Digital dating is nothing to scoff at; it’s a big business, and it’s changed a lot of lives — mostly for the better. Yet, while dating has seen enormous progress during the Digital Era, there’s still a lot garbage...
Digital dating is nothing to scoff at; it’s a big business, and it’s changed a lot of lives — mostly for the better. Yet, while dating has seen enormous progress during the Digital Era, there’s still a lot garbage out there, and the space is still mostly dominated by a handful of old names. A gaggle of dating sites and apps have appeared over the past five years, but few have had real staying power, and many have gone the way of the dinosaur.
While it’s still too early to make any pronouncements, it’s looking more and more like Tinder could buck the trend. Created by Hatch Labs — an LA-based startup backed by IAC, the same Barry Diller-led digital media giant that owns Match.com and OKCupid — Tinder has grown like a weed since it launched in October. A crazy, dating weed.
In part, that’s due to timing, and in part because Tinder is based on a familiar, throwback model, drawing on the same addictive formula behind Hot or Not. Essentially, it’s Hot or Not made mobile, casual and connected to Facebook, but rather than promising to introduce people to their one true soul partner/life mate, Tinder just wants to make it easier to flirt — and get you off your ass to meet people. In the real world.
By focusing on reducing the “creepiness” factor (always a relative term in dating, mind you), reducing spam and by targeting young people, Tinder has been able to find that elusive, exponential growth curve. (Unsurprisingly, it’s initial growth spike came from college campuses, and the average age of its users is still 23.)
It’s also fairly easy to use: It’s free, it doesn’t focus on building traditional profiles, instead pulling basic info from Facebook, is location-enabled, and matches users to other people nearby based on similar behavior, interests and so on. If you’re not interested, you can pass. If you are, it connects you with the other person, allowing you to chat and arrange a meeting offline.
Thanks to the above, the app has been seeing the same kind of growth that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter saw in the early days, Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad tells us. But what does that mean, exactly? When we wrote about Tinder in early January, it had served one million matches and users had made 35 million profile ratings. Today, Rad says, Tinder has served 50 million matches and users have made 4.5 billion ratings.
So, while the team is keeping a tight lid on the number of downloads and users it’s attracted to date, from what we do know (and what we’ve been hearing from other sources), it’s safe to assume that both number well into the millions. And keep in mind: The app was released in late October.
Tinder also seems to be avoiding a common trend among popular mobile apps: High number of downloads, but comparatively low engagement. In Tinder’s case, Rad tells us that around 50 percent of users open the app once a day, while approximately 75 percent open the app once a week and around 85 percent use the app every month.
Based on this growth, rumors have been circulating for months now that claim Tinder is in the proces of raising a big round of outside funding, or is in the process of being acquired. At this point, the founder says, neither of those are true. While the company isn’t sharing how much it’s raised to date, we do know that IAC is it’s primary investor, and owns a minority stake in the business, having been the sole investor in its seed and series A rounds (which we hear total in the millions). And the startup was incubated within IAC.
IAC would likely love to own Tinder outright, as would others, but at this point the startup is resolved to stay independent, and go public rather than sell. Of course, there’s a long road ahead, and these things have a habit of changing. Furthermore, while Tinder has opted not to raise outside capital, our sources tell us that this h