Hinge Dating App CEO: The 7 Love & Dating Secrets From Hinge’s Founder!

Hinge Dating App CEO: The 7 Love & Dating Secrets From Hinge’s Founder!

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Justin McLoud, the founder and CEO of Hinge, discusses the research Hinge has conducted to help users become more successful daters.
  • Hinge was created because Justin wanted a girlfriend and realized there was a need for a dating app that worked well.
  • Justin admits to being the world's worst dating app user due to his lack of success.
  • Common mistakes people make on dating apps include using filtered photos, one-word answers, and having a narrow model of what they're looking for.
  • The conversation around AI and relationships has been pessimistic, with concerns about sex robots.
  • Hinge is working towards a Matchmaker model that sets up dates with a higher likelihood of success.
  • Hinge has seen a decrease in the number of swipes needed to get a date, from 1000 to 50.
  • Justin observes changes in dating culture, such as the need for people to get to know each other quickly before going on a date.
  • Justin encourages viewers to subscribe to the YouTube channel to support the show's growth and production.

My Addiction & Going to Rehab (00:02:16)

  • Justin McLeod, the founder and CEO of Hinge, shares his personal journey and the impact of Hinge on the world.
  • Hinge sets up a date every two seconds, resulting in millions of relationships and marriages.
  • McLeod's path was influenced by several key moments:
    • Being an only child with an entrepreneur father and a mother who worked for him.
    • Excelling in math and computer science, spending summers at nerd camp learning to code.
    • Struggling with addiction and a desire to fit in.
  • In his first year of university, McLeod realized he had a problem with drinking and drugs after not going to bed sober for an entire school year.
  • He voluntarily sought help from a drug and alcohol counselor named Jane, who suggested he had a serious problem and should stop using substances.
  • Despite initial resistance, McLeod eventually attended rehab during the summer after his freshman year to address his addiction and be allowed to return to school.

12 Step Programme for Addiction (00:05:27)

  • The speaker mentions that many people they spoke to had an alcohol addiction at some point in their life and that the 12-step program played a significant role in their recovery.
  • The speaker attended 12-step program meetings occasionally and found them helpful.
  • They stopped drinking on the day they graduated from college.
  • The speaker describes feeling like the steering wheel in their life was broken, as they were not in control of their actions and their life was not headed in a positive direction.
  • They had envisioned a successful career, deep friendships, and a meaningful impact on the world, but their addiction was preventing them from achieving these goals.
  • The speaker questioned the point of living if they could not live without drinking and decided to try to find out how long they could continue living that way.
  • They did not get the job they wanted at Goldman Sachs and lost their girlfriend, Kate.

How My Love Experiences Influenced My Entrepreneurial Journey (00:07:45)

  • Justin McLeod, the founder of Hinge, met his wife, Kate, in college and had an on-and-off relationship.
  • After graduating, Justin struggled to meet new people due to his sobriety and reliance on drugs and alcohol.
  • Four years after getting sober, Justin reconnected with Kate, who was living in London.
  • Justin McLeod, the CEO of Hinge, discusses the prevalent culture of drinking in social settings and how it can be challenging for those who choose not to drink.

Founding Hinge (00:12:31)

  • Justin McLeod, the CEO of Hinge, was heartbroken after a breakup and decided to create something in the dating space.
  • He had the idea to build a platform where people could list their crushes on Facebook and find out if there were any matches.
  • The platform was successful in making matches, but McLeod realized that people would lose interest after finding out if they had a crush or not.
  • He then had the idea to create a platform that would connect people to their friends of friends, which he believed would be the future of dating.
  • At the time, there were no mobile dating apps and online dating services were stigmatized and not widely used by people McLeod's age.

How Do We Know Which Ideas to Go After? (00:15:55)

  • Justin McLeod shares his experience in choosing which ideas to pursue.
  • He describes the feeling of being "infected" by an idea and feeling compelled to work on it.
  • McLeod emphasizes the importance of being open to ideas and recognizing the right one when it comes.
  • Many people have great ideas but are held back by fear and negative feedback.
  • Despite receiving mostly negative feedback, McLeod believed in his idea for Hinge and saw the potential to create a stigma-free, fun, and easy-to-use dating service.
  • He challenges the notion that the dating market is saturated and argues that fixing the problems that prevent people from using dating services can lead to success.
  • McLeod recalls the stigma associated with online dating in the past and how it has changed with the rise of smartphones and the App Store.

