An­other

Esquire (Singapore) - - Feature -

day at Hater HQ. Bren­dan plays around with Sam’s ac­count on the phone. He sends a “card” to a young lady, ask­ing her opin­ion of “me,” mean­ing Sam. The ques­tion is ac­com­pa­nied by a car­toon GIF of a cute baby. “Does your girl­friend mind if I do this?” Bren­dan asks. Sam says it’s fine. “I made sure she down­loaded Hater and swipes ‘yes’ on a bunch of guys, too. For re­search.”

The dat­ing-app space, both men ac­knowl­edge, doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily play to their strengths—they met their girl­friends “IRL”—but then it may not mat­ter. “It’s kind of a weird and neb­u­lous thing to say you’re an ex­pert in, but I do ‘get’ peo­ple prob­a­bly pretty well,” Bren­dan says. “With start-ups, sub­ject mat­ter isn’t to­tally ran­dom—I wouldn’t be start­ing some­thing that works with, like, health-care pro­cess­ing—but they tell you it’s im­por­tant to pick some­thing you can find a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage with.”

“It’s more the idea of do­ing a startup,” Sam says. “We’re not go­ing to be­come, like, re­la­tion­ship gu­rus.”

Both Bren­dan and Sam take a dim view of se­rial en­trepreneurs. “It’s like they’re douchey by trade,” Bren­dan says. “I hate San Fran­cisco. I hate startup blogs. Peo­ple think their cer­tainty about their next big idea is sup­posed to be in­fec­tious—like they’re go­ing to change the world just by per­suad­ing oth­ers they be­lieve it. They all write these en­tre­pre­neur books that are, like, how-to-get-rich-quick lessons that only worked for them.”

“Ev­ery­body here wants to be Mark Cuban,” Sam says. “Boot­strap your way to the top, sell for a huge pay­day, then buy a sports team.”

“If I got rich from Hater, I would just travel around,” Bren­dan says. “Would I turn it into an em­pire, a plat­form like Face­book? That’s a pos­si­bil­ity, but I don’t think I’d en­joy be­ing a CEO of a gi­ant com­pany. It’s enough of a strug­gle be­ing a CEO of three peo­ple. I have a time-travel screen­play I want to write.”

They’ve got a the­ory about dat­ing apps: peo­ple who use them don’t want to find a mate. “The tra­di­tional datin­gapp model is so purely goal-ori­ented and trans­ac­tional, but more and more, young peo­ple in­ter­act on­line as a sub­sti­tute for real life,” Bren­dan says. “They’re happy to post an In­sta­gram of a sun­set in Venice as they are to ac­tu­ally see the sun­set in Venice.”

“You don’t need crit­i­cal mass in any sin­gle mar­ket for that,” Sam says.

“I’ve never ac­tu­ally met any­one on Tin­der,” Bren­dan says. “But I do waste a ton of time on­line an­swer­ing ques­tions from strangers, and it’s fun. I like get­ting a lot of matches and ‘likes.’ It feels like hav­ing fans, like pre­tend­ing I’m fa­mous.”

And maybe he will be. He’s work­ing with a pro­duc­tion com­pany to de­velop a re­al­ity-TV show set in the Hater of­fice. He has calls with lawyers about trade­mark­ing Hater’s logo (an up­side­down heart), a visit to his fun­ders in Swe­den, and a pro­mo­tional event hosted by the ri­val dat­ing site Bum­ble. Over the sum­mer, Bren­dan taped an episode of Shark Tank, and by the time you read this, Cuban him­self will have agreed to put up USD200,000 for a chunk of Hater eq­uity. (He also signed up for the app.) Bren­dan’s es­pe­cially ex­cited about a TEDx Talk he’s been asked to de­liver in Switzer­land. The theme? “Des­ti­na­tion To­mor­row.”

“We’re all about the fu­ture,” Sam says. “We love to­mor­row.” The day af­ter to­mor­row? They’ll have to get back to you.

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