Few company leaders ever experienced a rocket ride to success as fast as Sean Rad, co-founder of the mobile dating app Tinder. From virtually the first day of launch, the app became a viral sensation, growing from a few slightly amused millennials to over 50 million users today. Yet, Tinder’s rapid growth remains a cautionary tale for anyone starting a tech company and Rad, along with a number of high profile tech executives, took time this week to offer words of advice at Startup Grind, a two-day event held in Redwood City, California.
During his appearance on the Startup Grind stage, Rad called Tinder “a very healthy company” and spoke about the need to adapt the matchmaking approach to reflect societal norms in non-U.S locations. He cited India as an example, where formal family introductions are more the tradition, than swiping through pictures of attractive (or not) men and women in a nearby bar.
New technology will just find someone for you
However, Tinder is also looking to the future for their platform and a new world where personal assistants, such as voice-activated Siri, will learn the user’s likes and habits to better spot a potential partner. Rad said that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will give his app the capability to recommend the perfect person through a simple voice query “without searching, scrolling or swiping.”
He cited an example where an AI-based platform tells him that there’s a women just down the street who shares many of the same hobbies and likes. “It’s a little scary to think that would happen,” Rad admitted.
Rad’s journey from startup founder to established industry leader has not been exactly smooth. He was pushed out as CEO in 2014 only to return again a year later. Asked about how he dealt with Tinder’s rapid growth, Rad said, “The faster you grow, the harder it gets. If you don’t love it you won’t survive.”
Google Cloud hires AI expert
Artificial intelligence was also in the spotlight during the conference when one of the world’s foremost experts on machine learning made a brief appearance. Dr. Fei-Fei Li, who recently joined Google, told the audience that she left her previous job as the head of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab to “democratize” AI. “I have no doubt that AI will be driving the fourth industrial revolution,” said Li, “and I do not want it in the hands of only a privileged few or elite.”
It is widely believed that Li’s hire by Google was driven by the company’s belief that the ultimate success of their cloud computing business will depend on mass adoption of artificial intelligence technology. Li appeared to validate that thinking when she told the gathering that the marriage between AI and the cloud was “the perfect way to democratize AI.”
The Startup Grind conference was structured to also give budding entrepreneurs helpful advice on how to grow their business, featuring various sessions during the week with catchy titles such as “No Investor, No Problem” and “If You’re Going to Fail, Fail Smart.” One of the most popular offerings was led by online entrepreneur Vincent Dignan, the founder of Magnific, an online marketing company.
Titled “How to Make $100,000 From a Facebook Group With No Budget,” Dignan described the techniques he used in the field known today as “#Growth Hacking.” His approach involves taking maximum advantage of the distribution tools offered through social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, combined with posts on various high traffic pages, and using all of it to attract an enormous following to your website.
As many in the tech industry will tell you, failure is virtually inevitable for most of the tech startups struggling to survive today. But the common #Silicon Valley mantra has been to embrace it. As legendary venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told attendees, “Failure doesn’t matter if it doesn’t kill you.” #Google Cloud