20VC Tinder's Sean Rad on Why Humility Is The Key Trait For Founders To Have, Why Today's Incumbents Are Stronger Than Any Before Them & How Leaders Need To Scale With The Scaling Of Their Company

Summary Notes


In this episode of "20 Minutes VC," host Harry Stebbings interviews Sean Rad, founder and chairman of Tinder, discussing the app's success in revolutionizing dating and Sean's role in Swipe Ventures, aimed at expanding Tinder's reach. Sean reflects on his personal growth, the importance of company values, and the evolution of consumer behavior in the tech industry. He predicts a future where AI enhances user experiences by reducing effort and providing predictive interactions. Additionally, Sean emphasizes the significance of authenticity in user connections and shares insights on leadership and innovation. The episode also features a quick-fire round where Sean reveals his favorite book, mentor influences, and thoughts on AI's impact on consumer interactions. Harry also endorses Zoom and Vidyard for their video conferencing and video management capabilities, respectively.

Summary Notes

Introduction to the Podcast and Host

  • Harry Stebbings is the host of the 20 Minutes VC podcast.
  • Stebbings is known for his nerdy British persona and presence on Snapchat.
  • He personally engages with his audience through ads and social media.
  • The podcast features founders and products, with a focus on those Harry has experience using.

You are listening to the 20 minutes vc with your nerdy british host Harry Stebbings at h stepbings on Snapchat.

This quote introduces Harry Stebbings, the host of the podcast, and establishes his online presence and engagement with listeners.

Sean Rad's Introduction and Achievements

  • Sean Rad is the founder and chairman of Tinder.
  • Tinder is highlighted as the most popular app for meeting new and interesting people.
  • Tinder boasts over 26 million matches made daily.
  • Rad also chairs Swipe Ventures, focusing on growing Tinder through various business strategies.
  • He has a history of entrepreneurship with previous ventures such as Adley and Orgu.
  • Mark Suster of Upfront is thanked for introducing Sean Rad to the podcast.

So joining me on the show today, I'm thrilled to welcome Sean Rad. Sean is the founder and chairman at Tinder, the world's most popular app for connecting with new and interesting people around you every single day.

The quote introduces Sean Rad and his significant role in creating and leading Tinder, emphasizing the app's impact on social connections.

Technology Tools for Business

  • Harry Stebbings endorses Zoom as a versatile and easy-to-use service for video and web conferencing.
  • Zoom has a strong reputation, indicated by its partnership with Sequoia and a $100 million funding round.
  • Viewdit is introduced as a free video recording tool beneficial for personalized communication in businesses.
  • Viewdit is powered by the Vidyard platform and offers tracking features to assess viewer engagement.

My response Zoom, the number one video and web conferencing service providing one consistent enterprise experience that allows you to an array of activities including online meetings, video, webinars, collaboration enabled conference rooms and business.

This quote highlights Stebbings' personal recommendation of Zoom for its comprehensive services and enterprise solutions.

Sean Rad's Personal Journey and Inspiration for Tinder

  • Sean Rad shares his personal difficulties in meeting new people.
  • He delves into the psychology behind introductions and human fears.
  • An epiphany at a coffee shop led to the conceptualization of Tinder.
  • The idea was to eliminate the fear of rejection by knowing mutual interest beforehand.
  • Rad emphasizes the importance of listening to users in Tinder's success.

And I just realized if I knew that she liked me and she knew that I liked her, it would sort of take all the fear away.

This quote captures the moment of inspiration for Tinder, where mutual interest could remove the barriers to initiating contact.

Evolution of Sean Rad's Investment Strategies

  • Sean Rad reflects on his transition to the chairman role and the insights gained.
  • He discusses his investment thesis, which is influenced by his experiences with Tinder.
  • Rad values humility in founders and teams, as it allows for clear vision and learning.
  • He also looks for a balance of aggression and confidence in entrepreneurs.
  • Rad is drawn to those with passion for their field, not those motivated by wealth alone.
  • He avoids investing in teams with misguided motivations.

I gravitate towards founders and teams that are, number one, humble.

This quote underscores Rad's investment philosophy, where humility in founders is crucial for clear thinking and success.## Entrepreneurial Motivation and Innovation

  • Sean Rad discusses the importance of entrepreneurs starting companies out of passion for building a solution rather than as a lifestyle choice.
  • He emphasizes the need for founders to have humility and a willingness to learn, as the initial business idea often evolves significantly over time.
  • Rad highlights that understanding user feedback is crucial for iterating and growing a business, even for large companies like Tinder.
  • He cites Steve Jobs' philosophy of staying foolish as a key to innovation, suggesting that a certain freedom to explore and make mistakes is necessary.
  • Rad reflects on the origins of major companies like Tinder, Snapchat, Uber, and Twitter, noting that they started as passion projects, not with the intention to change the world.

