The CEO of dating app Hinge shares his insider hacks for finding love online

Dating in the modern age is synonymous with apps. Indeed, according to dating website eHarmony, over 50% of couples will meet online by 2031. The majority of us are spending more time online selecting the personality and physical traits we want in a person, but is dating in this way short-lived?

Justin McLeod is the CEO of Hinge and, more recently, the subject of the first episode of Amazon Prime series, Modern Love. We spoke with Justin to talk all things Modern Love, Hinge and what the future of dating holds…

Your real life love story was inspired by the first episode of Modern Love, can you elaborate?

It’s quite different, but the real story is that Kate was the inspiration for Hinge in the first place, because I wanted to find someone like her. We dated in college and then we broke up and I really just wanted to find someone as great as her. I was in business school at the time and I started Hinge. Four years later I flew to Switzerland where she was living at the time and asked her to call off a wedding that she was about to have and asked her to move back to America with me. She did and that’s where the first episode of Modern Love came about.

What inspired you to start up Hinge?

I originally started Hinge because I wanted to find someone as great as Kate and I think at the time I had the wrong idea of love. You have to go out there and find the perfect person – it was very much like you had to go through a large volume of people and find your person so we were originally an app that had a swipe feature. It was very similar to other apps that are out there, but that started in 2011. In 2015 when Kate came back, what I really learned was it’s the process of opening up and being vulnerable and finding that connection with someone takes a lot of work, and so we did the reboot on Hinge in late 2015 to make it the app that it is today.

In the process of creating Hinge, was there a Eureka moment?

I think the breakthrough moment was in 2015. It was the moment that we realised the way the app was designed wasn’t working for people who wanted something more serious, who wanted to really find their person. It wasn’t the right model. I think the way that it’s designed today was just lots of little innovations that make it so effective.

What would your top tips be for navigating the app and looking for something long term and meaningful?

It’s the confusion that I think we have between validation and connection. A lot of us really deep down are seeking connection, but as a way to do that we seek validation, and a way to get validation on these apps is to look really cool and not show any vulnerabilities and I think the way that you really find someone on an app that’s going to resonate with you, is to open up. Put effort into the profile, put yourself out there a little bit, show the vulnerability, show why they are the way that they are and you may not get many likes, but you actually will connect with the people who resonate with you better and I think that’s the key to finding something.

How long do people take before going out on a first date?

When people match, we find they usually go out on a date within a week. We’re actually starting something right now called Hinge Labs that looks at people who have succeeded on Hinge and look to see what they’re doing differently to then help everyone become a better dater on Hinge. I think none of us are really good with online dating or good with dating in general. In terms of what we see, we now find on Hinge that if you’re using Hinge, Hinge is the most likely way that you’re going to meet your person.

Hinge Labs provides an advice centre for people. What prompted you to create that?

The whole purpose of Hinge is to really get everybody off on these dates. If you think about it in the analogy of a gym – you can build really big gains, but ultimately where you succeed is when you have a personal trainer to help you use the gym better. I think we’ve sort of created the best gym possible. The biggest opportunity to help people find their relationship is to give them that personal training that shows them how to use the machines, giving that encouragement along the way.

In 10 years, do you still see people using dating apps?

I think technology is going to be with us for a while. We use it in everything else in our lives and when it comes to relationships, which is the most important decisions that we’re going to make in our lives, the person who you’re going to be with, technology will be here to stay and tools that help us both find our person but also help us along the way to assess whether this is the right person for us.


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