STARTUP STORY: How Tinder used a remote engineering team

Ryan Ogle, the former CTO of Tinder and co-founder of Arimus dishes on the benefits and risks of working with an external engineering team and shares his experience from Tinder.

Aimed with the engineering, product and marketing knowledge of nearly two decades of working in the IT field, Ryan along with a few ex-Tinder employees launched Arimus in July 2017, with the goal of rolling out a couple of diverse projects over the next two years.

The team is currently working around the clock on Ripple, a professional networking platform that is scheduled to hit the market in January or February. Ripple will be followed a few months later with a mobile game. Arimus turned to STRV to help with the coding on both projects.

ryan ogle at STRV

Arimus’ first project is a professional networking platform called Ripple. How did you come up with the idea?
We were just really dissatisfied with the way professional networking is done today. We felt like one of the key problems was that 95 percent of the communication that is on LinkedIn is recruiters and salespeople trying to sell us something, and we hated that.

There are valuable connections passing us every single day, and we’re missing them. Even as CTO at Tinder, you’d be surprised with all the CTOs in LA that I don’t know. There is a CTO forum that I go to, but it is a very manual process.

I’m literally going to a physical meetup to meet these people, and I think: why isn’t there a space where I can meet all of the CTOs? I would love to connect with them, and in most cases, they’d probably love to connect with me. But that’s just like a missed opportunity. So we want to solve that.

What makes Ripple different?

What we want to build is a better professional network. We think that it should be mobile first. We think that it should be discovery-based, restrict recruiters, users first. We want to build a better one for everyone.

ryan ogle at STRV

When building a new startup, what is the most efficient hiring strategy?

I think the strategy changes depending on what stage you are in. In the beginning phase, when you are small, you need people who are very good at something specific you want to build.

When you get to a bigger size, when you have 20 people or something like that, then you can say, “Well, we obviously need more iOS people, but we can take our time to train them up.” So when we are going to colleges, we aren’t looking for people who are like amazing iOS developers.

We are looking for super smart people who have the right problem-solving skills, the right ambition and all that stuff, and we will train them to do what they want to do and what we want them to do.

ryan ogle at STRV

Is talent drying up in the US?

There is definitely a lack of supply and a huge amount of demand. It’s definitely tough. It’s not going to change in the foreseeable future. It will change at some point for sure. Computer science is going to continue to be in demand at a growing rate.

It’s a good time to be an engineer, for sure. It’s guaranteed money. Nowadays, at Tinder we would hire people for like $120,000 coming right out of college. Maybe that’s not much anymore.

When did you decide you wanted to work with an external engineering team?

Through the course of my career before Tinder, I have been somewhat against contract engineering companies. We always wanted to build things ourselves, and Tinder was no exception.

We did the same thing. We had never worked with any contract engineering company, and then David Semerad and Lubo Smid from STRV came into our office and said they wanted to work with us, and we were like, “that’s OK, we’re in the midst of this thing, and we are building our own team.”

And then six months later, they came back, and they had the Tinder TV. We didn’t ask; we didn’t do any contract. And they said “Check this out.” And we were like, “Damn, this is good.”

They did a great job. And that’s what really changed our minds. We felt like STRV wasn’t an ordinary contract company; that they were really talented.

Sean Rad, former Tinder CEO and David Semerad, STRV

What is the strategy for your two new projects?

We wanted to try a couple of different things. For the first 18 months we want to experiment with stuff. The internal team is working on mostly Ripple; STRV is helping us with Ripple on the iOS side, but we are doing the code mostly internally.

And then we have this other project, and we thought we can either hire three more people, or we can ask STRV to help us with it. We know these guys, and we know they are great. This will help us get to market faster, and it is time-consuming to hire people. I think we knew going into this that we wanted to do at least one project that way. It just gives us more bandwidth to do more stuff.

What are the benefits of hiring an external team?

In general, risks of your own team: You don’t want to hire someone fulltime and then fire them. I mean, that’s their life. So if you hire someone you risk causing havoc in that person’s life if it doesn’t work out. There’s a risk in not estimating the bandwidth properly in your own startup.

Let’s say I think I need three engineers, but I actually need four or maybe I just need two, and I hired too many. There could be an imbalance there. That’s not a big deal if you are a big company, because you are big, and you will find things for them to do.

But if you are a startup, and you have a very limited budget, you kind of don’t want to over or underestimate. You kind of what to get it right. So the benefit of using an external company is that you can kind of balance that more; you can hopefully add and subtract what you need. So that’s a good thing.

What are the main risks working with a contract company?

A risk using a contract company, especially one that is located in a different country, is it’s harder to communicate. So you risk not understanding, not being on the same page, not being able to do what you expect to do.

But one cool thing about STRV is that not only do you get engineers, but they have this kind of pool of experienced developers and people they can go and talk to and seek help for the things that they need help with, which is somewhat tougher to do internally.

I don’t know Android, and if I hire an Android engineer and they are having a problem, all I can say is learn or let’s try and find someone to help you, but it’s a lot harder to do. So it’s a nice benefit to have kind of like a pooled knowledge set to use.

ryan ogle at STRV

How do you evaluate an external team’s work?

What we do with them is the same thing we do with our internal guys, which is the same thing we did at Tinder, which was to establish a weekly sprint.

We say, “OK, what are we going to achieve?” And then we have a weekly build where we go off and build and then see if we hit those goals, or if we didn’t and continue to move forward.

Is it difficult to manage external teams?

It’s definitely harder in some ways because they aren’t in the same room with you, so when you have a simple question, it’s not like you can turn around and ask that person. And also the time difference makes it harder, but not unattainable. It’s just a different dynamic.

How do you know when it’s time to start hiring?

If it goes really well, certainly we will either hire more people internally, or we will ask STRV to give us more talent. But we will probably wait to get some customer feedback before we go too far. We want to see if people like it first. It will probably be at least six months before that starts happening. But who knows, it could be like a rocket ship, and we are hiring quickly, or not, and we would need slower growth.

Why are you the best person to lead your startup?

I have a passion for what we are doing. The problem we were talking about — professional networking in general — is something I feel constantly, and I feel this should be solved, and I want to solve it. It’s really important, I’ve seen startup people do a startup just because they want the prestige, just because they want to make a lot of money.

And it’s fine to also want that, but I think you really have to believe in what you are doing. I just want to fix this for myself. I really want the ability to professional network and connect with people better and build my own professional life, so hopefully, we can translate that into a good app.

Want to know more? Ryan will be our guest in San Francisco on May 23! Reserve your spot on Eventbrite today!

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Matej Matolin

Matej Matolin

Head of HR @ STRV

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