"I tend to look for sort of the purists, I guess, and I sort of start there and then work my way towards what are they building? Is it feasible and what space is it in?"

This quote indicates Rad's investment approach, focusing on founders with pure intentions rather than those seeking entrepreneurship as a trendy lifestyle.

"There is an element of foolishness in innovation, because if you don't have the freedom to explore, if you don't have the space to make mistakes, if you're not sort of chasing your passions, then I think true innovation, there's no space for innovation."

Rad believes that the ability to take risks and pursue passion is integral to fostering true innovation.

Consumer Innovation and Market Saturation

  • Sean Rad and Speaker C discuss the challenges of innovating within the consumer mobile space.
  • They note that while distribution channels are dominated by incumbents, the main challenge is shifting consumer behavior and app fatigue.
  • The conversation points out that the novelty of smartphones and mobile apps has worn off, raising the bar for what consumers consider exciting and worth sharing.
  • There's an acknowledgment that while building a successful consumer mobile app is still possible, the barriers to entry are higher due to consumer saturation.
  • The discussion contrasts the incumbents of the past with today's tech disruptors, noting that current incumbents are more vigilant and adaptive due to their own experiences with disruption.

"I think consumers are fatigued by mobile apps because once upon a time in 2008, the concept of the smartphone and every app that comes with it was fresh in consumers mind."

Speaker C explains that the initial excitement for mobile apps has diminished over time, making it harder for new apps to gain traction.

"The incumbents today were the disruptors. So they understand very, very well what it feels like and why disruption can happen to the incumbent because they did it."

This quote reflects on how today's tech incumbents, having been disruptors themselves, are more prepared to defend against new competitors.

Swipe Ventures and Strategic Innovation

  • Sean Rad discusses the creation of Swipe Ventures as a response to the need for forward-thinking within Tinder.
  • Swipe Ventures was established to focus on long-term goals and innovations while the main team handles immediate challenges.
  • Rad describes the Tinder team as innovative and forward-thinking, but acknowledges the difficulty in balancing present problems with future planning.

"A lot of what I'm telling you, by the way, a lot of these realizations is what led to the desire to create swipe ventures."

Rad shares that Swipe Ventures was born out of the realization that there needs to be a dedicated effort within the company to focus on future innovation.

"And if there's no one within the organization thinking about five years down the road, it's very hard to prioritize a five year goal when you have so many action"

This quote highlights the challenge of prioritizing long-term innovation within a company when immediate issues demand attention.## Swipe Ventures Goals

  • Swipe Ventures aims to foresee and lead the next shift in the industry.
  • The goal is to either acquire or build the next disruptive platform.
  • The focus is on making investments in anticipated changes to avoid being disrupted like Tinder disrupted others.

"So part of what the goal of swipe Ventures is to think about what that next shift is and to make sure that we are either acquiring the next great platform that could disrupt us or that we're building it, know we're making an investment in what we believe is going to be the change so that we don't find ourselves in a position that, frankly, what we did to others in the space and that Tinder really disrupted the entire industry, doesn't happen to us."

The quote explains the proactive strategy of Swipe Ventures to stay ahead in the market by either acquiring, building, or investing in the next big idea that could revolutionize the industry, much like Tinder did.

Leadership Development

  • Sean Rad reflects on his growth as a leader alongside the growth of Tinder.
  • He acknowledges that companies can grow faster than individuals, which can create challenges.
  • There is no formulaic approach to being an entrepreneur or CEO; it is dependent on circumstances and the team.
  • Sean Rad feels he is now growing at a pace that matches the company's growth.

"I'm relatively young as a human, and I think one thing I realized is companies tend to grow as organisms faster than human beings do."

This quote highlights the realization that companies can evolve more rapidly than their leaders, which can lead to a disparity in growth and the need for the leader to adapt and grow quickly.

AI and Consumer Behavior

  • Sean Rad believes technology will evolve to reduce the work required from users to get desired results.
  • He anticipates a shift from input-based interfaces to predictive interfaces that anticipate user needs.
  • Consumer behavior is expected to change as they will expect technology to be more intuitive and proactive.

"I think we're headed down a world where users will do less work to get the result out of a service."

The quote predicts a future where technology will simplify the user experience by minimizing the effort required to achieve outcomes, leading to a change in how consumers interact with services and devices.

AI and Personalization

  • The future of AI is seen as providing highly personalized and predictive suggestions to users.
  • Sean Rad envisions a scenario where Tinder could automatically suggest a match based on deep understanding of user preferences and context.
  • This level of personalization could extend to other services, such as finding a service provider without manual searching.

"Tinder might say, I might communicate with Tinder through Siri or through whatever the next platform is, and I might know, hey, Tinder. Or Tinder might tell Sean, you know, there's a girl a mile away that you have a lot of common friends with."

