emotionally draining quest for a soul mate. “Nobody joins Tinder because they’re looking for something,” Rad told Time . 13 “They join because they want to have fun.” And because his name is Sean Rad, he probably said that quote to Time and then tossed on a pair of cool shades, hopped on a skateboard, and blazed on outta there. Like Facebook, Tinder’s birthplace was college. But while Facebook began its rollout in the Ivy League, Tinder aimed for famous party schools like USC and UCLA. Quick side note: In numerous interviews Mateen is identified as someone with a background in party planning, which is a ridiculous résumé item. “Are you fit for the position?” “Yes, I have a strong background in party planning. I promise you, I can get this party started .” Mateen wanted to build buzz not through traditional advertising but by getting the app into the hands of “social influencers” who could spread Tinder by word of mouth. He personally tracked down and signed up the kind of people who didn’t need to date online—models, sorority girls, fraternity presidents, and the like. Mateen and Tinder’s then vice president of marketing, Whitney Wolfe, went door to door through the schools’ Greek system, preaching the gospel of smartphone hookups. After Tinder’s launch in September 2012—celebrated with a raging party at USC—the app took off and spread like wildfire across campuses. Within weeks, thousands of users had signed up, and 90 percent of them were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. For a while Tinder was treated as the solution to a long-standing dilemma facing the online dating industry: How do we make a straight version of Grindr? • • • Grindr was a revolutionary app that took the male gay community by storm after its release in 2009, attracting more than one million daily users within a few years. A precursor to Tinder, it
was the first major dating site that was primarily a mobile app that used GPS and a basic profile with a photo to match people. Years before I heard of Tinder, I once sat with a gay friend in a sushi restaurant and was floored when he turned on his Grindr app and showed me a profile of a handsome guy. “It says he’s fifteen feet away. Oh, shit. Look, he’s right over there,” he said, pointing to a guy sitting at the sushi bar. It was mind-blowing, but companies struggled to replicate it for the straight world. The conventional wisdom was that straight women would never use a Grindr-type app, for reasons ranging from safety concerns to lack of such strong interest in casual sex with strangers. The Grindr team attempted it with an app called Blendr, but it didn’t catch on.
But Tinder added a key feature that Grindr—and Blendr, for that matter—didn’t have: the mutual- interest requirement. This is the term I just made up to describe how, on Tinder, you can’t engage with another user unless you both have swiped right, indicating interest in each other.
- Spring '08