Inside Tinder’s Hookup Factory
Entering Tinder’s modest office building in Los Angeles, where signs on the first floor point to a Castaways Casting Office, it’s not clear you’re entering the headquarters of an app with a billion-dollar-plus valuation. But a few floors up, beyond a security guard – “We’ve had a ton of people come off the street and try to get jobs,” says one Tinder VP – a cavernous industrial space spreads over a stunning view of L.A., with only one office with a closing door. That’s for the CEO, Sean Rad, a slender 28-year-old with sorrowful brown eyes and an earnest manner, who today is in a gray shirt, slim jeans and white Converse high-tops.
Only two years old, Tinder has upended the way single people connect. It’s the first matchmaking app to hook deeply into our culture: creating a flirt scene between athletes at the Olympics, importing randiness to Coachella (traffic on Tinder spikes during big festivals) and spawning knockoffs like a Jewish dating app (JSwipe) and the parody video “Kinder” for kids’ play dates.
A kid could use Tinder. It’s the simplest dating app there is: In most instances, a user merely sees a photo of a potential mate and either swipes left (“No thanks”) or right (“I’m interested”). If both people swipe right, “It’s a match!” and the users can message each other. Tinder also links you to individuals who share your Facebook friends, though not all the time.
Tinder, which makes about 13 million matches per day, is about 40 percent female. Women are still really picky – according to Rad, they swipe left 84 percent of the time, and men swipe left only 54 percent of the time. But the perception of having mutual Facebook friends seems to help women feel safe. And Tinder’s minimalist interface seems at least as effective as a full-color résumé of men’s accomplishments when it comes to making casual hookups happen.
Tinder has essentially exported Los Angeles-style dating across the globe. In L.A., where looks reign supreme, there’s an endless smorgasbord of single people, and anything can happen on any night. The same goes for Tinder. It’s a casting session and you’re in the director’s chair. “At the end of the day, it’s just one big party, and you’re just sitting there saying, ‘Yes, no, yes, no,’ ” says Rad.
So you could call Rad the biggest yenta in the world, promoting free love across the globe – well, not free forever. In November, Tinder will release a premium version of the app. For a monthly subscription, users will have access to at least two new (and yet unspecified) features. The basic version of the app will remain free.
At Tinder’s hive mind of singledom, a close-knit group of about 40 mild-mannered folks who hang out together on the weekends by choice is busily working away. It’s clear some of the guys partake in the fruits of the app – one has an astonishing number of hickeys on his neck – though not Rad, who has a steady girlfriend, 20-year-old Alexa Dell (the daughter of the computer magnate). They met on Tinder. “I’m a serial monogamist,” says Rad. “I saw Alexa, and I was like, ‘Swipe right.’ The rest is history.”
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