The quote illustrates a specific example of how AI could transform Tinder's service by proactively suggesting matches, demonstrating a move towards more intelligent and anticipatory user experiences.

Authenticity in Online Interactions

  • Sean Rad advises that when matching with someone, the interaction should be personal and authentic.
  • Paying attention to the details provided by users and being genuine are key to successful interactions.
  • Authenticity is crucial as people are increasingly adept at detecting insincerity.

"There's sort of two rules that I think always lead to the right outcome. One is really pay attention to who that person is and start the conversation by noticing something about them... And the second is be yourself. Be real."

The quote provides two key principles for initiating conversations on Tinder: personalized attention to the other person's profile and authenticity in one's approach, emphasizing the importance of genuine connections.## Authenticity in Personal Branding

  • The importance of being genuine and true to oneself in social interactions.
  • Authenticity is considered attractive and is felt by others both subconsciously and consciously.
  • Complimenting someone genuinely can make a positive impact.

"And I think the sexiest thing today is to just be real and be yourself. And people pick up on that. At a subconscious level, they feel it. At a conscious level, they feel it."

This quote highlights the appeal of authenticity in today's society, suggesting that being oneself is not only attractive but also something that others can inherently sense.

The Value of Rapid-Fire Questions

  • The host uses a quick-fire question format to elicit immediate and concise responses from the guest.
  • This method aims to extract spontaneous thoughts and insights within a limited timeframe.

"Quick fire round with you now. So I say a short statement, and then you give me your immediate thoughts. 60 seconds or less. How does that sound?"

The quote sets up the structure for a segment of the interview where the guest must provide quick, unfiltered answers to the host's prompts.

Impact of Literature on Empathy and Leadership

  • Reading about human development and psychology can enhance one's ability to empathize and lead effectively.
  • The guest mentions "The Nurture Assumption" as a favorite book due to its insights into personal development.

"Why the nurture assumption? That book specifically, because I think if you understand your own development as a human and how you came to be, I think it allows you to empathize better with others and be a better human intern and a better leader."

This quote explains why the guest values the book "The Nurture Assumption," suggesting that understanding human development can improve empathy and leadership skills.

The Primacy of Values Over Mission in Companies and Societies

  • Values are considered more critical than missions or goals as they remain constant even when objectives change.
  • A shared value system is vital for avoiding chaos and maintaining cohesion within a company.

"I think values within a company, within a society, are more important than a common mission or a common. Because I think the mission changes as companies grow, as societies grow. But the values... We might disagree on the mission, and we might reassess where we're going and what we want to do as a company, and that's okay. But I think when you have a company where people have different values and different belief systems and different ways of doing things, that's when chaos ensues."

The quote emphasizes the significance of shared values over a common mission in maintaining organizational harmony, suggesting that while missions may evolve, core values should remain consistent.

Information Consumption Habits

  • The guest follows industry news from sources like TechCrunch and Recode.
  • A broader awareness of global issues and politics is also part of the guest's information diet.

"The obvious Techcrunch recode. And I think I follow a lot of industry news, but I spend a lot of time just understanding what's going on in the world, too, and politics and issues that we're facing as a global society."

This quote reveals the guest's approach to staying informed, which includes staying updated on industry news as well as broader global events and political issues.

Mentorship and Its Lasting Influence

  • The guest cites their grandfather as a significant mentor, whose impact was fully realized posthumously.
  • The lessons learned from a mentor can be taken for granted until they are no longer present.

"It might sound cliche. I think my biggest mentor was my grandfather. But I don't think I realized how big of a mentor he was until he passed away."

The quote reflects on the profound influence a mentor can have, often recognized fully only after their passing. It also indicates the importance of appreciating guidance and wisdom when it is available.

Tinder's Future Plans

  • Tinder aims to facilitate the transition from matches to meaningful relationships.
  • The platform plans to introduce unique and fun ways to help users filter through potential matches.
  • Long-term goals include simplifying the user experience further and integrating technologies like AI and AR to enhance real-time interactions.

"So I think in the next year, what you will see is definitely a focus on helping you go from a match to a quality relationship... And then I would say on a five-year horizon, it would be to continuously make Tinder even more simple."

This quote outlines Tinder's short-term and long-term objectives, focusing on enhancing the quality of connections and simplifying the user experience with the aid of emerging technologies.

Gratitude and Acknowledgments

  • The host expresses gratitude to the guest for contributing to the show and for personal benefits received from the guest's service (Tinder).
  • Acknowledgment of the person who facilitated the guest's appearance on the show.
  • Invitation for the audience to follow the guest and host on social media.

"And I want to end by saying a huge thank you to you for making my love life so much easier over the last few years. I've only ever grown up with a love life of Tinder, so it's a huge thank you and such a pleasure to have you on the show."

The quote is an expression of personal thanks from the host to the guest for the impact Tinder has had on the host's dating life, illustrating the personal connection and appreciation for the guest's work.

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