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 hasn’t stopped venture capitalists from courting Tinder in every way possible.
With plenty of runway ahead and initial growth and scalability snags behind, Tinder has begun to focus more on product development as well as an area that will be key to its future: International markets. To date, 15 percent of Tinder users hail from outside the U.S., the CEO tells us, with the highest adoption coming from Canada, Australia, Brazil and Ireland. (In recent weeks, Rad says, Tinder was seeing 2,000 downloads/day in Brazil.)
Going forward, the team of 13 will begin its international growth efforts in the UK, Australia, Latin America, Germany, France and China, in particular. To do that, the company is working on additional language support, targeted marketing and hiring local reps in each of these countries. Rad also sees big opportunity for growth in Asia, thanks to the explosion of mobile adoption, and is currently working on partnerships that will help it move into Asian markets and localize the Tinder experience to native languages, networks and so on. (Like how to leverage the biggest Chinese and Asian social networks for authentication, as opposed to relying on Facebook, for example.)
Tinder has also been busy building tools that will help it follow through with its mission to solve social, discovery and networking problems outside the confines of dating. Today, for example, the startup is releasing a new feature called “Matchmaker,” which allows users to create matches between any two Facebook friends — for any purpose.
Once users establish that connection, the two friends can chat within Tinder without sharing their contact information. The idea is to create a casual, simple way to make an introduction, whether you want to set two friends up on a date or make professional connections. Rad tells us that Matchmaker is anonymous and solves the awkward problem of introducing people and then being included on the resulting thread — an annoyance often experienced in email and Facebook intros.
With Matchmaker, the introducer doesn’t have to be removed from the thread, they can send the message to the two people they want to connect, and that’s it. If the recipient isn’t on Tinder, they’ll see that they get a message on Facebook, and they can then quickly create a Tinder login if they want to see the post.
Another cool feature of Matchmaker is that the person who makes the introduction can see if the match is active and they can get a sense of their success rate. Rad assures me that this feature is intended to be high level so that it’s not creepy, allowing users to get just enough of a sense of the activity level of the intros they curate so that they can check back in (or send a reminder) if the conversation goes silent.
Again, the idea is that, while there are plenty of media through which people can make digital introductions, those connections tend to carry more weight if they’re friend-approved. If that intro comes from a close friend, you’re more likely to follow through on it than if not. Of course, there’s the question of whether or not people will want to make introductions in a professional context through a networking that’s primarily associated with dating. For this reason, the startup is launching the feature in beta to test it out and to see if it catches on.
As part of this new release, Tinder is also making some improvements in the areas where its user experience has been less-than-impressive. In particular, many users have complained that the app’s sorting algorithm has matched them with teenage or underage users. (Not cool, Tinder, not cool.) So, in this release, Tinder now includes age filtering, so that users can select their preferred age range, along with making some general improvements to the accuracy of its matching algorithm and improving the speed of chat within the app.
As of now, Tinder remains exclusively an iPhone app, but the CEO tells us that the team is working on an Android version, which will be ready “within the next few months.” The team also has plans to develop tablet apps, but don’t expect Tinder to show up on the Web anytime soon. Tinder is going to remain mobile-centric for the foreseeable future.
In a crowded space, Tinder has, so far, managed to buck the trend and find that elusive, exponential growth curve. Of course, the next year will be critical. As growth inevitably levels out a bit, Tinder will have to keep evolving if it wants to avoid being another flash in the pan. International could hold the key to sustaining that growth, but it remains to be seen whether users will be willing to think of Tinder as more than a casual flirting and dating tool. That could be a tough sell, but if they get there, expect Tinder to stick around for awhile — and be on the receiving end of calls from every VC on the block.
For more, Find Tinder here.
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Editor’s note: Jon Gottfried is a Developer Evangelist at Twilio, Co-Founder of the Hacker Union, and a StartupBus Conductor. Follow him on Twitter @jonmarkgo.
Being one of the first cyborgs in the world, I have been privy to a unique set of bizarre experiences that have led to some early observations and theories about the future of Google Glass and wearable technology.
At Glass Foundry SF, among the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, the New York Times and Hearst, was a rag-tag group of independent developers building Ice Breaker: myself, Song Zheng, and Rajiv Makhijani. When I pitched the idea of creating a Google Glass version of the dorm-room game Assassins, I thought it would be an interesting tongue-in-cheek jab at the Terminator-esque form of this new piece of technology. I could not have imagined it would turn into a six-month secret project slated to launch at one of the largest tech conferences of the year. We were building the first (and only) game for Google Glass. We had a six-month head start, early access to the Google Glass Mirror API and Glass devices as early as they were available.
