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.