Bloomberg Businessweek January 27, 2020 pp58-65 “Bumble’s High Bar” “Turns out it’s not so easy to run a dating app that empowers women” By Claire Suddeth
According to Pew Research “more that 40% of people in the U.S. have been harassed or threatened online” with women under 30 being twice as likely as men “to receive sexually violent threats”. Having been an executive at Tinder, Wolfe Herd understood this clearly and was interested in creating a social media platform exclusively for women. Through some typical twists and turns, she “founded and runs [Austin Texas-based] Bumble, the dating and networking app that says it offers women a safe way to meet people online”.
Bumble pursues online safety in two ways by prohibiting certain untoward activities on their site and working collaboratively to enact new Texas law. Herd worked successfully with the Texas legislature and Governor Greg Abbott making it illegal for “anyone [to be] sending photos of ‘intimate parts’ to someone in Texas without consent”. Ten violations have been recorded so far but outcomes unknown-a $500 fine is reportedly possible. Herd continues actively pursuing gender equality. Top priorities are laws for covering online harassment, verbal abuse or “Catcalling” and making background checks mandatory for e-delivery apps. Clearly, Bumble’s (~32% Female User) commitment sets it apart from other dating apps like Match.com (~50% F), PlentyofFish (~50% F), EHarmony (~50% F) , OKCupid (~40% F), Tinder (~33% F) , Happn (~31% F), Coffee Meets Bagel (~28% F) and Grindr (~27% F).
Meeting potential romatic partners online is common today! According to a 2019 University of New Mexico and Stanford University Study, 40% of heterosexual and 65% of same sex partners meet online. Bumble's online brand seeks to “attract young women who live and work in cities and order everything from wine to potential partners on their phones.” Men, consisting ~68% of Bumble’s users, should they match a Bumble "swipe-partner", must wait for the female "swipe-partner" to contact him before talking etc. Women-controlling-the-gateway is the key female empowering part of Bumble-“designed to prevent the harassment and verbal abuse women face when they try to date online or be on the internet at all”.
Herd claims Bumble has the lowest rate of abuse and female users qualitatively agree with that perception but objective comparative data are currently unavailable. With 81 million users worldwide, Bumble is number two behind Tinder in America. Financial information is hearsay but reportedly $10M/month (2018) in revenue and profitable largely due to pay-for-service add-ons. The parent company MagicLab reportedly has a $3B valuation. Blackstone Group, Inc., a private equity firm, apparently owns a majority of shares and has installed Herd as CEO.
Surprisingly, like many a male dominated workplace, Bumble's staff which is predominately women (81%) has common “tech-company” issues. Reportedly, Herd is surrounded and insulated at the top by her OG. Some employees feel that the company “had a ‘Mean Girls’ vibe, with the OGs serving as the popular clique”. Further, with non-disclosures in place, and with Herd and associates being so powerful, employees don’t feel free to comment.
Bumble and its brand may venture into offline businesses.
Read the article for interesting detail.