Sean Rad, founder and CEO of mobile dating app Tinder, offered his broader vision for the app and hinted at future features today at Disrupt Europe.
Rad acknowledged that the “unwritten context” of Tinder right now is romantic relationships, but he argued that the basic mechanism, where two people are only connected when they both express interest in each other, is “a universal thing across friendships, across business, across anything.” The ultimate goal, he said, is to “overcome every single problem you have when it comes to making a new relationship.”
That may seem like a stretch, but maybe my boss Alexia Tsotsis (who interviewed Rad onstage) represents Tinder’s future — as she emphatically pointed out to the audience that she has a boyfriend but still uses the app to meet new people.
Rad suggested that there’s been a larger shift, where social networks allow people to improve existing relationships, but they haven’t made it easier to meet new people. That’s because those new connections have developed a “hunter/hunted” dynamic, and social networks might even exacerbate that situation, making the hunters feel like they have to hunt more aggressively and the hunted feel more uncomfortable.
In terms of specific functionality, Rad suggested that Tinder (which already filters its recommendations by proximity) could become more closely tied to real-world locations. Eventually, he said users should be able to spot someone else they want to meet in the same room, find them on Tinder, and swipe right to show that they’re interested in connecting right then and there. To make that happen, Tinder could do more to incorporate the context of who and where you are into its recommendations.
Rad also addressed the question of whether Tinder’s interface encourages superficiality, since you’re making connections based entirely on photos. He said that’s something we do anyway, and that at least with Tinder, people are choosing the right picture to “express themselves.”
“Tinder is less superficial than our everyday lives, our everyday interactions with people,” he said.
The team behind Tinder actually launched a previous product, Cardify, at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2012. Rad said that while working on Cardify, he became excited about the idea behind Tinder, and when Tinder took off, Cardify was put “on the shelf.”
When asked about Tinder’s business model, Rad said the team is still focused on product and user growth, though they’re considering a number of revenue options, including in-app purchases.
As for how much Tinder has actually grown, Rad said he couldn’t share user counts, but he did reveal that the app sees 3.5 million matches and 350 million swipes a day. (About 30 percent of those are the right swipes that indicate interest.) And the app has seen 30 billion swipes and 300 million matches total.
One of those matches, by the way, was between Rad and his current girlfriend. Alexia asked him how that happened, and he replied, “She swiped right.”