When Did the App Form? (00:19:00)

  • Initially launched as a Facebook canvas app called "Secret Agent Cupid" in 2012, the Hinge app faced challenges due to a complex interface and lack of mobile compatibility.
  • In late 2012, the founder, Justin McLeod, decided to pivot and completely redesign the app for mobile, focusing on simplicity and ease of use.
  • Despite initial setbacks and delays in App Store approval, the app was miraculously approved just in time for the launch party in Washington DC, where over 2,000 attendees used the app and generated more matches than its entire history up until that point.
  • The simplicity of the app and the fact that attendees saw each other using it helped overcome the initial stigma and jump-start user growth.
  • Hinge's founder used a waitlist strategy to expand the app to new cities, throwing launch parties in each new location to generate buzz and attract users.

Tinder and How It Impacted Hinge (00:23:44)

  • Hinge's launch party occurred around the same time as Tinder's launch.
  • Tinder's success helped Hinge's growth as it created awareness in the dating app category.
  • Hinge was viewed as a more serious intent dating app compared to Tinder due to its focus on friends of friends.
  • Hinge's growth leveled out in 2015 as Tinder became more successful and overcame the stigma associated with online dating.
  • An article in Vanity Fair titled "The Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse" criticized dating apps for destroying dating culture and featured Hinge prominently.
  • Hinge's CEO felt the company was not aligned with his values and wanted to start over.
  • The company laid off half of its employees and discarded the old codebase.
  • Hinge was rebuilt from scratch with a focus on helping people find long-term relationships.
  • The user interface, profiles, and overall design were changed to cater to users who were serious about finding a partner.

The Interview That Changed My Life (00:27:38)

  • Hinge CEO met his wife, Deborah, through the Hinge app in 2014 after she shared her story of a missed connection.
  • Despite their age difference and her upcoming marriage, they met in Switzerland, and after an eight-hour conversation, Deborah called off her wedding and moved in with the CEO in New York.
  • The initial honeymoon phase was followed by challenges of living together in a small apartment.
  • The speaker learned the importance of vulnerability and intimacy in forming deep connections and wanted to create a dating app that encourages users to slow down, be more vulnerable, and share more about themselves to foster meaningful relationships.
  • The goal was to design an app focused on building relationships rather than treating it as a numbers game, acknowledging that real relationships require work and effort beyond the initial attraction.

The New Era for Hinge (00:34:23)

  • Hinge's new vision aims to slow down the dating process, encourage users to provide more information, and be more vulnerable.
  • The ideal scenario for human behavior doesn't always align with what people actually want, especially in the current fast-paced culture.
  • The balance lies in getting users to put in more effort and be vulnerable while ensuring the experience remains tolerable.
  • The new vision was initially well-received in theory, but users found it challenging to adapt to the changes, such as filling out prompts, liking someone with a comment, etc.
  • Despite the initial challenges, the new approach proved effective in getting users on more good dates.
  • Hinge shifted its focus from user engagement and retention metrics to prioritizing the number of good dates users went on.
  • As a result, user numbers initially declined, but the app became more efficient and effective in facilitating meaningful connections.

How to Be Successful on Hinge (00:37:05)

  • Hinge faced challenges after burning through cash and losing users, making it difficult to raise funds from venture capitalists.
  • Despite numerous VC meetings, Hinge did not receive any positive responses.
  • Match Group recognized Hinge's potential and uniqueness, leading to an initial investment and eventual acquisition.
  • Hinge experienced slow growth initially due to the new model but gained traction and popularity through word-of-mouth.
  • Marketing investments accelerated Hinge's growth, leading to Match Group's investment in Hinge Labs.

What Is Hinge Labs? (00:39:05)

  • Hinge Labs is a research initiative by Hinge to study successful and unsuccessful daters.
  • The goal is to identify patterns and develop resources to help users become better daters.
  • Hinge Labs conducts deep-dive research studies on what makes daters successful.
  • The research provides insights for building better products and user guides.
  • Being honest and vulnerable helps in finding accurate assessments of potential partners.
  • Pretending to be someone you're not attracts the wrong people.
  • Honesty allows for deeper and quicker connections by revealing imperfections and creating hooks for conversation.

The Worst Things to Do in Dating Apps (00:43:00)

  • Be inauthentic:
    • Pretend to be perfect.
    • Use fake photos.
    • Portray yourself in a misleading way.
  • Use one-word answers to prompts.
  • Wait for likes to come to you.
  • Don't be thoughtful with your likes.

