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Tinder co-founder suspended amid sexual harassment allegations



Whitney Wolfe pictured with Tinder CEO Sean Rad Photo: Getty Images

Featured | News | Startup

By Stephanie Zillman

A former marketing executive at popular dating-app Tinder, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against its co-founders.

Amid a number of allegations, Whitney Wolfe is suing the startup’s CEO Sean Rad and the company’s chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, for removing her title as co-founder because of her gender.

In the lawsuit, Wolfe claims she came up with the name “Tinder” in mid-2012, shortly after its creation, as a replacement for the app’s original name “Matchbox”. During this period, Wolfe says she became romantically involved with Mateen, her boss, who joined the company in late 2012. While she was designated a co-founder in a November 2012 meeting, Mateen subsequently told her that having a female co-founder devalued the company, according to the lawsuit. As a result, it is claimed that in November 2013, Mateen and Rad removed her co-founder title.

Following the breakdown of the relationship between Wolfe and Mateen, Wolfe claims Mateen called her “a desperate loser” in a marketing meeting and told Rad and others she was an alcoholic. It is also stated that when Wolfe complained to Rad about a series of harassing text messages, she was told she was being “a dramatic or emotional girl”, and that it was her job to “keep Justin [Mateen] calm”.

It is alleged that Wolfe finally resigned after Mateen called her a whore at a company party in April.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of sexual harassment lawsuits against technology startups in Silicon Valley, where some commentators believe the culture is one peppered with the so-called “brogrammer”, meaning a partying male programmer.

In June, the 24-year-old founder and CEO of Snapchat made a public apology following the release of emails he had written as a Stanford student, which included references to getting “sororisluts” wasted. Also last month, the co-founder of Rap Genius was stood down after he used his site’s annotation tool to mark up the misogynistic rant by Santa Barbara shooter Elliott Rodger. He added the comment, “MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.”

IAC/InterActiveCorp owns a majority stake in the Los Angeles-based Tinder, and is also a defendant, along with fellow dating site and IAC portfolio company Match.com.

A spokesman for IAC has said that Mateen has been suspended pending an ongoing internal investigation, and labelled the text messages he sent Wolfe “inappropriate”. “We unequivocally condemn these messages,” the spokesman said, “but believe that Ms Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”

The Tinder lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles.

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