Sean Rad, the son of Iranian immigrants who came to Los Angeles in the 1970s, grew up in the Persian community of Beverly Hills. His parents worked in the consumer tech industry. "In my family, there was a need to make something of our lives," Rad told Rolling Stone. "Not doing something big with your life was just not accepted."
He was initially drawn to showbiz, but after a high school internship for an entertainment manager, he was turned off by it: "I figured I could amass a lot of wealth by doing things I love – then I can control my own fate as an artist," he told Rolling Stone.
Rad's parents gave him his first cell phone when he was 13. Five years later, he started an integrated mobile messaging company called Orgoo.
Rad and Tinder cofounder Justin Mateen went to different Beverly Hills high schools, but met when they were 14.
Mateen and Rad connected again years later, when both attended USC. The two enrolled in 2004. “Our eyes locked in a math class,” Rad jokes. Rad eventually dropped out two years later to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. Both Rad and Mateen started their own internet companies at the time — Mateen's was a social networking platform for celebrities, and Rad's was an adtech platform called Adly.
When Mateen and Rad launched Tinder as students along with cofounders Jonathan Badeen, Joe Munoz, Whitney Wolfe, and Chris Gylczynski, they marketed Tinder heavily at fraternities and sororities on college campuses. When it launched a few years ago, Tinder made over a million matches in less than two months.
Tinder won "best new startup of 2013" at TechCrunch's annual Crunchies awards.
Today, Barry Diller's IAC owns the majority of Tinder. IAC plans to spin out Match.com and Tinder as a public entity.
Last year, Whitney Wolfe, a cofounder of Tinder and its VP of marketing, sued the company for sexual harassment. She alleged that Justin Mateen, who had been Wolfe's boyfriend, harassed her while she worked for the company. Wolfe and Tinder/IAC later settled for "just over $1 million." After the lawsuit, Mateen left the company, and Rad stepped down from his CEO role, though he stayed on at the company.
But Rad and Mateen are still very close. "I still talk to Justin. He's my best friend," Rad says.
Rad has dated Alexa Dell, Michael Dell's daughter. Unsurprisingly, the two met on Tinder. "I'm a serial monogamist. I saw Alexa, and I was like, ‘Swipe right.' The rest is history," Rad, now 29, told Rolling Stone. It's unclear whether the pair is still together.
In March, Rad was replaced as CEO of Tinder by Chris Payne, who had most recently been overseeing eBay's North America business.
Rad remained active at Tinder, though, leading a lot of its product development. In May, Rad took the stage at Tech Crunch Disrupt to defend the company's new Tinder Plus program, which charged users different amounts based on their age. He also complimented Payne on his work at the company. "Chris is wonderful. I'm already learning so much from him," he said.
But in August, Rad stepped back into the role of CEO. In an interview with board member and Benchmark partner Matt Cohler, Kara Swisher reported for Re/Code that Payne as CEO wasn't going to be a "long-term fit."