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Making online dating Mattr 

BathTime had the pleasure of sitting down with Jamie and Francesca Johnston, the respective CEO and Creative Strategist of Mattr, a new online dating platform which is hoping to transform the way we connect with one another in the modern age.

LA: Tell me about yourself – who you are and where are you from?

JJ: I’m Jamie, I’m 32 and originally from Dubai but moved back to the UK in the 90s and grew up in Surrey. I went to the University of the West of England and I have worked in media marketing and tech for 11 years. 

FJ: I’m Francesca, I went to university at Leeds and then LSE. I had been working in marketing when I decided to learn more about psychology, so I did a master’s at LSE in behavioural science. 

LA: Can you tell me what Mattr is?

JJ: I like to think of Mattr as a community revolution. It exists as much more than a product because the app is all about changing the way we behave, and it empowers people to see the benefit of authenticity transparency and empowerment.

FJ: Mattr is about changing the narrative and democratising dating. It’s in our very nature as humans to be competitive but this has transferred to dating too. What interested me about dating apps is how they have changed cultural behaviours. We’ve always been courting and, that’s never changed, but then dating apps came along and flipped dating on its head, which has led to the creation of some negative behaviours within dating and hook-up culture.

LA: Why did you set the company up?

JJ:  I was diagnosed with ADHD and a ‘light touch’ of autism which was a big weight off my shoulders. I knew I had ADHD because I had every single symptom from the brain driven by a motor, intrusive thoughts, heightened anxiety, talking a lot to cover anxiety etc. When I was diagnosed, I was able to live my life in a different light, I know my triggers now, I have access to the right medication, and I’ve read about the condition. Once I became open about who I am, it was really empowering for me, and I felt a lot less anxious about myself, which got me thinking. Then one day I was working out in the gym and saw an ad for a dating app on a bus. I thought about how there aren’t really any dating apps that prioritise being open and empowering people or that have features that make the app accessible, instead dating apps often use a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

LA: How have you found working together?

FJ: At first, we were clashing a bit as we both share the same passion, but as soon as Jamie created a team with set roles, it became a lot easier. 

JJ: I think working with a sibling is like living with a sibling rather than living with a random person; there are pros and cons! You’re much more direct with your siblings because you say how you feel, which is a good thing. I also love my sister and I love working with her because she always teaches me interesting things about behavioural psychology. But I would say it’s important to put yourself in your sibling’s shoes if you work together so you can understand them better.

LA: How many people are in your team at the moment?

JJ: The team is 7 and we’re hoping to have a new tech person coming in imminently! Our team are split between full and part-time roles. I’m the founder and CEO, so I work full-time – I sit across all departments and ensure they move along as they need to be, I’m involved with the hiring and in the future, my focus will be on fundraising and being the face of the brand. Francesca is part-time in research, behavioural science, marketing, and the creative side! We also have a Marketing Director, a full-time social media and content person, a PR and Partnerships lead, Chief Technology Officer and we’ll soon have a full-time Developer and Designer.

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

JJ: We’d need another hour and a half or a Netflix documentary to go into it the challenges! But basically, we were offered a ridiculous amount of money (over a million pounds investment) from a VC firm with little to nothing collateral-wise, and it was one of those things where ‘if it’s too good to be true it probably is’. We did waste a lot of time on it, which meant it was hard to let go of it! That being said, we were able to raise £220,000 using the government SEIS and EIS schemes. 

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

JJ: At the moment we’re trying to hone down the important features, so I would like to stress the call to action to go mattr.social online and fill in our survey for features you want and like. We’re built for the community by the community – all decisions are democratised and that’s non-negotiable.  I can’t say exactly what will be there, but there will be things that as a dating app user you’ll like, and hopefully we’ll be able to negate some of the features that people don’t seem to like so much. As a quick example, we’re hoping to support the needs that neurodiverse people have voiced to us so you’ll be given 7 potential matches a day and that will be it for the day! 

LA: What difference do you want to make in society?

JJ: This is something we’re passionate about. Our business is purpose-driven and comes from a personal story – you have to really care about what you’re doing when you have your own business, and you have to believe in what you’re doing – I was a director in an advertising firm, but I left it because I wanted to do this. 

For me, there is a really big need to change how we interact with each other because I worked in social media, and I saw things from behind the lens. Your generation has grown up with so much pressure from hustle culture, social media and dating that you’re always fighting and competing.  The algorithms on dating apps promote the most liked people and if you aren’t playing the game you don’t win. I want people to believe in themselves and be empowered to put themselves forward because the ‘social media bullshit isn’t real’. From someone who worked in it for 11 years, people who you think are living their best lives aren’t, I think that’s toxic and that you should live your actual life. 

I remember when there was all that fuss on social media about the Molly-Mae comment that ‘we all have the same 24 hours in a day’ and I think that’s one of the most stupid things I’ve ever heard as it’s not true.  For example, you may not have enough money to live near your office as you’re commuting in, so you’re then getting up early and you’re tired and stressed. I do get where she was coming from in that we all have 24 hours but it’s not the case and that was irresponsible to say that too! We want Mattr to be empowering, fun and exciting because I think there will be a shift in people when they allow themselves to be vulnerable. Mattr is a product that needs to happen to give people more value in their lives and take a step back from the fake world that dating apps and social media can promote.

LA: Lastly, why should readers download Mattr?

JJ: Mattr will be available to download at the beginning of March, so in the meantime, please go to Mattr.social, join the waiting list and give your feedback because I read it every single day! Download Mattr because you’re never going to be able to get rid of digital elements of life, and nor does anyone in our generation want to, so make your experiences online as good as they can be, so they don’t harm your mental health. We’re hoping to enable you to share your life, keep all the good stuff and create a safe environment, give you interesting places to date and give you offline events that aren’t always about just meeting in bars. I really want to change the ‘we met on a dating app’ stigma people saying ‘we met on Mattr’, which is a cool thing to say because it means you met another person who’s open and honest and put the fakery in the bin.

If you’ve been affected reading this, please get in touch with Jamie to voice your opinions and to get involved with shaping Mattr!

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