Tinder was founded in September 2012 by Sean Rad, Jonathan Badeen and Justin Mateen, and was launched a year later in October 2013. The app began as part of a startup program at IAC, owned by Match.com founder, Barry Diller. A year after its launch, the app was generating over a billion swipes a day, resulting in 12 million successful matches, with the average user browsing the app for about 90 minutes each day; that’s one captive audience.
Swiping Their Way to Success
The success of Tinder largely comes in its simplicity, just swipe right if you find a user appealing, or swipe left if you don’t. If two users both swipe right then a match is made. In essence, what Tinder has done, is revolutionize the common introduction by taking the fear of rejection out of the equation.
Now, instead of huddling in a corner afraid to say hello, people feel empowered, and more importantly, matches are being made that may otherwise have gone lost. Even better, there’s no hokey questionnaires, lengthy bios or online dating stigmas. Tinder is cool, fun and innovative, which is basically everything stereotypical online dating isn’t.
In March of 2015, Tinder adopted the freemium model and announced a paid subscription service known as Tinder Plus. Users could now pay a fee to unlock advanced features. The move proved to be a success, finally justifying the 5-billion-dollar valuation the company received on a 500-million-dollar investment in 2014. The capital came from IAC, who also own the popular dating site: Match.com. Through their strategic partnership, IAC hope to claim a foothold on the future of the dating market.
A Match with Millennials
The origins of Tinder are actually quite murky but the consensus is that the founders were actually working on a different app called, Cardify, when an early version of Tinder was created as a side project. This early iteration was known as Matchbox, but the team decided against it because the name was too close to the IAC owned, Match.com. So the founders settled on Tinder as a play on the word, tender.
To gain traction after its initial launch, Tinder focused on recruiting sorority girls to try out the app and get the ball rolling. The idea being, if the app had a solid base of female users, the men would follow suit. So, the team sent female collaborator, Whitney Wolfe, to visit her old sorority, where she did a presentation about the app, then encouraged the young girls to give it a try.
Whitney then followed up by visiting neighboring fraternities to pitch the app, and when the young men saw all the cute sorority girls looking for a date, they were hooked and Tinder took flight. The tactic proved successful as word of mouth helped the app grow from 5,000 users, to over 15,000. Bottom line, Tinder was cool and young millennials were catching on.
Online Dating Becomes Cool
Unlike dating websites, which remained stigmatized and something that was done in private, Tinder users seemed more willing to share the activity with friends. There’s also an addictive quality to the app, with an element of surprise and discovery as each new profile is revealed. You want to keep swiping to see who comes up next, with that gnawing voice in the back of your mind telling you that your perfect soulmate might be just a swipe away.
Tindering has become a favorite activity among friends, who help each other decide which way to swipe potential matches. The snap decisions behind which way to swipe very much mimic the split decisions made when someone saunters up in a bar to deliver their cheesiest pickup line. Tinder also emboldens people to be more outgoing, while in person introductions are often just awkward. It’s also just a time saver. Users of the app can swipe through potential matches with ease and speed, while visiting a singles bar requires an entire evening of your valuable time.
New Features Are Launched
Once momentum began to build, the app’s growth took on a snowball effect, and the developers were looking for ways to broaden their audience and appeal. So, in the summer of 2013, Tinder unveiled a new feature called, Matchmaker, which allowed users to introduce two friends to each other, be it for a romantic date or a simple get to know you. Playing matchmaker made the app available to users who perhaps weren’t part of the dating scene; like a married couple who want to connect a friend with a perfect match. The move helped widen the app’s audience and gain a stronger foothold.
Tinder followed up with two more new features. Lists, which allows users to arrange their matches into categories, and Moments, which allows users to share photos with potential matches, sort of like a Snapchat meets Instagram hybrid. The addition of these features offered users the opportunity to interact with potential matches and kindle a growing friendship. And by year’s end, Tinder launched an Android version of its popular app, giving them a platform to expand internationally.
By March of 2014, Tinder began soliciting celebrities as an incentive to drive up its user base and gain additional buzz. It was the only dating service touting that it could hook you up with a former Miss America or Olympian, and boasted celebrity users like Lindsay Lohan and Ashton Kutcher. Usage of the app spiked at social events, like the Oscars and Winter Games in Sochi, with users hoping to meet a famous celebrity or athlete.
There’s no doubt that Tinder has grown at a phenomenal rate, but its partnership with IAC since inception makes it anything but ordinary. While traditional startups typically need to secure venture capital to grow, IAC is a publicly traded company that’s invested in the future of the dating marketplace by banking on Tinder. And by and large, it seems to be a winning strategy. Tinder is a global success, ranking among the top 100 apps. The dating scene will never be the same again.