Tinder, the swipe-for-matches dating app owned by IAC's The Match Group, is acquiring a scrappy startup that makes the popular app Knock Knock.

The San Francisco-based startup Humin was founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Ankur Jain and a cohort of friends. Humin's first product was a platform for managing contacts; it cross-referenced various apps, such as one's calendar, phone, and Facebook, to provide a user with "contextual relationship" (their term) management. (For example, as you're flying to Miami for a vacation, it could reveal friends who were also in Miami--and remind you how you originally met each.) 

But perhaps more appealing to Tinder was the audience of--and technology behind--Knock Knock, a stand-alone app that became fairly popular on college campuses. It allows users to tap twice on their phone to be given options to connect--and share contact info with--nearby individuals, say, a gal across the bar, or that guy on your dorm floor whose name you couldn't remember. 

"Three years ago when we started this company, we had this concept of building technology that would help people connect and meet up in the real world," Jain said. "Can we design products to help people manage their relationships and connect when a friend--or friend of a friend--is nearby?"

It is billed on the iTunes store as "Shazam for people." (Though in reviews some users critique it as a "battery hog" and "laggy.") Still, what it accomplishes--getting young people to open up something on their phone that fosters actual in-person interactions--is something of a holy grail for tech companies.

And getting two or three or four people to walk a few feet to meet one another is not such a far cry from what companies such as Foursquare have been attempting to do for much of the past decade: Trying to steer a user into a different bar or coffee shop. (Last year, Steven Rosenblatt, Foursquare's chief revenue officer, said the "holy grail" for mobile advertising is driven by location.) Being able to do this would open up a massive new revenue opportunity for Tinder. 

Tinder acquires Humin's intellectual property, its technology, and its team. (As of this story's publication, Jain was giving employees the option to stay or leave.)

"It's clear that the team deeply believes in our vision and future plans," said Tinder's co-founder and CEO, Sean Rad, in a release. "We're excited to leverage their experience and IP to accelerate our product road map along with some other exciting projects we have in the works." 

Humin's small headquarters in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood, close to the massive tower that Salesforce is building, will become Tinder's San Francisco office. Jain is joining Tinder as vice president of product. Co-founder David Wyler is becoming the company's vice president of partnerships.

"What gets me stoked is that this [acquisition by Tinder] gives us the ability to do what we can do at scale," Jain said. "Dating is just one piece of Tinder's mission and vision."

The acquisition seems to have been in the works for some time. Jain had known Rad, one of Tinder's co-founders, for years. They originally met through Jain's network for young entrepreneurs, the Kairos Society. Their friends and social groups overlap, though they live in different cities. This past fall, at an exclusive event following the Web Summit in Dublin, Jain recalls that Rad asked him to get a cup of tea with him.

"We talked about our visions for connecting people in the real world, and the challenges there we could solve," Jain said. "It was kind of a shock, but he said 'we should think about an acquisition.'"

Ankur Jain's father is Naveen Jain, the founder of InfoSpace, and the younger Jain is so famously well-connected that Inc. in 2011 called him "The Best-Connected 21-Year-Old in the World."  (Case in point: he got Sophia Bush, Will.i.am, and Richard Branson to appear in this ad for Knock Knock.)

News of the acquisition comes after Tinder has been attempting to bolster its leadership team, adding Maria Zhang, a Yahoo veteran, as vice president of engineering and Derek Callow, a YouTube and Google alum, as vice president of international.

This is Tinder's first acquisition of note in more than a year. In January of last year, Tinder acquired Tappy, a company that made an app to facilitate disappearing communications among friends.

 

Published on: Mar 29, 2016