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Discover ARU London




Tips for meaningful dating, entrepreneurship and more! 

This Valentine's Day at ARU London we want to encourage students to feel authentically connected and acknowledge the many challenges of this in the modern age from the pandemic to social media. We spoke to Jamie Johnston, the CEO and Founder of Mattr, a new online dating platform which is hoping to transform the way we connect with one another. We wanted to understand his business model, in the hopes of inspiring our budding entrepreneurs in setting up an app with a great cause.

Tell us about yourself and the concept behind the dating app Mattr?

During the pandemic, I suffered from poor mental health. Living in lockdown forced me to look inside myself and get a diagnosis for ADHD. My results were overwhelmingly skewed towards ADHD with a subtle nod towards autism. Deep down, the diagnosis was not new news but a mere confirmation of the feelings I have experienced for most of my childhood and adult life. The concept behind Mattr is transparent. Literally. We’re bombarded by thousands of dating apps per day. But, none of them focuses on honesty and transparency. Like the nature of social media, dating apps are rooted in competition and fakery. However, we’re starting to see a revolt against this way of thinking with the rise of new apps like BeReal taking charge.

What inspired you to set up the company?

I was inspired to start the company because I knew there was a need for it, look on social media and dating apps and everyone is living in utopia, smiling away with no cares in the world and then switch on the news and seeing the number of people suffering with all the problems of today. It didn’t make sense, it all felt very fake and contrived and I believed that all the users know they are playing a game the apps controlled. I think that’s appalling that apps make a competition out of your emotions, trying to get you hooked as if you are gambling. I knew people would want a new more real product or leave apps altogether. I also felt that neurodiverse individuals like myself didn't have anything out there for them, there are hundreds of niche dating apps but nothing I could find where I felt secure to let others know about my condition. It is estimated that 25% of the population is neurodiverse, yet nothing supports them in online dating.

What kind of research did you undertake to start your business?

First, we searched for similar businesses. I was convinced I would find something similar and never did. There are a couple of slightly alike apps but nothing that the brand messaging and audience were the same. After seeing the opportunity laid bare, my sister Chess Johnston, Co-founder and I conducted consumer research. Our ‘wow moment’ arrived after 1,200 people responded in four days. This survey gave us the proof points we needed for investment. For example, '98% of respondents feel that dating apps don’t understand who they are as people’. We had proved our hypothesis and were ready to go to market.

How many people are in your team at the moment?

There is a mix between part/full time but we work very much as a whole team and encourage flexible working.

What challenges have you faced so far in building the business? 

Money is always an issue. We managed to raise a decent amount, but we are always thinking about when the next investment is coming so there is constant pressure.

What can users expect from Mattr and when can we expect it?

You can expect a breath of fresh air and no need to live up to false expectations. We want people to be ‘like this is me and this is what I’m about’. It's a fully inclusive space with features that help those that might struggle a bit with online dating such as members of the neurodiverse world. Our success is dependent on our community: honest people trying to make real connections, felt differently. We will be launching in March for London users, please go to the waiting list on the website and register to be first in line!

How can ARU London students benefit from using Mattr?

We are launching in London only to start so there is that exclusive element to ARU students from the capital. You can also feel empowered that you are using a product of respect which isn’t being manipulated by the app developer for personal gain and meet like-minded people in the city.

 What makes Mattr unique?

We are a purpose-driven business, Mattr was born from personal and shared universal struggles. We are not a faceless silicon valley tech company, we are a family-run business devoted to our community. We value inclusion over everything, marginalised groups will feel they are part of our community from the get-go with supportive features and like-minded users.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to become an entrepreneur or start their own businesses?

1. When you have thought of your idea, make sure nothing similar exists, you can go into an established market but your business needs to have a killer USP to get people interested.

2. Once you have done the ‘desk research’ start to tell people about your idea to get feedback. I was hesitant to do this at first as I was scared someone might steal it but the long and short is setting up a business is extremely hard and time-consuming so the chances of this happening are so small.

3. Have a think about a team and how that might look, you might want to be a ‘one man band’ and that’s fine but do you have all the expertise needed plus the time to do so? I am not a tech or finance person, there is no way I could have done this without those key hires so I prioritised them first.

4. This leads me to the importance of paperwork! Something I really don’t like but is so important make sure there is someone whose job is to be on top of paperwork and I can assure you there is a lot when setting up a company.

5. Familiarise yourself with both the SEIS and EIS government schemes (the former has just been increased) these are the two main ways of raising investment for early-stage start-ups, all our funding came through these two schemes.

6. Final point, make sure you have a real passion for what you are trying to do, if your only aim is to get rich quickly don’t start a business. You are going to be really up against it for a lot of the time so you have to 100% believe what you are doing will really make a difference, investors will see this belief as well which will help when fund-raising.

For those seeking to make connections this Valentine's day, make sure to sign up to the app here. 

If you are inspired by Jamie’s story and would like to learn how to start your own business, make sure please make sure to email - whether you are a current student or alumni the Careers Team is there to support and empower you on your career journey.


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