Have you ever heard of Whitney Wolfe, the former CEO of Tinder, and the creator of the feminist dating app, Bumble? Well if you haven't it's time to meet her. She left Tinder after filing for sexual harassment, and used the money she got in the lawsuit to create Bumble, the dating app that we all use and love. Here is an interview that she did with Vanity Fair.
Following Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe’s dramatic departure—she sued the company for sexual harassment and published her text conversations with fellow co-founder Justin Mateen as evidence—the 26-year-old hasn’t retreated from the online dating space. In fact she‘s set out to remake the entire premise. (Wolfe and Tinder have since settled their lawsuit, and Mateen is no longer with the company.) Wolfe’s current venture is Bumble, a self-proclaimed feminist dating app where women have to make the first move.
In some ways, Bumble resembles Tinder. Users swipe left (or “no”) and right (or “yes”) on profiles of potential partners. If there is a match, both users are notified. But on Bumble—unlike Tinder or OkCupid—only the women can begin a conversation. In the eight months since its launch, Bumble reports to have ballooned to over 500,000 users, whom the company said spend an average of 62 minutes per day in the app. Perhaps still more impressive: the ratio of women to men using the app, which is just about even—uncommon for this sector. The company also plans to make incorporating L.G.B.T.Q. communities a priority, though it has yet to introduce any particularly innovative features to that end.
Bumble is a free app, though Wolfe said the company is looking at ways to monetize its user base. “Not tomorrow, but not as far as next year,” she said. VF.com chatted with the C.E.O. about what inspired Bumble, what it’s like to date as a millennial, and what is yet to come in the business of digital romance.
Vanity Fair: What inspired you to come up with Bumble? And what made you think of this specific approach?
Whitney Wolfe: If you tell anyone the very basics—girl co-founds Tinder, girl leaves, now she starts Bumble, where only girls can talk first—its very easy to interpret that how you will. The story behind it is actually very serendipitous.
I am a huge advocate for anti-bullying in our youth. What I have seen with the rise of social media is that children are not facing bullying on a playground, they are facing it on their cell phones. Young girls are facing tremendous pressure on apps like Instagram, Twitter, and all sorts of social platforms.
What I intended to do [after leaving Tinder] was to start an app called Merci—it was a social network for young girls where they could share photos and converse—it was basically going to be this chat room of positivity. . . . I received an e-mail from my current Bumble partner, Andrey Andreev, who is the founder and C.E.O. of the multi-billion-dollar social network [out of] Europe, Badoo. He said, “Whitney, you’re very familiar with the dating space. Why not do what you’re good at and do what you know?” It was kind of my premise of a platform for online accountability and kindness, and his suggestion of going back into the dating space, is where Bumble came from.
Do you consider Bumble a feminist company?
We are 100 percent feminist. We could not be more for encouraging equality.
If you look at where we are in the current heteronormative rules surrounding dating, the unwritten rule puts the woman a peg under the man—the man feels the pressure to go first in a conversation, and the woman feels pressure to sit on her hands. I don’t think there is any denying it. If we can take some of the pressure off the man and put some of that encouragement in the woman’s lap, I think we are taking a step in the right direction, especially in terms of really being true to feminism. I think we are the first feminist, or first attempt at a feminist dating app.
Are there other ways you think gender roles play out in dating apps?
For young women right now, we work crazy hours, and we’re busy, and we’re exhausted, and we’re also motived and ambitious. And, sometimes, we just want to go home and get in our pajamas and sit on the couch and do work from our laptops while eating take-out. For our mothers, traditionally, that was unacceptable. If you wanted to meet a nice man, you were expected to socialize often, and work was guarded in a different way—it was a different era. Now, women are expected to be equal to men in so many capacities—financially, career-wise, in education—yet the one disconnect was, and is, with relationships.
I always found it bizarre or strange that there was this unwritten set of rules around how a woman could interact with a man, in terms of starting a conversation. While a man traditionally is always expected to make the first move, he risks rejection in a real way. And when a man feels rejected, often times he may respond in aggression. When you impose a restriction, and you say one party or the other must speak first, it does something very fascinating.
And the restriction you mention is that women must begin conversations on Bumble? How do you think it’s changed the way things work in the online dating world?
For the first time in the tech space, the woman has been encouraged to be on an even playing field. In terms of how these conversations play out, how women feel on the [app] and how they feel about themselves on the dates, it’s really crazy the level of respect they’ve garnered from the men, and the way the men behave in such a different way. . . . On Bumble, by having the lady make the first move, [the man] doesn’t feel rejection or aggression—he feels flattered. That one little shift, that one little change, makes all the difference. It guides the conversation in a very different way, and that sets the tone for that conversation, that relationship, that friendship, whatever that is, to be a confident one.
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H/T Vanity Fair