Bumble Dating Founder Focuses on Civility

SXSW Speaker Whitney Wolfe, photo by Geri Askew, courtesy photo.

By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

It’s 2017 and the rules for women in the dating world haven’t changed much.

That’s what Whitney Wolfe, founder of Austin’s Bumble dating service, is trying to change. Bumble is the internet dating service that lets the woman make the first move. Men and women can express an interest in each other but the woman is the only one—in a hetero match—who can start the conversation. She has 24 hours to do so unless, under special circumstances, either party chooses to extend the option for an additional 24 hours.

In a featured speaker session at South By Southwest, Wolfe was interviewed Monday by CNBC journalist Julia Boorstin.

Wolfe, who formerly worked for Tinder, had initially wanted to start a social app that let women leave compliments for each other. The whole focus was to change the tone of discourse in social apps to something civil, nonsexist, and supportive. She came up with Bumble because she saw how women—even in this day and age—feel they have to play a passive role in the dating world. If she could say one thing to women it would be “Don’t play to men.”

“Don’t do that,” Wolfe said. “Don’t play a role with any man in the room.”

In the two years since its release Bumble has garnered 12.5 million users internationally in cities from Los Angeles to New York and countries including France, Australia, and the United Kingdom. There’s always a cultural difference, Wolfe said, in different countries. In France, for example, the motto “It’s Your Move” didn’t work. Women wanted to be chased. “It’s Your Choice” was more effective.

Users spend an average of 100 minutes a day on the app, Wolfe said. About a tenth of Bumble users use premium services that let them keep a match longer than 24 hours or even retrieve a deleted match. Bumble has also added a friends’ search function and a Business Bumble for networking. The point, Wolfe said, is to change the perception of meeting “online” to simply “connecting.”

The company is getting ready to open Bumble Hives where Bumble users can meet. These might be co-working spaces, coffee shops and other places where people can safely have a first date or a first meeting. The company also recently bought a gay dating service called Chappy, though Wolfe said the regular site was “fully optimized for LGBTQ dating.”

Wolfe’s business approach seems focused on civility. The app also rewards users who are particularly loyal, thoughtful and considerate of others in the Bumble community. Employees treat each other with respect. She rarely recruits, but when she does it’s on Instagram. Often she’ll just offer someone who isn’t technically qualified a job because they strike her as having the right attitude and the right potential.

She doesn’t think of herself as operating in a crowded space because no one else is doing exactly the same thing she is. She’s had plenty of naysayers but she has a rule about that. Take everything to mind, don’t take everything to heart. Everything is information and some of the harshest comments are the most useful. The important thing is: “Take away the noise.”

Speak Your Mind

*