Is This The World’s Most Eligible Billionaire?

The World's Most Eligible Billionaire?

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by Contributor |
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Sean Rad, 28, who co-founded the dating app Tinder,is seriously wealthy - and newly single. Here, here talks to Jane Mulkerrins about the fear of rejection and why he can't wait to meet some British girls...

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, but Tinder – the app that revolutionised the dating game by popping an endless array of potential partners in our pocket – is still less than three years old. Yet, since its launch in September 2012, Tinder has amassed well over 50 million members in more than 160 countries, and created more than six billion matches (whereby both parties registered an initial interest in each other). There are now 26 million matches made daily, the result of a mindboggling 1.6 billion swipes every 24 hours. And, like any good tech start-up, it has made its creator very wealthy indeed.

On an unseasonably hot spring morning, I set off to Tinder’s Beverly Hills HQ to meet Sean Rad, Tinder’s 28-year old co-founder and president. Newly single, and at the helm of one of the most original tech companies ever, he might well be the most eligible bachelor in the world. En route, my Uber driver asks me to thank the young entrepreneur for ‘making meeting loads of women so easy’. And he’s not alone; every one of my single friends is on Tinder (to varying degrees of satisfaction and obsession), and half a dozen of my closest friends are now in long-term relationships that began via the app. Shortly after 10am, Sean strolls into the open-plan, fashionably industrial office. In his hipster-issue white hi-top sneakers, skinny jeans and plaid shirt, he could be any 20-something working in tech; only his enormous and expensive-looking watch hints at a salary well above standard. Sean came up with the idea for Tinder ‘in order to solve a problem’ – one that he himself felt keenly. ‘Growing up, we would try to meet girls at bars or clubs or house parties, but they would always be with their friends, and I wouldn’t want to interrupt,’ he admits. ‘When you have to just walk up to people, you feel like you’re about to get rejected,’ he sighs. ‘I thought that if we could figure out when two people both want to know each other, the fear of rejection would go away.’

He is handsome, with dazzling white teeth and large brown eyes – think a betterlooking version of Ray from Girls. He’s relaxed and charming, with none of the nervous neuroses often found in young tech prodigies, and doesn’t come across as a player. ‘Approaching girls is still overwhelming,’ he maintains. ‘Even Casanova, the moment before he goes to talk to someone, has that fear.’ Sean breaks off and, without apology, begins tapping at his phone. I assume it’s an important business matter, but before he turns it face down, I catch sight of his screen, and the profile picture of an extremely attractive blonde. He’s a Tinder user then? ‘Of course. I talk to people all the time on it,’ he says, coyly. ‘I talk to girls, yes, but I barely have time to date anyone at the moment.’

Until recently, he was dating Alexa Dell, the 21-year-old daughter of the technology billionaire Michael Dell. And, yes, he met her on Tinder. Born and raised in LA, Sean comes from a large, close-knit Iranian family – his brother, parents and two uncles work for the family business, a manufacturing company – and he has 42 first cousins. ‘I would like marriage and children myself, one day, absolutely – when I find the right person,’ he nods. ‘And I hope to find somebody I love and trust enough that I wouldn’t even think about a pre-nup.’ His lawyers might advise him otherwise: Sean is a multimillionaire and estimated to be a billionaire now, too. But he has had little time to spend his fortune; he lives alone in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Beverly Hills – where he grew up and his family still lives – but works around the clock, and hasn’t had a holiday in three years. ‘I do have a fun car, though,’ he grins, ‘a Mercedes G-Wagen.’ (They usually cost a cool £86,000.) I ask if, given his wealth and success, he finds it hard to trust new people or suspects gold-digging on the part of potential dates? ‘I don’t tell people I started Tinder until I’ve known them for a while,’ he confesses. ‘As soon as they find out, that’s all they want to talk about… which is fine. I could talk about it all day, but I want to keep the focus on me for a second,’ he says.

In the past, he has been a serial monogamist, he says, and he doesn’t have a particular ‘type’. He believes that Tinder is opening all of us up to a wider variety of potential dates than ever before, too. ‘You no longer have to settle,’ he says. As one might expect, Sean refutes the notion that merrily swiping left and right, on the strength of a single photo, has made us more shallow and focused on looks. ‘Well, not more shallow than we already are in the real world,’ he maintains. ‘Tinder mirrors human behaviour. When we walk down the street, we also go, “No, no, no, no, yes.” But we just don’t want to admit it. I think Tinder is honest.’ Will he accept, at least, that is has the potential to make us more dissatisfied? ‘Maybe,’ he relents. ‘But it also makes us more informed about what else is out there.’ He estimates casual sex accounts for around just 20% of the traffic. ‘We have thousands of emails of successful relationships, engagements, marriages, babies,’ he says, beaming. ‘We have been invited to so many Tinder weddings – we’ve even had people asking to have their wedding in our office.’ Responding to requests for more sophisticated functions, last month Tinder launched Tinder Plus – to undo an accidental left swipe, saving a potential love interest from the bin; and Passport – with which you can add numerous locations, to allow you to arrange dates around the world long before you land.

Sean himself says he is looking forward enormously to meeting the ladies of London when he visits our fair city in June. And Sean’s plans for Tinder’s future are predictably ambitious. ‘I want every single person who can use Tinder to use Tinder, and I want it to get closer to real-world interactions,’ he says. For example, he wants users to be able to walk into a bar, see someone they fancy, and pull out Tinder. I quell the temptation to ask if actual, real-life friends could not fulfil this matching role just as easily. Almost reading my thoughts, he concludes, ‘We don’t do the work for you. You do still have to be yourself.’

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