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Sweat Equity: Benchmark Takes Stake in Tinder in Exchange for Matt Cohler Joining Board

The popular dating app and the well-known VC are a match.

In an unusual investment configuration, Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark has taken an equity stake in popular mobile dating app Tinder, in exchange for one of its partners, Matt Cohler, joining the board.

The Los Angeles-based Tinder is controlled by the Match Group, which in turn is a subsidiary of online conglomerate IAC (which is, of course, run by uber-mogul Barry Diller). Interestingly, sources said that no actual money was invested by Benchmark and IAC continues to hold a massive and controlling stake in Tinder via Match.

Instead, the small stake — the companies declined to give an exact amount — will be traded for the time and expertise of the high-profile VC Cohler. The former LinkedIn and Facebook exec has made investments in a range of successful online companies such as Uber and Twitter.

Cohler has been on the hunt to be involved in Tinder for some time now, he said, fascinated by its viral growth and user engagement. “This has been an app that has taken off in the way a lot of the really successful ones that I have seen in the past have,” he said in an interview. “What’s happening at Tinder is something that is very special.”

Cohler would not give details, but said the structure created for its Tinder involvement lined up incentives for the firm to help grow the startup.

Sean Rad, co-founder and CEO of Tinder, called Cohler a “mentor” and noted that more than cash, Tinder needed experienced advisers to take it to the next level. While he did not want to talk in detail about recent controversies around a now settled sexual harassment lawsuit aimed at Tinder’s now departed marketing head and also his own leadership, Rad did note that the company needed a deeper level of attention to building out the business.

“More than money, we need people who have been there to help us as we grow,” he said. “The end result is that Matt will be helping us grow as big as possible … it’s all about the support.”

In a statement, Sam Yagan, a director of Tinder and the CEO of the Match Group, said: “Matt will complement Sean’s proven product leadership and the expertise in the social and dating categories we already have on the board. I’m confident Benchmark’s involvement will help Tinder achieve its huge growth potential and am excited about continuing to build out the Tinder team.”

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