Bumble’s founder and chief executive officer Whitney Wolfe Herd wants the female-centric dating app to grow its expanding world reach and its mission-based focus, according to a recent piece by Fast Company.
Bumble has been busy lately. The company recently reached 100 million users and its scandal-afflicted parent company MagicLab was rebranded in a move that installed Wolfe Herd as CEO.
Now Wolfe Herd wants to put Bumble’s female-centric and inclusive mission first.
Despite Bumble’s growth, questions remain over how much Bumble has succeeded in providing a dating platform that seeks to “empower women” and prove that “things change when women are in control.”
Wolfe Herd founded Bumble in 2014 after working for the popular dating app Tinder. Wolfe Herd later sued Tinder for sexual harassment and discrimination in a suit that was eventually settled. Wolfe Herd, who was involved in Tinder’s original founding, helped engineer its rapid growth by promoting it to sororities across the United States.
Tinder, as with many other dating apps, is heavily populated by men. In December 2019 it was estimated that Tinder’s user base was 78% male.
Yet, founding a female-centric dating app that put women first, allowing them to “make the first move,” as Bumble’s slogan goes, was not Wolfe Herd’s original intention.
After leaving Tinder, Wolfe Herd was offered a job by Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev to come on as chief marketing officer for the dating app Badoo. Wolfe Herd instead pitched Andreev the idea for a female-only app that would allow women to send each other compliments. After some negotiation, Wolfe Herd’s idea took form as a female-centric dating app.
Bumble has been profitable since 2017 and in 2019 was reportedly pulling in US$10 million a month in revenue. This past year, Bumble reported having reached 100 million users. With a monthly active user base of around five million, Bumble ranks as the second most-used dating app in the US.
Bumble’s success has continued into the coronavirus crisis, with Wolfe Herd envisioning a future of greater emphasis on Bumble’s key female-centric mission.
Bumble was ahead of rival apps in many senses when the coronavirus pandemic struck and forced much of the country into lockdown.
The app has long offered video and voice calling services – other apps require users to leave and call elsewhere – and Priti Joshi, Bumble’s vice president of strategy, reported that the app saw an 84% increase in users video calling, as “this is basically a way for them to connect safely because they can’t actually connect IRL right now.”
Alongside its calling features, Bumble also recently allowed users the option to expand distance filters to meet with anyone in the country. Previously, matches were restricted to a 100-mile limit, but the expansion of this limit has allowed greater accessibility during a time of travel and movement restrictions when virtual dating is in some cases a public health necessity.
Many of these measures reportedly came from Wolfe Herd herself. After Russian billionaire Andrey Andreev sold his majority stake in MagicLab, Bumble’s parent company, to investment giant Blackstone for US$3 billion in November 2019, Wolfe Herd had near-total control.
As the new CEO of MagicLab, now Bumble, Wolfe Herd has an expanded purview over the company’s operations. By recasting MagicLab as Bumble and putting Wolfe Herd in a position to direct the overall strategy for the brand, the company now has “this one, constructive, cohesive, and unified mission and value set and team that is ultimately one team,” according to Wolfe Herd.
The rebranding also makes the female-centric Bumble the parent company of MagicLab’s other dating app-venture – the more globally popular app Badoo.
Wolfe Herd has also shaken up Bumble internally and brought on a whole host of new hires in an effort to push the company toward future growth. Tariq Shaukat, formerly of Google Cloud, has been appointed president and Wolfe Herd has announced that Bumble is undergoing a “deep audit” to ensure diversity and inclusion, “making sure that representation is broadly reflected across the company.”
Despite Bumble’s grand plans and its reputation for inclusivity and acceptance, the company has not been without its critics.
While lurid allegations against its then-parent company MagicLab have been well-publicized, Bumble itself has been subject to anonymous claims of being a hostile work environment and lacking an overall sense of direction.
One report on Wolfe Herd and Bumble in Bloomberg featured the anonymous complaints of several former employees who claimed that Bumble, contrary to its outward appearance, was “such a disempowering place to work.” Others claimed that Bumble’s workplace culture was akin to high school cliques, with certain employees often feeling sidelined and marginalized.
A Bumble spokesman commented that “inclusion is at the heart of what we do – and our workplace reflects that … at Bumble we are committed to empowering women and promoting integrity, equality, confidence, and respect during all stages of the dating experience.”
Questions have not just been raised over Bumble’s culture, but also its direction and vision. Anonymous insider critics have also stated that Bumble does little to track whether its policies create a safer and more inclusive dating environment for women. Rather, according to Bloomberg’s sources, the company is only focused on how it’s perceived and its reputation for safety.
Wolfe Herd has also been targeted in comments made by former employees, who charged her with possessing an erratic vision that ranged from mulling over launching a female-positive makeup brand to founding a permanent coffee shop and bistro in New York City.
Bumble has nevertheless achieved success during the pandemic by facilitating virtual dating experiences.
The company now has over 750 employees in locations as diverse as Austin, Texas to London and Moscow. With plans to potentially merge Badoo’s and Bumble’s operations, further growth and expansion for the female-centric dating app appear likely.
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