Tinder founder Sean Rad on the future of dating

Tinder's founder Sean Rad and RISE co-host Casey Lau at RISE 2018 in Hong Kong

In 2012, after venturing in other minor business projects, Sean Rad founded Tinder, the app that singlehandedly revolutionised dating all over the world with a new accessible concept that became one of the most defining characteristics of human interactions in the digital era. 

Six years and billions of swipes later, the Californian entrepreneur and investor, shares his predictions on the future of dating apps, new technology and the startup industry during his first visit to Asia at RISE 2018. 

The best thing that can happen to an entrepreneur are mistakes

First, you really have to love what you do. Because if you don’t love it, when things get hard, you sort of lose the sense of purpose and a reason to keep fighting. And things do get hard, it’s difficult. The second thing is that you have to inspire others, the greatest companies are those where you can feel that everybody is there for a common purpose. If you don’t have that, you’ll start develop a selfish decision-making. The third thing is probably the most important one: obstacles and business are actually a good thing, I even get a bit excited when mistakes are made because it’s an opportunity to sit back, learn and improve. You can either get angry and back down and use that as an excuse or you can take a step back and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. These things might seem obvious but they’re not. 

From entrepreneurship to investing

I’m still young but I’ve been doing this for long enough to know that innovation tends to come in waves. You have periods where everyone is speaking about certain new technologies and tools and their application to society. Every wave lasts and carries over what has changed, for me I love it’s a great opportunity to learn and understand the new technologies that are coming out how they impact the world. 

As an entrepreneur I can take that learning and think about ways I can apply that to the investment pool. I think that in the next five years, life as we know is really going to change thanks to technology. I’m excited about AI and the impact is going to have on everything from healthcare to teaching and express feelings, and VR, which is gonna change the way we understand our bodies and minds. 

If you want to go global, you have to think globally for day one

If you stand back and go back before the internet, as human species, when we come out with a great idea, we want to share it with people around us. With the advent the internet, social media and low-cost transportation, an idea can travel  the world almost overnight. I tend not think of companies as local vs. global, If you don’t think of yourself as global from day one what you’re gonna find is that, there are going to be many disappointed customers around the world because of a product that they can’t use. 

In the very early days, it wasn’t just about localising the app [Tinder] in the different languages, we really wanted to understand what made every country unique. You can’t take the approach, as a global company, of “what works in one country, works everywhere.” There are some universal things but cultural impacts are different and how they affect people varies a lot. In the first three months, we had teams in every country bringing us feedback and advocating for users in those country to improve the service. 

For the past few years, Rad has been investing in different sectors

AI can actually help us to re-connect with our lives 

Imagine how AI can help create space. AI could know that if I am with mum and we’re having lunch and I haven’t see her in a while, that maybe that work email maybe shouldn’t even be presented to me. Taking this to the dating context, I think in five years, instead of me swiping on Tinder, I might talk to my phone and my phone might tell me “Hey Sean, there’s a great girl that I think you’re gonna like, you have a lot of friends in common, you both come from a similar cultural background and you’re both free Thursday night, how about coffee?”. That entire transaction might be created by AI. 

Coming up with a unique and simple concept is key

Let’s go back to the first dating sites, they were created for people who didn’t have time to go out and date, or they lived in a rural area with no access to people but that didn’t do much more than creating a database because the big underlying problem is that even if you find someone that you like in the real world or on a dating website, it’s still very intimidating to message them or introduce yourself cause you’re afraid of being rejected and it really makes you questions yourself. 

So years ago, I had this insight and I thought why not remove that pressure. We came up with this idea: if I like somebody I can swipe right and like but they won’t know that until they also like me back and it removes the element of rejection. That was what really revolutionised not just the online dating space but it revolutionised dating period. The “swipe,” is such a cool thing to remember and talk about, transforming a very simple concept. 

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