Developing applications for Glass is actually more similar to building a website than it is to building an Android application.
Let’s start off by talking about the reality of what it is like to develop applications for Google Glass. Like many of you, I expected it to be very similar to building mobile applications for Android. In fact, I began learning to build Android applications in preparation. My efforts were for naught, because the Mirror API is a RESTful web service. This means that developing applications for Glass is actually more similar to building a website than it is to building an Android application.
Once a user logs in to your application, they grant you permission to push “cards” to their Glass devices and to receive responses from it. It is purely asynchronous, and is not designed for real-time applications, such as an augmented-reality game or a Call of Duty-style, heads-up display. This will likely change with the upcoming release of the GDK, but for the moment you are restricted to building asynchronous applications. No problem for Twitter or Tumblr, where there is no need for instantaneous interactions. However, it certainly puts a damper on many of the science-fiction-esque predictions for Glass.
But there are still many reasons why I am excited about Glass and will continue to develop applications for it:
1. It gives us all a nerd boner.
Developers love technology for the sake of technology. People flock to line up for product launches with the same excitement that a tween feels when they spot Bieber for the first time. Glass is exclusive, mysterious and futuristic. As the first wearable-computing platform to have even a hint of mass availability, it makes us feel as if we are truly living in the future. You could meet a thousand Valley founders all creating the “next big social network,” but no amount of SoLoMo innovation can match the excitement or fear that we will all soon be addicted to The Game, only to be saved by a young Wil Wheaton.
We have the opportunity to create the canonical user experience for wearable computers.
2. We are defining the future.
As developers, we have the unique opportunity to quite literally define the experiences that consumers have with technology. The first third-party applications for the iPhone set the stage for all mobile apps to follow. The same rings true for Glass. Whether or not the product itself is successful, we have the opportunity to create the canonical user experience for wearable computers. In the future, when there are both iGlass and Microsoft Senior Professional Heads-Up™ Displays for Business, they will all be modeled off of these initial applications for Glass – consciously or not.
3. There is money to be made.
While it is unclear whether there will be mass consumer adoption of Glass, it is obvious that this will be a valuable platform. Imagine being a real estate agent walking down the block and seeing information on all of the homes for sale without having to shuffle around with folders and papers. Imagine being a doctor who can immediately see the medical history for an unconscious ER patient without having to manually look it up on a computer and waste precious life-saving seconds. We are not yet comfortable interacting with these new cyborgs in social situations, but I have no doubt that there are an immense number of professional uses that will prove to be more valuable than the potentially awkward social stigmas surrounding them.
4. It is exclusive and attractive.
We are nerds. We have traditionally been at the bottom of the social pyramid. Sure, nerds might be the new rock stars in some circles. But the only thing cooler than a rock star nerd is a rock star nerd wearing a $1,500 pair of glasses that very few people in the world have even heard of, let alone seen in person. A friend of mine described it as the Air Jordans of the 21st century. Whether you are trying to network or get a date, Google Glass is truly one of the best conversation starters I have ever seen. And I promise you, the Glass Explorers are doing both.
This is a new frontier and we are still defining the social norms involved with wearing a computer on your face.
5. There is hype.
The press loves Glass. For now at least, every application is the first X for Glass. My app GlassTweet was the first Twitter client for Glass. Ice Breaker was the first game for Glass. And what reporter doesn’t want to be first? It is a perfect opportunity for a developer to build a reputation as a Glass expert, and I have already met many developers attempting to do exactly this.
There are always skeptics. And they would be right to be skeptical – this is a new frontier and we are still defining the social norms involved with wearing a computer on your face. Some have even proposed that providing developers with Glass before the general public will make it seem too nerdy or awkward – what average person concerned about their appearance wants to be associated with a naked geek in the shower?
I would argue that Google took the only option available to them. The only truly scalable products of the future will be developer platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Twilio, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Arduino – all of these products have been successful in large part by embracing and empowering their developer communities. No company is omniscient enough to imagine every potential use of their products.