Advice for People Going on Loads Of Dates (00:44:12)

  • People who go on a lot of dates often have a narrow model of what they are looking for in a partner.
  • This narrow model can lead people to overlook potential partners who don't fit their ideal.
  • It is important to widen the aperture and give people more of a chance.
  • Many people in successful relationships say that their partner doesn't necessarily fit the list of features they were looking for.
  • There is a website that shows you your statistical probability of finding a partner based on your criteria, and it can be horrifying to see how many people you are cutting out.

Dating Apps Want People to Stay Single to Have More Customers… (00:47:39)

  • Hinge's motto is "designed to be deleted" because its goal is to help people find great dates and relationships, leading to fewer customers in the long run.
  • Hinge believes in growing through word-of-mouth by creating more great dates and relationships, rather than relying on gimmicks or game-like features.

How Has the Dating World Changed in the Last Few Years? (00:49:32)

  • Gen Z has different dating patterns, moving away from quick and superficial swiping towards sharing more about themselves and being vulnerable.
  • This change in dating culture aligns well with Hinge's ethos of fostering intimate connections and creating a less lonely world.

Hinge First Principles (00:50:40)

  • Hinge's mission statement is to "Foster intimate connection to create a less lonely world."
  • Hinge prioritizes creating real moments of connection between people over sensational content and social media-like features.
  • Hinge's first principle is to focus on intimate connections and deep one-on-one relationships, even as the company expands into new business lines in the future.

The Importance of Taking Risks (00:51:57)

  • Hinge's cultural principles, established during a company reboot in 2015-2016, include radical trust, designed-to-be-deleted, and love the leap.
  • Radical trust involves empowering employees with information to make decisions and solve problems independently.
  • Designed-to-be-deleted emphasizes focusing on customer needs and avoiding copying competitors.
  • Love the leap encourages taking significant innovation leaps, embracing failure, and persevering through challenges to achieve success.
  • To overcome cultural inertia and encourage risk-taking, leaders should exhibit failure from the top and admit their mistakes.
  • Deep research and conviction are necessary before taking significant leaps based on a founder's intuition.
  • Guided by principles: Making decisions based on explicit principles builds trust, enables others to make decisions independently, and counteracts the "CEO because I said so" mentality.
  • Self-assessment and seeking feedback are crucial for personal and entrepreneurial growth.
  • Trust is gained when people understand the underlying principles behind decisions, allowing them to make informed choices independently.
  • Hinge's CEO, Justin McLeod, emphasizes the importance of fostering a culture that enables effective decision-making within the company.
  • As the company grew, McLeod recognized the need to delegate responsibilities and trust his team's expertise to make informed decisions.
  • McLeod's primary focus shifted towards building and nurturing a culture that supports good decision-making processes.

How to Have Great Company Culture (01:00:47)

  • Company culture should be based on the mission and values of the company and should be constantly nurtured to maintain its best qualities.
  • The best culture for a small company may not be suitable for a larger company as it evolves and scales.
  • Radical trust may not be the right approach for a larger company, and decision-making should be pulled in and coordinated with input from across the company.
  • Loneliness has increased due to the rise of digital media and the decrease in real-life social interactions.
  • Men and women face different challenges in dating, with women experiencing more pressure and scrutiny.
  • The top 1% of men on dating apps receive over 16% of all likes, while the bottom 50% receive almost none.
  • Hinge is working on improving the experience for those struggling with dating apps by using AI for personalized coaching and matching.
  • Hinge's mission is to correct societal issues through dating apps by coaching users, matching them with suitable partners, and providing warm introductions.
  • The challenge lies in getting users to transition from the app to real-world dates.

Biggest Hiring Mistakes (01:17:25)

  • Hinge focuses on hiring people who embody their core values: authenticity, courage, and empathy.
  • They developed a "culture interview" to assess candidates for these attributes, leading to a dramatic increase in successful hires and low attrition.
  • Authenticity and empathy are considered the most important values for building trust within the organization.

What the Future of Dating Apps Looks Like (01:19:51)

  • Hinge aims to shape dating culture by coaching people to become better daters and form more harmonious relationships.
  • Lack of sleep can significantly impair decision-making abilities, affecting performance in various roles such as boss, partner, friend, and manager.
  • Whoop is a sponsor of the podcast and offers a sleep tracking and coaching service to help individuals optimize their sleep and improve their overall well-being.

Overwhelmed by Endless Content?