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Tinder CEO Sean Rad Wants Discovery, Not Just Hookups

The Tinder CEO took the stage at FCLA 2016 to confirm that it's users who more often than not spark the biggest innovations.

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"Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Tinder CEO Sean Rad took the stage at Fast Company's FCLA event with an eye firmly on the future. Putting behind him the tumultuous past couple of years, he reflected on his renewed perspective and how he sees Tinder growing, evolving, and branching out beyond the 11 billion matches it has sparked to date.

"Losing the CEO title taught me how to be a CEO," Rad told Fast Company senior writer Austin Carr. "I learned a lot of things from that experience. It really puts things in perspective. I didn’t care about the title. I was there because I cared about the product."

And the product, he insists, isn't as one-dimensional as you may have been led to believe. "Tinder’s not one thing. It's about all different things—hookups, long-term relationships, friendships—there’s a massive audience on Tinder and there are a massive number of connections that happen, so our focus isn’t on one particular type of connection."

This led the company to explore different kinds of social connections, from the Swipe the Vote initiative to the group-connection-minded Tinder Social.

"The idea behind Tinder Social is to try and capture your identity within a group and bring that into the app," Rad explained. "These group matches will lead to real-world interaction. Our goal, again, is to eliminate the friction and take it one step further and help break the ice. And, like so many ideas, it came from our users. We saw how they were using it—hacking the app to use it in ways it wasn't intended—and tried to use that to enhance the overall experience." It also emboldened the company to move ahead with Swipe the Vote—which matched users with the political candidate that most shared their views—which was something Rad and his team jumped on after noticing that Tinder had become "a political playground." The effort was so successful, Rad said that he has been approached by other countries to create a Swipe the Vote-like feature for international elections.

Although still seen by some as "the hookup app," Tinder, in Rad's eyes, is really just about discovery. Whether it's a person, a group, a political party, an advertiser's product, or even a job. "You’re on Tinder to discover things," says Rad. "You don’t have this expectation of what you’re going to see. You’re in that discovery mindset. You are there to discover new things. Our users love it and advertisers love it." In fact, Rad admitted that the company even recruited and hired "about six people" through the app.

"Those conversations did not lead to dates," Rad said with a chuckle. "But to 'Hey, why don’t you come by and interview about this role?'"

Tinder, which boasts over 9 million daily active users, is part of Match Group, which includes other dating sites such as OkCupid and Match.com. In November, Match Group's parent company IAC spun off Match Group as part of an initial public offering that raised around $400 million at a roughly $3 billion valuation. Tinder was obviously the cornerstone of the deal. According to the S-1 SEC prospectus notes, Rad’s app has "risen to scale and popularity faster than any other product in the dating category" and particularly appeals to young users. If Tinder weren't a part of Match Group, one recent estimate posited that its valuation could be more than $1 billion.

Watch the Facebook Live talk with Rad here.

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