Blog Post

Walk of shame: Tinder CEO regrets the way he handled the sexual harassment situation

Tinder CEO Sean Rad was put on the spotlight Wednesday over the company’s sexual harassment lawsuit. It was good timing for him to take the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt – the dating app’s lawsuit was settled Monday, and news of Tinder’s CMO Justin Mateen leaving the company broke Monday night.

TechCrunch reporter Jordan Crook opened by asking Rad about Mateen’s relationship with the company now. Rad said Mateen is and always will be a cofounder of Tinder. But as for day-to-day involvement? “Justin decided to resign and focus on Justin,” Rad said. That’s one way of putting it.

In former employee Whitney Wolfe’s lawsuit against the company, she argued that given her contributions to the company, she should have been granted the title of co-founder. In perhaps the best question of TC Disrupt, Crook asked Rad, “How would you define a co-founder?”

What followed was a rather confusing speech from Rad, one that I half-expected would end in him proclaiming Whitney Wolfe a co-founder. “There are so many definitions of what a co-founder is and therein lies the controversy,” Rad started. Some companies count co-founders as those present when the company was formed. Others define it as individuals who have had the largest contribution to the company’s development.

“My advice to companies would be to be more inclusive when you’re answering that question. It doesn’t cost much to be inclusive,” Rad said.

“Given that criteria and that answer, where does Whitney stand?” Crook replied.

Rad skirted the issue, explaining that Whitney was hired to work on marketing and she did a “phenomenal job.” When asked what he would do differently about the sexual harassment situation if he could go back in time, Rad was a little more forthcoming.

“Oh my god I would do so many things differently,” Rad said. Mateen and Wolfe were both his ‘best friends,’ and that closeness blurred the boundaries between professional and personal life. Number one thing Rad would have done differently? “Creating boundaries earlier on,” he said.