Pink Dollar app fights gay prejudice
As much as we like to consider ourselves highly evolved beings free from prejudice, recent anti-gay protests around the world have proved that we still have a way to go.
That narrow-mindedness also exists in Hong Kong, where members of the LGBT community can be marginalised for their lifestyle choices.
Former J.P. Morgan investment banker Paul Ramscar quit his lucrative career with the aim of fighting such prejudice. Instead of protesting, he created Pink Dollar, a smartphone app that combines this social issue with helpful lifestyle listings.
"The main reason was to try and help end discrimination in Hong Kong by directing the LGBT community to retailers and service providers who are supportive of LGBT consumers," Ramscar says.
"We also wanted to direct the LGBT community to 'safe' places, like restaurants and bars that would make them feel welcome; places where they would not raise eyebrows just because they were gay."
Pink Dollar was launched for iPhones in October 2012 and expanded into the Android market last December. It has grown from a simple list of gay-friendly businesses, to an app which offers an extensive go-to guide for the LGBT community.
A large part of its all-encompassing nature has come via the company's partnerships with local businesses. This allows Pink Dollar to offer exclusives about gay-friendly events around town, and digital coupons for discounts at listed businesses.
"Pink Dollar prides itself on the quality of our partners and our deep relationship with them," Ramscar says.
"We meet every business owner, CEO, head of marketing, and decision maker directly, before approving their listing on Pink Dollar."
Users have responded well to the app's software. Its GPS location positioning, push messaging, and cloud-based servers make it simple to use. It's quick, too.
But beyond that, the app offers something even rarer in a city like Hong Kong: a chance for the often misunderstood gay community to have a technological voice of its own.
"The LGBT community in Hong Kong is still evolving, and it seems to be becoming more accepted," Ramscar says.
"But we live in a city that is still very behind the times in terms of LGBT rights, especially when compared to countries such as the UK or US. We hope that we can get LGBT rights on the agenda for discussion, and that equal rights will happen soon."
Ramscar hopes the Pink Dollar app will go far beyond the Hong Kong market, and even the gay community - he's interested in ending all types of discrimination.
"We are working on the Japanese version of Pink Dollar, and are in discussions to bring the app to the main cities in the US and UK," he says.
"Pink Dollar will start to look very different over the next few years. We are constantly assessing the changes in technology and how we can add value to our members.
"We hope Pink Dollar can create a more inclusive community, and that extends to the straight community, too."