There are a ton of dating apps out there and they can be so intimidating. That's where Lex comes in. Lex is a free social and dating app that is queer-owned and operated and is designed for the LGBTQ+ community to make lasting connections. The Lex app is a free text-centered social app that was inspired by old-school newspaper personal ads. You can make LGBTQ+ connections worldwide simply by chatting and not having to worry about photos. Lex lives by the motto, “Text first, selfies second.”

We chatted with Kell Rakowski the founder of Lex to see why the dating app was created and how the old-school approach became the focus.

Kell Rakowski looking off to the side.

Kell Rakowski

Photo courtesy of Joel Arbaje

What Was the Ah-Ha Moment of Inspiration for Creating Lex?

Kell: There's multiple ah-ha moments in Lex's story. Before we launched Lex the app, it started as an Instagram page. 7 years ago I created the Instagram page @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y soon after my coming out. I was posting images of queer culture and history, as I was teaching myself about lesbian culture – reading all the books, watching all the movies, and sharing the content on IG. While diving into an online archive of feminist magazines, I found a full archive of the lesbian erotica mag, On Our Backs. In the back of every issue were personal ads written by the folks who read the magazine. The personals were hot, smart, and hilarious. The women knew exactly who they were and what they wanted.

1st ah-ha: I thought to myself, I have a community of Insta followers here – why don't we write our own personal ads today?? I added a google doc link to the bio and started receiving submissions. The personals were a hit, quickly I was receiving hundreds of submissions each month.

2nd ah-ha: I could not keep up with the demand and decided to turn this into an app. There's definitely a group of people (LGBTQ) that are consistently ignored and not satisfied with the current social apps out there. None are focused on the queer community. With no tech background or connections, I bootstrapped $50K through Kickstarter and fundraising parties to build an MVP.

3rd ah-ha: I converted the IG community directly into Lex app users, with 40K downloads in month one. We launched right before covid. Folks were using Lex for so much more than dating, to find friends, and roommates, organize soccer games, share kombucha scobies, etc. Lex is so much more than just dating, we are for the queer community. We are building the largest queer social network.

What Did You Want Its Point of Difference To Be, Compared to Other Gay Dating / Hookup or LGBT-Friendly Apps?

Kell: Lex is focused on community connections. We entered the market as a dating app, but the way folks use Lex is for all aspects of their queer lives.

We are building a queer social network – Lex is a place to find friends to meet in a park to play music or fly kites. Lex is for finding another queer to paint your shaved head. Lex is also for hot hookups. We are fluid!

We have built Lex authentically through our community, without the monetary backing of our community Lex would not exist. We are in constant communication with our users, through weekly surveys to paid user testing – Lex is built by queers for queers. Our team is dedicated to building Lex into a safe and healthy social network for queer folks around the world.

​How Did the Pandemic Shape or Fine-Tune the Business Model?

Kell: Distance has never been an issue for our audience. Folks would fly across the country or the world to go on first dates. During the pandemic, queers used Lex the same way they always did, except this did halt IRL hookups and hangouts – it did not halt folks connecting digitally and finding creative ways to meet. Folks organized worldwide brunches on Lex, group yoga classes, and 1-1 video dates designing their apartments into faux bars.

pair of hands holding an iphone looking at the Lex app.

Using the Lex App

What Was Great/Positive/Superior About the Old Classifieds That So Many of Us Grew Up Reading?

Kell: Personals offer you a glimpse into the writer’s personality while also being succinct in stating your wants and needs. Personals specifically work with the LGBTQ community because we use words to describe our sexuality and gender identity in humorous, creative ways. Example: Black-Latina femme bottom crybaby, Soft preppy papi chulo, homoromantic ace, Transmasc Dyke Bottom.

Do You Think This Will Be of Interest/Appealing to a Specific Age Group / Demographic?

Kell: We're currently building for Gen Z, and continue to do research to see what they respond to most. Right now, Lex’s demographic is split between Millennials and Gen Z. 33% of Gen Z identify as LGBTQ and that number is only growing. This is an overlooked group of young people that we need to respect and pay attention to! The future is queer.

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