As co-founder, president and former CEO of Tinder, the insanely popular location-based dating app, 29-year-old Sean Rad has been in the spotlight a lot lately. He was a major player in a sexual harassment suit brought against Tinder by a former employee, which ultimately led to his removal as CEO. Despite this demotion, Rad remains the public face of the dating app, making announcements about new product developments, defending the app's new pricing model and hinting at potential new features (such as the possibility of video messaging) at conferences around the globe.
While he enjoys a seemingly comfortable connection with the spotlight, Rad's ties to Tinder, which he co-founded with Joe Munoz, Whitney Wolfe, Chris Gylczynski, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen, hasn't always been so simple.
Below are five interesting tidbits about Rad that, among other things, help illuminate the complicated nature of his relationship with the popular dating app he co-founded in 2012.
1. Billionaire Barry Diller dictates Rad's role at Tinder.
Rad may have co-founded Tinder, but he doesn't control the company. Because the fledgling dating app was created out of New York City-based Hatch Labs, where Rad was an employee, the mobile apps incubator automatically owns 100 percent of Tinder, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, IAC (a media company that includes Match.com) owns a majority stake in Hatch Labs, which means Barry Diller, IAC's chairmen, calls the shots and thus dictates Rad's role at the company.
In summer 2014, Whitney Wolfe went public with her lawsuit against Tinder, accusing Justin Mateen, the company's co-founder and former CMO who also happened to be her ex-boyfriend, of repeatedly sexually harassing her. When she reported him to Rad, the suite alleged, he responded by firing her and stripping her of her co-founder title.
Wolfe eventually settled out of court, but the ugly nature of the lawsuit – including the high-profile unveiling of a stream of ugly texts that revealed a toxic dynamic among Tinder's young founding team – hurt the company's image just as it was evolving into an online-dating powerhouse. Mateen resigned as CMO, and that fall, Rad was informed by IAC that while he would remain Tinder's president and keep his seat on the board, he was being replaced as CEO.
In March, former eBay executive Chris Payne joined Tinder as its new chief executive.
2. Former Tinder CMO Justin Mateen remains Rad's best friend.
Despite this shakeup, which is almost certainly the direct result of Mateen's disastrous handling of his relationship with Wolfe, Rad and Mateen remain close. The pair bought matching black military-grade $115,000 Mercedes G Glass wagons (although Rad totaled his), according to Forbes, and in the aftermath of the lawsuit Rad told Rolling Stone that Mateen remains his best friend. "He's like my twin," he said. "I mean, he's one month older than me, Persian Jewish, parents are friends, same community, we went to the same college, people say we look alike – it's funny."
3. Rad's parents emigrated from Iran.
Rad's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in the 1970s, fleeing the country a few years before the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini. In Bel Air, Calif. they ran an American consumer electronics business founded by Rad's grandfather, making enough to provide Rad with a relatively cushy lifestyle surrounded by family. (Rad has 42 first cousins, according to Rolling Stone.) Rad attended a private L.A. high school, before enrolling at University of Southern California in 2004.
4. He's a serial entrepreneur.
Rad started two companies before striking it big with Tinder. Like many tech entrepreneurs, he began college but didn't finish it. After studying business at USC for two years, he dropped out in 2006 to try and actually start one. His freshmen effort, the email service Orgoo, didn't pan out but celebrity-marketing company Adly, his sophomore attempt, was better received. After running the company for a few years, he sold it to a private equity company, reports Forbes.
5. He's been romantically involved with Alexa Dell, daughter of Michael Dell.
While it's unclear if the pair is still together, Rad and Alexa Dell, the daughter of billionaire Michael Dell, were romantically linked and dated for the majority of the last couple years. "I have a girlfriend and Justin is single," Rad told Entrepreneur.com last spring. The two, appropriately, met on Tinder.