Tinder co-founder Sean Rad has been relieved of his post as the company’s CEO, though he will maintain the position until the company selects his replacement. It seems the dating app’s majority stakeholder, media and technology IAC, has swiped left – but not all the way: The 28-year-old, who has a 10 percent stake in the company, will now serve as Tinder’s president and remain on its board, according to Forbes. “There is no CEO coming in the door that I don’t get along with,” Rad told the magazine. “That would be corporate suicide.”
IAC made the decision with the intention of having Rad focus more on Tinder as a product, a smartphone app that simplifies dating by allowing people to view prospective dates and either swipe left, rejecting them, or right, potentially opening themselves up to a connection if that person also swipes right on their photo. “The board thought the best path was to bring in a CEO, thinking if we opened up the role it would attract better talent,” Rad told Forbes. “I strongly disagreed.” He attempted to dissuade IAC of stripping him of the title and eventually negotiated his current position.
Rad’s demotion follows a highly publicized sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit that Tinder’s former marketing VP and co-founder Whitney Wolfe, had filed over the summer. The suit alleged that Justin Mateen, Wolfe’s ex-boyfriend, Rad’s best friend and the company’s then–chief marketing officer, had sent the 24-year-old a variety of abusive texts and made sexist comments. Tinder denied the allegations and settled the matter out of court in September without admitting guilt. Mateen, who had been suspended, resigned from his post that same month.
“If the Whitney thing didn’t happen, it would be difficult for IAC to demote Sean, because they’d have a lot to answer for,” a source told Forbes. “But the lawsuit gave them an out.”
Rad has only a 10 percent share in the company because he was a paid employee of a tech incubator called Hatch Labs when the app was developed. Since IAC owned the majority of that company, it maintained a majority ownership in Tinder when Hatch shuttered in 2013. Actor Ashton Kutcher and the co-founder of the investment firm SV Angel helped Rad lobby for equity in the company, eventually leading to the agreement that IAC would retain 60 percent, Rad would get his 10 and Mateen and “swiping” innovator Jonathan Badeen would get less, according to Forbes.
“We recruited Sean because he is a great product person, and while working for us, he came up with Tinder,” Sam Yagan, CEO of IAC’s “Match Group” and OKCupid cofounder, told the magazine. “We’ve given him the resources to pursue it. He created a ton of value for us, and he’s going to make a ton of money.”
On deck for Tinder is a new pay service called Tinder Plus. It allows users to check out new people in other countries and offers an “undo” button in the event that someone regrets his or her swipe.
In an in-depth profile of Tinder, Rad recently told Rolling Stone that women tend to swipe left 84 percent of the time, while men swipe left only 54 percent of the time. “A photograph has a lot of information in it, when you think about it,” he said. “If I post a picture of myself on a ski slope, that says something different than a photo taken in Vegas at the pool at Encore. The irony of Tinder is that in some ways the lack of information, or text, is actually less superficial than having the information.”
He also shared that he got his drive naturally from his upbringing – “Not doing something big with your life was just not accepted,” he said – and explained how interning for an entertainment manager in high school drove him toward the business side of things, rather than pursuing his dream at the time playing in a band he’d modeled off of Coldplay. “I figured I could amass a lot of wealth by doing things I love – then I can control my own fate as an artist,” Rad said.