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Tinder cofounder Justin Mateen backs founders with a 'chip on their shoulder,' he says. Now he's the No. 1 seed investor.

Published by Business Insider on Fri, 02 Apr 2021


<p><img src="https://static4.businessinsider.com/image/60536b6df75f09001814e9e3-2400/Justin Mateen.jpg" border="0" alt="Justin Mateen" data-mce-source="Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images" data-mce-caption="Justin Mateen"></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><p>Justin Mateen said he likes founders with a "chip on their shoulder."</p><p>This could mean they've had a bad breakup, been disowned by their parents, or were "screwed over" by investorsanything, he said, that makes them try to "prove themselves."</p><p>"If a founder has a crazy sense of drive that's almost irrational, I look for that," Mateen said. "That's what keeps someone going when others may give up."</p><p>The strategy is working for him. Mateen has been named No. 1 on <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/seed-100-top-early-stage-vc-investors-2021-4">Insider's Seed 100 list</a>, in partnership with data from Tribe Capital. (Read: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/how-tribe-capital-built-the-seed-100-and-seed-25-2021-4">How Tribe Capital selected and ranked Insider's Seed 100 and Seed 25 lists of the best seed VCs</a>.)</p><p>Mateen is a prolific seed investor, investing, so far, in at least 87 startups. He was among the first investors for <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/ritual-fabfitfun-madison-reed-funding-announcements">companies such as FabFitFun</a> and Brex, which is in talks for an <a href="https://www.theinformation.com/articles/brex-valuation-could-reach-8-billion-in-new-funding-round">$8 billion valuation</a>.</p><p>In fact, he scored in the top 20% of all the metrics Tribe Capital measured to find the best seed investors. This means he's not only active but also achieving healthy outcomes, repeatedly, over time.</p><h2>Fame, fortune, and notoriety at Tinder</h2><p>Things weren't always smooth sailing for Mateen. He earned fame, fortune, and notoriety as a cofounder at Tinder, his first major gig in tech.</p><p>In 2014, Tinder's former VP of marketing (and Mateen's former girlfriend) Whitney Wolfe Herd famously sued the company, saying she faced sexual harassment and discrimination. In the suit, she shared texts, including some from Mateen. The case was settled without admission of wrongdoing. (Herd went on to found Bumble, which she recently took public, and <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/bumble-ceo-whitney-wolfe-youngest-female-ceo-ipo-company-public-2021-2">became the world's youngest female</a> self-made billionaire.)</p><p>For Mateen, the tumultuous experience at Tinder informed his outlook.</p><p>"Breaking up with someone you were in a long-term relationship with is always hard, and when you work together it's even more complicated," he said. "I'm grateful to have emerged from that experience with greater awareness."</p><p>But Mateen's investing career started before Tinder even existed. He said he realized early on that new technologies were going to change the world, and that he didn't want to develop "tunnel vision."</p><p>"I don't believe in operating multiple companies at once," he said. "So it was kind of solving that itch for me to be able to operate on multiple different types of businesses."</p><p><img src="https://static1.businessinsider.com/image/5a4681beec1ade2f84207bc9-1252/477536174.jpg" border="0" alt="justin mateen sean rad tinder" data-mce-source="Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic"></p><h2>The drive to succeed</h2><p>Investing also gave Mateen a chance to make big bets on promising founders.</p><p>"I often find myself wanting to invest in companies where they have a little bit of traction, but the product sucks," he said. And Mateen said he'll take that chance, as long as he thinks "the founder is good and will continue to improve the product."</p><p>Yes, he looks at the numbers, the product-market fit, the potential to take market sharebut the deciding factor, he said, is usually the founder's character.</p><p>"I often ask very personal questions to try to understand where their drive is coming from," he said. "There's generic answers that everyone gives, but I try to get them to go one step further so I could really understand what inspires them."</p><p>Once he decides to invest, Mateen tries to be the investor he would've wanted as a founder, he said. For him, this means understanding the many obstacles founders face.</p><p>Mateen has had his own share of difficult experiences. He is among the group of early Tinder employees, including fellow cofounders Sean Rad and Jonathan Badeen, suing IAC and Match Group, the owners of Tinder, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/tinder-founders-lawsuit-match-group-iac-seeking-2-billion-in-damages-2018-8">alleging that they were underpaid</a>. The court case is scheduled for November.</p><p>But Mateen isn't letting anything slow him down. Working remotely hasn't affected his investing (even pre-pandemic, he said, he only met about 30% of his founders in person), and he's recently focused on industries that have been "accelerated" by the pandemic, such as financial technology, education technology, and healthcare.</p><p>Still, Mateen's investment usually comes down to a founder's story.</p><p>"I like to find amazing founders that are trying to disrupt massive spaces and have positive human economics," he said.</p><h3>Read the full <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/seed-100-top-early-stage-vc-investors-2021-4">Seed 100</a> list.</h3><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/justin-mateen-backs-founders-with-a-chip-on-their-shoulder-2021-4#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/worlds-most-expensive-liquid-thoroughbred-horse-semen-2020-3">Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid</a></p>
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