This gives developers an immense amount of power to define the success or failure of an entire product line. If they innovate and create amazing experiences, it can pave the way for mass consumer adoption of a product, and if they fail or are mistreated by their platform providers, they can create a product wasteland. It is a symbiotic relationship, and ultimately these developers in the Explorer program will define the consumer success of Glass. People will forget about Showergate if the applications on Glass are useful or fun enough to outweigh the initial awkwardness associated with any new product.
All concerns aside, the hard truth that skeptics must face is that this is an inevitable evolution of computing. We will continue to debate the pros and cons of wearable technology for decades to come, but one thing is crystal clear: wearable technology is coming, it is inevitable, and Google is steamrolling a path to this unavoidable future.
Will you join me in defining this future or will you be defined by it?
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We’re less than a week out from our Austin TC Meetup + Pitch-Off, and I can already smell the barbeque in the air. Austin, are you ready to rumble?
The event begins promptly at 6pm and runs until 10pm. Tickets are $5 each, and include booze.
But, you ask, what exactly is this fabled TC Meetup + Pitch-off that I’m pushing?
Well, at its core its a gathering of your city’s local VC, entrepreneurial, startup and general tech crowd. Attendees can socialize, drink booze (21 and up please) and maybe even meet a few really cool people. But that’s not all.
The TC Meetup + Pitch-off is equal parts meetup and pitch-off, which is a competition that lets entrepreneurs and founders pitch their products to a panel of judges with only sixty seconds to make their plea. Even if the ideas aren’t interesting (which they totally are), there’s real entertainment value in watching someone battle against a clock.
Our NY Meetup + Pitch-Off was a smashing success. PaddleYou was spotted in Hardware Alley after coming in third at the Pitch-Off, while runners up Talkz and winner 3DLT both made it into the Disrupt Battlefield.
Applications are currently closed for the Austin pitch-off, but tickets to the event are still available here. We still have some startup tables left where you can demo your product to the attendees and TC staff. If you have any questions about the tables, please email Megan Lehn.
Our sponsors help make events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team here firstname.lastname@example.org.
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There are a number of password management solutions on the market today, but CommonKey, a new browser extension out this week, has a different take. Instead of focusing only on the needs of the individual user or offering a complex solution for the enterprise, it provides a password management system which allows small businesses the ability to share passwords securely across a team.
The bootstrapped, Baltimore-based startup was co-founded this October by Andrew Stroup, a civilian engineer who currently works at the Department of Defense, and Michael Cohen, whose programming background is in the medical sector. Obviously, both of these industries involve a deep awareness and understanding of security and privacy.
Stroup today works in the realm of countering weapons of mass destruction, and no, he can’t talk much about his work there.
But he can talk about the fact that he’s also now appearing on the Discovery Channel’s “The Big Brain Theory” show (get it? brain not bang?), which he had signed up for prior to having the idea for CommonKey. Filming has since wrapped, but the show ate into a couple of months’ time back in the early days of the company. He explains interest in being on the program was personal, describing it as “nerd heaven,” and equating it to a “Top Chef for engineers.”
During the competition, Stroup got to build robots, basic missile defense systems, and designed a system to protect the payload on the back of the truck, among other things.
“It was tough for me to step away,” he says of the experience. “But it was one of those things where I left college being told that I would never be able to design, build and deliver a system from cradle to grave again, and the show was an opportunity to do that eight times. And part of the reason why CommonKey attracted me, too, is that I was able to start that process over again – starting an entire idea from two guys, and then seeing that all the way through.”
CommonKey has launched as an extension for the Chrome web browser, but the plan is to soon bring it to Firefox, Safari then to iOS and Android as a mobile app. It works a lot like any other password manager available today, except that in its case, a business owner can create an organization and groups within that organization (e.g., PR, marketing, development, sales, etc.) in order to securely share common passwords among the team.
Users establish their own CommonKey accounts, which they can also use for one-click logins to personal services like Facebook, Twitter, email or anything else that’s not work-related. In fact, the service works just fine if you wanted to use it as an individual, and will also soon include a feature that automatically generates strong passwords for you, too.
However, when added to a team, users then gain access to company accounts, all of which are available in the same drop-down box.
Stroup says he got the idea after spending time engaging with tech startups, and seeing how they shared their accounts among the team.
During its beta period, CommonKey’s service is free, but the plan is to eventually charge companies based on number of employees with access to shared accounts. Pricing has not yet been set, though.
The CommonKey extension is available for download here.
