Before Tinder revolutionized the dating sector, Founder of Tinder, Sean Rad was just another college student trying to create something that can leave a positive impact in the world. Like all the other college students before him, Sean had started 3 startups with varying degrees of success.
Through his experiences, Sean gained 3 lessons that he wished he knew when he first started out as an aspiring entrepreneur.
'These things might sound a little obvious, but they are really not. Take doing what you love as an example. In order to really do what you love, you need to discover what you love which takes a lot of work and patience. Some people spend their entire lifetime getting to know themselves but end up not really knowing what they truly love to do. Hence, it is essential to be open towards trying new experiences so as to develop skillsets that you might naturally be good at.'
Besides creating his own companies, Sean also invests in many startups, with investments in roughly 35 startups thus far. Sean has been in this industry long enough to understand that innovation tends to come in waves. There are periods where everyone is focused on building new technologies and tools. There are also periods where entrepreneurs come out and take these newly-built tools and apply them to new applications to benefit society. What Sean has noticed is that every wave of innovation has been bigger than the last. It is compounded over time. Hence, Sean loves investing as whenever he goes into one of those waves of innovation, it’s a great opportunity to learn and understand how the new technologies works. Sean can then take that learning and start to create things that no one in the investment pool has thought about before.
One area of development that Sean believes will have the greatest impact on humanity is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI will influence how we interface on everything. From healthcare to transportation to telecommunication. It will introduce a new way of how we can communicate and express our feelings. There are unbelievable advancements ongoing in the medical industry and future technologies are bound to change the way we understand our bodies and minds, providing new ways to heal ourselves.
'Before the internet, as a human species, even if you came up with a great idea, you don’t have the ability to share outside your community. You don’t possess the tools to go further than that. Now with the internet, social media and low-cost transportation, an idea could travel the world almost instantaneously.' Sean tends not to differentiate companies as local vs global. This is because if the product is only limited to a domestic market, there will be many customers around the world being left disappointed if they hear about the product but can’t use it.
Tinder, in its very early days saw this problem. Therefore, Sean decided it was not enough to just localized the app to different languages. It had to understand what made every single country unique. Tinder wanted to be a global company that understand the needs of all the different countries. There are universal behaviors that make us humans. But everyone is different and there are different cultural impacts. And the way to really capture these impacts is to have someone experience that on the streets in every market. In the first three months, Tinder had teenagers in every country giving Tinder feedback on how they can improve Tinder.
Sean believes that as technology gets better, it brings us closer together and not further apart. Sean looks at AI at how it can help create new experiences and connect us better in the real world. For example, our phones are very powerful tools. We have more information in our pocket than probably the President of the United States of America. However, the thought of that could be very overwhelming. Imagine how AI could assist in our daily lives. AI could know that if Sean is with his mom and having lunch and He haven’t seen her in awhile then maybe that work email isn’t really a priority right now. AI could also identify information of Sean’s fiancé which could be a priority for his mom to know about during their meal together.
Sean believes that in 5 years’ time, Tinder could evolve from swiping to a conversation between the AI function and the user itself. The AI function would be providing verbal recommendations for the user, easing the user experience to be more simplistic.
Surprisingly, Tinder was originally created for people who did not have the time to travel or who lived in rural areas. Hence, they didn’t have access to a diverse range of people. Tinder was essentially a data base. The underlying problem that Sean had was that even if he found someone he liked in person or online, it was still extremely difficult for him to walk up to them and introduce himself because he was afraid he might get rejected. Hence, Sean had the insight of taking that rejection away, it would uncover so many more relationships that could happen otherwise.
Sean and his team came up with the idea called “Blind double opt-in” whereby two users need to ‘like’ each other before they can message. For example, if person A were to swipe right to like person B, person B won’t know that person A likes them until person B swipes right as well. Hence, it removes the element of rejection since users won’t know when they get rejected. This process is similar to real life scenarios where you look at someone across the room and you are fortunate enough that the same person is looking back at you. The “Blind Double Opt-In” model revolutionized the entire dating scene. A key insight was that it revolutionizes the way people met as they only knew when they were liked. The swipe was an action that brought Tinder to life. And it was such a cool thing to remember and talk about. It was such a simple and very powerful concept that people could easily implement to avoid rejection. It stuck with the people.
Having grown up in US his whole life, Sean has learnt a lot about Asia but from a distant, since he never had an opportunity to come to Asia until now. He has noticed that Asia is filled with ambitious people that are extremely hardworking. This is really interesting for him as in the US, waves of innovation have a detox phase while in Asia, innovation increases at a consistent rate. Sean states that the aggression to succeed and the eagerness to win seems to thrive in the Asian market. However, he also mentioned that a great idea now can be built anywhere. The playing field has totally been leveled. We live in a timeline where we could really be anyone we want.
Pretty much any innovative product that you currently see in the market came from someone who took risks. When you leave in an environment where you are able to take risks. And you are able to train your mind and say,
“no matter what happens, as long as I have courage to pay attention and admit when I made a mistake. I am going to take that insight and turn it into something else. Something bigger.”
Then you will constantly create great things as long as you can come together and do that in groups. In order for entrepreneurs to flourish, they need that support system and ecosystem. These two aspects definitely exist in America and Sean believes that there is a need for international collaboration. This will help us accomplish more, by bringing diverse talents and values to the table.