Our last Silicon Valley Insights event of the year is just a week away. Do you have your ticket yet?
Reserve your spot today and join us for this exclusive one-night engagement at our Prague headquarters on December 7. You are not going to want to miss this guest speaker!
Ryan Ogle will be sitting down with STRV COO Lubo Smid to talk about his tenure as CTO of the world’s hottest dating app, Tinder. Ryan will also be taking questions about what it’s like to launch his own startup Arimus, which will be releasing a mobile game as well as a professional networking platform that connects people with similar interests and skills — both of which STRV is helping to develop.
Seating is limited. The fireside chat starts at 7pm and will be in English with networking (and beer) to follow at our seventh-floor Scrollbar.
We recently caught up with Ryan to reminisce about Tinder’s early days (including who exactly came up with the app’s famous “swipe right” feature). He also dishes out advice for those who are thinking the timing is right to launch their own startup.
Here’s a preview of what you can expect next week:
Can you tell us what it was like in the early days working at what has become the world’s biggest online dating app?
It was a combination of equal parts chaos and wonder. We had no idea that Tinder would become as big as it did. So we were all incredibly inspired and enthusiastic about the rapid growth. Yet, at the same time, we were ill-prepared to handle the onslaught. For the first year of Tinder's existence, there was only one backend developer, two iOS developers and one Android developer. For the first year, we basically didn't sleep. It was absolutely the most stressful time of my life, but in the end, it paid off big time.
What was the best part of the job?
Without doubt, it was the people and culture that we created. Of course, the product was great and fun, but more important than that we genuinely liked working together and challenging each other. The friendships and work relationships that we made there will last a lifetime. Work is where you spend at at least half of your conscious day. It's crazy to work anywhere that you don't love or work with people you don't like. We were very careful to build a special culture at Tinder. And I think it’s one of the biggest reasons for our success.
How did Tinder’s signature “swipe right” feature come about?
The great Jonathan Badeen invented the swipe right. Jonathan is one of the few people that I've met in my life who I can honestly call a "genius." He came up with it in the shower one day as he was musing about how he might be able to create an interface that you could easily use with one hand. He wanted to be able to walk down the street, hold the phone in his right hand and comfortably use the user interface. There's more to that story, but it is better told in person.
Let’s talk about Arimus. When did you decide the timing was right to launch your own startup?
Well, for a long time, we've been itching to do it all over again. The best time at Tinder was without a doubt that beginning couple of years. It's a time of freedom, inspiration and just a great time to experiment and make cool stuff. All of us at Arimus have an incredible ambition to do much much more. For us, Tinder was just the first step. The best is truly yet to come. We have some very exciting new stuff coming out over the next couple of months. And we are ecstatic to bring it to market.
Arimus is working on a game right now (which STRV is helping to develop). Can you give us any juicy details about its backstory?
Yeah, this is a project that I'm extremely excited about. I've always been obsessed with competitive turn-based mobile multiplayer games. Not the strategy or graphics intensive games like Boom Beach or Clash of Clans. But the simpler ones like Draw Something or Words with Friends. I find it fascinating how a simple concept can be so addictive and so powerful. Being a child of the 80s, my favorite games (to this day) are the Classic NES games: Super Mario, Zelda, Mike Tyson's Punch Out, etc. And it’s also super interesting to me what a lasting effect those games have had. In fact, Nintendo re-released the NES Classic a couple of years ago, and it sold out far beyond their expectations. That tells you something about the power of that platform. I can't think of many things that you can re-release 30 years later and still generate that kind of excitement.
We had this initial thought about a very simple turn-based 1v1 mobile game using photos. We grinded on it for a few days, and the more we thought about it, the more excited we got. We found that we wanted to play it ourselves — that's always a good sign. We spent some time thinking about the brand/design, and Gareth, our designer, came up with a stunning concept. And just like that, we were off. I don't want to ruin too much of the surprise about what it is. But I think this is going to be a very special product and is going to be very big.
What advice can you share for those who are maybe thinking about founding a startup?
Persistence. I think if I had to give the most important quality for startups/entrepreneurs, it would be persistence. Successful startups just don't happen. They don't fall out of the sky. They are the product of a little bit of success and a tremendous amount of failure. The important part is that you learn from your failure, don't get discouraged by it, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and adjust as needed. It's so easy to let failure get you down. But it is exactly that quality of continuing forward that makes great entrepreneurs. Because failure is an opportunity to learn. And if you don't take it that way, you won't grow.
The other part that I think is incredibly important is to find great co-founders. Generally speaking, you can't do everything yourself. You need to divide and conquer. So, you need to find really passionate, driven, excellent co-founders that have the same mindset as you who complement your weaknesses. It's really hard to find great co-founders. Believe me, I've been through many iterations. And it’s so common for them to flake out, not share the same vision or not put in the effort required. And that will really kill the spirit of the company. But if you get that right mix of great people who persist and won't give up, then the sky’s the limit.