CommonKey is a new browser extension that provides a password management system, allowing small businesses the ability to share passwords securely across a team.
Users establish their own CommonKey accounts, which they can also use for one-click logins to personal services like Facebook, Twitter, email or anything else that’s not work-related. In fact, the service works just fine if you wanted to use it as an individual, and will also soon include a feature that automatically generates strong passwords for…
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Two VMware executives have left to join Redpoint Ventures to help the firm extend its reach into the enterprise and mobile markets. Their leaving marks a string of recent VMware departures, following the Pivotal spinout of several of the two companies’ product groups.
Both executives joining Redpoint had important roles at VMware. Javier Soltero was responsible for driving advanced development and strategy for application level cloud services. Soltero joined VMware after the acquisition of SpringSource in 2009. Three months prior, SpringSource, a Java framework, had acquired Hyperic, a large-scale web infrastructure management software provider. Soltero was co-founder and CEO of the company. Soltero has some Internet chops that date back to the earliest days of the web. Early in his career, Soltero worked at Netscape, where he was responsible for early Internet messaging, application servers and e-commerce technologies.
Kevin Henrikson joined Zimbra in 2005 and worked there until Yahoo! acquired the company in 2007. In 2010, VMware acquired Zimbra, where Henrikson directed Zimbra’s engineering and development roadmap planning and execution, including potential company acquisitions. He holds a published patent and a filed patent in conjunction with his work at Zimbra.
A number of VMware executives have left the company in the past year. Last week, Microsoft hired Patrick Chanezon who recently left VMware to join Microsoft as its director of enterprise evangelism. Dave McCrory also recently left VMware to join Warner Brothers. He served as one of the chief developers of VMware’s Cloud Foundry, the platform as a service.
And in January, CTO Steve Herrod left to join General Catalyst as a managing director investing and supporting early-stage enterprise companies.
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Automattic, the company behind publishing platform WordPress.com, has sold $50 million in a secondary offering led by investment management firm Tiger Global. The sale will allow some early investors and employees to get cash in exchange for their shares, while adding another stakeholder in the company.
The share offering wasn’t necessary to raise funds for the company, according to Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg. In a blog post, he wrote that the company is “healthy, generating cash, and already growing as fast as it can, so there’s no need for the company to raise money directly.” He also noted that the minority of stockholders who participated in the secondary sale continue to hold on to the vast majority of their shares.
Lee Fixel at Tiger Global led the investment, which follows other high-profile, late-stage deals that the firm has made recently. Those include investments in Eventbrite and SurveyMonkey. Tiger Global is also an investor in companies like Palantir, Square and Warby Parker, as well as Facebook and LinkedIn. With the purchase, Tiger will join existing investors in Automattic, such as Polaris Partners, True Ventures, Radar Partners, and The New York Times Company.
WordPress.com, of course, is the publishing platform (one might call it a CMS) that powers a number of high-profile sites, including the one you’re reading right now. WordPress (the open source project upon which WordPress.com is based*) is just about to celebrate its 10th anniversary on May 27 and will have meetups in cities across the world to celebrate.
* Confused yet? This happens every time we write about WordPress, WordPress.com, or Automattic
- TIGER GLOBAL MANAGEMENT
- MATT MULLENWEG
Automattic is the company behind WordPress.com, the simplest, most secure way to start web-publishing immediately on the open source WordPress platform. They also make Jetpack for WordPress, which bundles a number of social improvements to the WordPress core software as a single plugin.
Automattic offers a number of products, like VaultPress and Akismet, on a freemium model so anyone can use them for free, and later have the choice to pay extra for premium features.
Automattic has over 150 employees, including…
Tiger Global Management, LLC is a privately owned investment manager. The firm manages hedge and private equity funds. It invests in the public and private equity markets across the globe primarily the US, China, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. The firm also invests in fixed income markets of United States and hedge funds. It employs fundamental analysis to make its investments. The firm typically invests in real estate, telecommunications, energy, media, and retail sectors. For real…
Matt is an entrepreneur living in San Francisco, California. He is the founding developer of the popular open-source blogging software WordPress. After leaving CNET, he has devoted the majority of his time to developing a number of open source projects and is a frequent speaker at conferences, such as Canada’s Northern Voice and the WordCamp events organized around WordPress software. In late 2005, he founded Automattic, the business behind WordPress.com and Akismet. Mullenweg attended the High School for…
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