Post by Gobi Dasu, founder of learningdollars.com.
Thanks to my HCI PhD advisor Haoqi Zhang, I got a spot to see the founder of Tinder, Dinesh Moorjani, speak at the Northwestern Garage. Here is what I learned from his talk:
1. They growth-hacked the first set of users from college parties.
I have been quite obsessed with marketing lately (in the B2B setting though). So, I asked Dinesh, how exactly did they get the first few users on Tinder. He said that they tried paid ads on various social media platforms, but that didn’t work because the app was filled with what he described as “creepy” profiles. The trick that actually worked was just throwing parties on college campuses (i.e. buying the party supplies, drinks, etc). Then, in order to get into the party, students would have to download the Tinder app and login via Facebook. What a genius idea that would get the students swiping. But Dinesh mentioned that you can’t just do this for any app and expect it to work. It depended on the usability and iterative design of the Tinder app.
2. The secret sauce was the Double-Blind Opt-in but so was the specific execution.
Dinesh claimed that double-blind opt-in was the crucial insight. It’s that two people have to express interest in each other independently in order to be matched, so no person feels awkward.
Now, double-blind opt-in is a nice idea, but I actually briefly started a small website in my freshman year of college called “lovesmeback” that basically did the same thing as Tinder. It just wasn’t well executed. So, the idea is actually not that unique.
I think the party growth hacking and marketing strategies that produce a high k-factor were actually even greater strengths of Tinder’s execution. At those parties, students were rewarded for inviting other students to come to the party and those other students would also install the app, thereby increasing Tinder’s k-factor. I think this mapping between logistics (party planning) and marketing variables (k-factor) was genius.
3. Domain Specific Expertise Matters Less than you think. Dating apps aren’t started by dating experts. Same with Insurance.
Dinesh seemed way more of an nerdy tech geek, than a person who would have much to do with dating. He was talking about math, marketing, k-factors, business concepts, psychology — not entertainment, fashion, etc. He mentioned that startups that disrupt industries are actually not started by domain experts but rather by tech people. For instance, the successful insurance startup Lemonade was started by a team of tech folks who had no insurance background. Dinesh went on for the rest of the talk to talk about autonomous vehicles, AI, and many very popular tech topics, which confirmed this notion that increasingly it’s the people with a passion for tech who will revolutionize industries, not industry-specific experts.