Mateen Motavaf

Co-Founder of SundaeSwap

Mateen Motavaf is an entrepreneur in the decentralized finance industry. He is also deeply involved in healthcare and medicine and plans to finish his degree in Human Physiology soon. Mateen has achieved great success with SundaeSwap, a decentralized finance protocol valued at over a billion US dollars. SundaeSwap Labs raised 1.3 million in venture capital, and investment from cFund, a venture capital fund anchored by Charles Hoskinson who is the founder of Cardano and co-founder of Ethereum. Over $120 million dollars in value is locked on SundaeSwap, and over $6 million in daily trading volume is achieved. The team of 10 employees working remotely to deliver this product has partnered with Input Output Global (the primary development company contributing to Cardano) for our launch and for helping provide information to increase protocol parameters.

It was the year 2017 when Mateen was first introduced to cryptocurrencies. He would play around on websites claiming to mine Bitcoin for him, but in reality, he was making less than a penny a day, so he took a break from the industry for a time. Towards the end of 2020, Mateen returned and started using decentralized finance (aka “DeFi”) protocols more often. He became increasingly interested in how DeFi protocols worked — especially how they could make financial independence accessible to everyone. Mateen then struck up a conversation with his future co-founder, and SundaeSwap was born.

The past academic achievements of Mateen include being an Honor Society student (top 10% of university), researching at Harvard medical school, Stanford medical school, northwestern medical school, Joslin diabetes center, graduating Magna Cum Laude, starting two nonprofits (for type 1 diabetes and other chronic health illnesses), developing a type 1 diabetes iPhone application in high school during his free time, and being a 2nd place winner in US Open Piano competition.

Mateen has a background in strategy and is the lead UI/UX designer at a tech startup, as well as two non-profit organizations where he manages and leads 20 researchers across the United States, publishing scientific papers and meta-analyses on a biweekly basis. Mateen is in charge of maintaining SundaeSwap’s branding, business development, talent hunting, and UI/UX design. In his rare occurrences of spare time, Mateen enjoys being involved with playing the piano, tennis and (of course) crypto.

Where did the idea for SundaeSwap come from?

I started using DeFi protocols towards the end of 2020 and I wanted to build something that contributed to this space myself. I looked around and had always been a fan of Cardano, so I decided to build on Cardano. Cardano’s prioritization of security and decentralization are often overlooked by other blockchains, and I think that these two aspects are going to be highly scrutinized on all the blockchains, especially with imminent regulation coming to the DeFi industry. I knew that if I wanted to build something long-lasting, Cardano was the perfect blockchain to do so because of how prioritized security and decentralization are on the platform.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up, answer emails and messages I got overnight (if I slept), brush my teeth, and head to class. I come back and work with the rest of the team on getting priorities in order and seeing how everything is progressing. If I can, I get some exercise to release some pent-up stress.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I know how to build trusted teams of people who are smarter and more experienced than myself, and who have the know-how to bring my ideas to reality. Getting these teams to work together to create an awesome product has always been a dream of mine, and with SundaeSwap, I’ve been able to make that dream a reality.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Cryptocurrency and NFT adoption by web2 titans like Twitter and Meta. What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur? As an entrepreneur there are a lot of things that are out of my control, which is something I have historically had a problem dealing with as I’m always used to being in control of many parts of my life. Sometimes, there are things in the company that cannot progress because it’s dependent on another person’s work. So, I like to make a giant list of things that I can do myself at any moment that isn’t directly dependent on the rest of my team’s manpower. That way, I can get things done myself while the rest of the team is making great progress in an area that I can’t directly impact.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I take on new opportunities head on, I spend time educating myself to the best extent so that I can appropriately invest, enter a new market and see success.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Listen to yourself and try new things because you never know what you actually enjoy.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I think that decentralization is one of the most important aspects of our society and it should be prioritized over security. Security can always be improved, but if we lose decentralization, then we lose the ability to have a fair and just society.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Curb my enthusiasm and set expectations. As an entrepreneur, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in your own product and think that the world needs it. It’s really important to be able to have a realistic view of what your product is and how it can improve people’s lives. This involves listening to feedback and iterating on your product. So, being able to set realistic expectations for not only your product but also yourself, is really important.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One thing that I had trouble in the beginning of the company was hiring an engineering team. Given that I am the farthest thing from a technical founder, I needed to find engineers who were interested in the product being built. I didn’t really know where to look to find engineers interested in Cardano, so what I did was that I went to GitHub and went to the Plutus repository and clicked on who forked the repository. From there I contacted about 500 engineers and got a few responses, which is where I found SundaeSwap’s current Chief Information Officer.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Loss of motivation—I overcame this by simply taking a break and only working when I really needed to. This was a problem because I would often work for 12+ hours and not get anything done because I was burnt out. Taking a step back and only working when necessary helped me get my bearings and prevented me from making any rash decisions.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Fractionalized NFT exchange for real estate.
I think that there’s a lot of potential in the NFT space, and I believe that real estate is one of the first use cases for it. I think that an exchange where people can fractionalize their ownership of a property would be really useful, as it would allow more people to invest in real estate. This could also help with liquidity in the real estate market.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 that I recently spent was on a nice pair of sunglasses. I like talk walks outside to clear my head and stay grounded. My sunglasses are perfect for walks on sunny days.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use Todoist to manage my to-do list. I like it because it’s really simple to use and it has a great mobile app. I also like that it integrates with a lot of other services, such as Google Calendar and Slack. This allows me to keep track of my tasks in one place.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I’ve always been interested in social sciences and human behavior, and this book showed me a side of how our brains work in our society that I hadn’t considered before. It’s been a valuable resource and one I think of often when making decisions on a day-to-day basis.

What is your favorite quote?

“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” -Vince Lombardi

Key Learnings:

  • Being able to set realistic expectations for your product and yourself is really important
  • One strategy that has helped me grow my business is reaching out to engineers on GitHub
  • Take breaks if you feel burnt out, it will help you stay productive in the long run