The weeks before going public are a trying time for any private company. With the firm under the microscope of intense investor scrutiny, the comms department normally goes into overdrive to vet even the slightest utterance from employees, to keep them bland and meticulously according to script. Unfortunately, Tinder founder Sean Rad didn’t seem to get the memo.
Rad gave an interview to the Evening Standard yesterday – i.e. the day before Tinder’s parent company Match’s IPO in New York. Normally what he said wouldn’t have caused too many problems, but given the circumstances, it was a howler. Here he is talking about the search for an intellectual challenge in his online dating life.
‘Apparently there’s a term for someone who gets turned on by intellectual stuff. You know, just talking. What’s the word?...I want to say "sodomy"?’
Erm, no. Just no.
Rad checked it out on his phone and swiftly backed away from that, but there was more to come. Talking about the critical Vanity Fair article ‘Tinder and the dawn of the dating apocalypse’, Rad took a mysterious shot at its author Nancy Jo Sales. ‘There’s some stuff about her as an individual that will make you think differently.’
You can almost hear the sirens wailing in Match’s PR department by this stage. Its biggest concern, however, was with an inaccurate statistic about Tinder user numbers. There are 9.6m active daily users, somewhat less than the 80m analysts’ estimate quoted in the article.
This prompted Match, which owns also owns OkCupid among others, to issue a last minute regulatory filing with the American Securities and Exchange Commission disavowing the statistic, and doing the same for Rad’s comments while it was at it.
‘Mr Rad is not a director or executive officer of the Company and was not authorised to make statements on behalf of the Company for purposes of the article. The statements by Mr Rad... are not endorsed or adopted by the Company.’
Match priced its offering at $12 (£7.79) today, at the lower end of expectations, raising $400m. That is almost certainly not the result on Rad’s ill-judged interview, but even if it didn’t cost Match’s own parent firm (and now largest shareholder) IAC any money, it almost certainly caused it an unwelcome headache.