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Tinder’s Sean Rad: We’re Changing the World, One Long-Term Relationship at a Time

Rob Pegoraro
Contributing Editor

(Photos by Rob Pegoraro/Yahoo Tech)

DUBLIN—Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad would like you to hang up on the hook-up talk already.

In an onstage interview at the Web Summit here, he instead tried to sell the dating app as the foundation of long-term romances.

“We just conducted a survey of over 300,000 of our users,” he told his interviewer, Forbes writer Steven Bertoni.  “What we found was that over 80 percent of people on Tinder are there to find a long-term relationship.”

The audience did not all buy that. Some snickered, and I heard a woman a few chairs away whisper: “Liars!”

Rad continued: “Twenty percent are there for something, either friendships or, dare I say, hook-ups.”

The once and former CEO—he stepped down from that job after a colleague’s sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company, then regained it in August—reeled off a series of stats about Tinder’s popularity: more than 1.8 billion “swipes” (the gesture by which you reject or express interest in another user’s profile picture), 30 million matches a day, almost nine billion matches total, and 1.5 million dates a week.

“We are bringing the world closer together at a scale that no platform has ever been able to do, and in that sense it’s changing the world,” Rad said in a line that could have come from HBO’s comedy “Silicon Valley.”

Bertoni asked Rad what he thought about Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair story, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse’,” that drew a far less flattering picture of Tinder as an accelerant for bed-hopping behavior by twentysomethings.

“The press is always going to focus on things that are controversial,” Rad said. “Eventually, that story’s going to die and they’re going to focus on something that’s more substantial.”

At the time, Tinder took Sales’ story a lot more personally, launching a tweetstorm that included the cringe-inducing hashtag #GenerationTinder.

Bertoni didn’t ask about the sexual-harassment case, in which former marketing vice president Whitney Wolfe alleged that the company took away her “co-founder” title and chief marketing officer Justin Mateen called her “a whore” in front of Rad. That was an odd omission, considering it was Bertoni who broke the fact that Wolfe settled for “just over $1 million.”

Rad did, however, offered some hints about Tinder’s upcoming moves and overall goals.

An upcoming update will “help you make more sense of the sheer number of people around you” while offering new ways to interact with them. “We’re constantly looking to reduce the barriers to interacting in Tinder and in the real world,” Rad explained.

In a few days, Tinder will also reveal what he called ”the most significant change we’ve ever made" to its matching algorithm.

“It’s been our mission since day one to uncover every possible relationship, every possible meaningful relationship, that can happen,” Rad said.

Bertoni wrapped up by asking Rad about Tinder’s financial moves. He said the company—owned by the New York online-services company IAC—is making money but wouldn’t say how much, owing to that ownership. “The vast majority” of the revenue comes from the Tinder Plus premium service it launched in March, with a little coming in from its more recent addition of ads.

“The ad business is in its infancy. It’s starting to develop into a bigger business for us,” Rad said, then added: “We’ll never do anything that takes away from the delight of using Tinder.”

At this point, I should confess that as somebody who’s been married for over a decade, I’ve never actually installed the app, seeing as how I like being married very much. So I will leave you to answer this question: Does Rad’s description of the service sound like what you experience every day?

Email Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com; follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.