Talking Dating Apps and Girlbosses with Flox Founder Jamie Lee
“Sophia Amoruso, Emily Weiss, Ty Haney – I needed to be them.”
Welcome to the first interview edition of After School! Today I’m talking with Jamie Lee of Flox. She’s one of my very favorite Gen Z founders, and she had some reeeeally thoughtful and interesting things to say about what it’s like to be a
girlboss entrepreneur in ~these times~. She also talks about her philosophy when it comes to work-life balance and how little Instagram matters to her overall marketing strategy.
Below is a partial transcript of our chat, and up top is the conversation in full. I’ll also be uploading it on Apple, Spotify, etc. (as soon as I, uh, figure out how to do that). Hope you enjoy!
When and how did you start thinking about Flox?
I was sitting on Hinge in the middle of the pandemic and realized I absolutely hated it. I thought, either I am not funny or this app sucks. [Editor’s note: Jamie is funny, so the app must suck.] It’s an inauthentic way to meet someone. I talked with my friends about this and they all had similar experiences. And in conversation, I said it would be so much more fun if we could just meet people together.
The mission [of Flox] is to find a better way to connect people who should be meeting. We really believe that the best way to meet people is through mutual friends and in real life. We want to leverage technology to bring people together in person, which I think is something that's been missing for our generation.
You said a lot of interesting things just now but the first thing I have to ask you about is that you – and thus Gen Z – use Hinge.
Why are you surprised?
I would think Gen Z is on Tinder; I’m surprised to hear Hinge is what people are using.
Tinder was the only thing around before Bumble and before Hinge. Then Bumble became the real dating app, where you would go for dates, and Tinder became the hookup app. And then when Hinge came out, we saw that cycle happen again. Speaking from my experience with my friends, everyone uses Bumble now as the hookup app. Tinder is the gross app, you can't even be on it and Hinge is more of a serious dating app. Gen Z is on Hinge because these natural cycles happen in products. The stigmas are very quickly and easily associated with you – why you're on there and what that might mean about you.
Yeah, that makes sense. So the mission of Flox…if you meet someone who turns out to be a love interest, great, but you also want to help people make friends?
Our whole mission is to help people meet, and whatever you want to do with that connection is up to you. I think something that really excites me, because people are so motivated by romance, is meeting someone through a friend who you end up dating. And that, to me, sounds like a way better outcome than a random stranger who you're swiping on on a dating app.
Something I think about a lot is the old guard of female founders. They were on top of the world, and then there was a pretty spectacular crash. What followed was a meme-ification of the “girlboss” by Gen Z. As a female founder, how do you feel about all of this?
I discovered Sophia Amoruso when I was in middle school, and I literally had a Girlboss plaque on my desk. I was obsessed with Girlboss [the company founded by Amoruso]; I wanted to be a girlboss. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a founder one day. Sophia Amoruso, Emily Weiss, Ty Haney – I needed to be them.
As female founders, we are expected to go above and beyond our male counterparts. There was pressure and expectation of perfection for many of these women who came before me. I think what we've seen now is this kind of shift away from perfection. TikTok has a lot to do with this. It's not a coincidence that the death of the girlboss is happening at the same time as, in my eyes, the death of Instagram. I think we're seeing a rebuttal against perfection in all spheres of pop culture. And what I try to do with my TikTok and how I present myself to other people, like you said, is being candid. The thing that’s dead about the “female founder” is having to appear perfect at all times.
I'm glad you brought up TikTok. Will you tell me a little bit about the experience of going viral and how that impacted your path towards entrepreneurship?
For a long time, I refused to download this app because it was like the “teen app.” Then I finally did it and I recorded, “What if there’s an app that…”
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I woke up the next morning and it had totally taken off. It made me and my team really excited. All of a sudden what we were building felt real. Many investors wouldn't even get on the phone with me before having any sort of waitlist. We ended up getting a waitlist of 25,000 from TikTok. One downside of that was we were a bit early to have that hype because we weren't necessarily ready with the product.
The way that I view TikTok now is kind of as a storytelling platform, where I want to tell people the highs and the lows, because that's never anything that we've been able to see before.
Would you say that your TikTok strategy is priority number one, and that your Instagram strategy is almost nonexistent?
I don't care about Instagram at all. Right now we’re in private beta, but once we’ve launched, I will probably only post on Stories. I think the feed is kind of dead; it's cooler to post on Stories. But TikTok is really where our focus is.
What are your thoughts about work-life balance? Are you ever able to log off?
I wasn't able to do this in the very beginning and it had a really bad effect on me. I was in a constant state of anxiety. I ended up having a really bad series of panic attacks last summer, where I realized I needed to get back in therapy, I needed to go to the doctor (now I’m on Lexapro), and I needed to go on vacation. I needed to take a break because I was burning out. I now take my full weekend off. I really do turn off, and I think it’s incredibly necessary.
We have a four-day workweek. That's something I'm trying to stick to, though, it's a little bit hard for me to model because I just have a lot to do. But I believe that the four-day workweek will be the future of work. And our relationship – and especially this generation's relationship – to work is changing.
What is the most Gen Z thing about you?
People tell me I'm like the most millennial Gen Z they've ever met.
Do you have low rise jeans?
I do. They're not jeans. They're actually twill, from Free People, but they’re low. I'm looking at my closet right now, and yeah, that's probably the most Gen Z thing I own. But I love to go thrifting a lot. That's how I typically buy my clothes.
Brick-and-mortar LES thrifting or Depop thrifting?
Yeah, or Brooklyn. I'm not on Depop. That's too technically advanced for me. I did sell on Poshmark, though, when I was in high school.
Spoken like a true Gen Zer.