthy’ camp,” one user told TechCrunch earlier this year.

Lewis said in a call with TechCrunch that the “furor about the rebrand” was helpful — “It alerts us to the gaps that we have, and we don’t pretend to know that we can see everything.” Still, Lewis asserted that the redesign delivered on what most of its users want, “a social app for all things queer.”

As for Lex’s fundraise, the company said in a statement that Stellation Capital’s Peter Boyce led its seed round, while several other firms and angels also chipped in. The other funders include: Slauson & Co., Hope Lab Ventures, Best Nights VC, Great Oaks, Graph Ventures, Manuela Rios, and Melanie and Lila Steinbach. Investors in Lex’s pre-seed — Female Founders Fund, Alpaca Ventures, Red Swan and Gaingels — reupped their investments.

Lex said it aims to use the new funds to expand, but doing so without pissing off users won’t be easy. Lex’s focus on serving marginalized, LGBTQIA+ communities has led it to talk about monetization and growth in a way that’s unusual for VC-backed businesses. Lewis said, “I personally believe that how we build the business, and how we monetize for an LGBTQ company, has to be so nuanced and has to be so tailored to the needs of our community and really reflective of that.”

The CEO added that Lex’s monetization plans won’t look anything like Meta’s (Facebook) or TikTok’s. “An ad-based social model means you have to keep people on the app. That means you have to build a model that keeps people locked in, and that is against our principle of getting people to meet up in person,” said Lewis. Lex is trying out a few paid features today, including charging folks who want to post more often than the app typically allows.

Former CEO Rakowski said in a text to TechCrunch that her new role is about letting “loose from the strains of running & operating the company” to “focus on what I love — making things happen for queer people.”

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