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Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd took the bull by the horns and came out on top with a billion-dollar idea that operates on kindness and respect

The skeptics thought no woman would ever make the first move. But Whitney Wolfe Herd, young, creative, and undaunted, stuck to her guns. In just four years, her women-centred social networking platform Bumble accumulated over 50 million users in 150 countries, with ladies having made the first move almost a billion times globally. These impressive numbers are only part and parcel of an even more powerful narrative—one that Wolfe Herd was able to move forward with on her own terms because she refused to go down without a fight.

Her first foray into the business of online dating apps was through Tinder, which she co-founded and helped propel to success. In the wake of harrowing experiences of sexual harassment and discrimination involving a co-worker, Wolfe Herd decided to leave the company. It was a difficult time; she became the target of cyber bullying, which left her feeling depressed. This inspired her to sketch out the concept of Merci, an online safe space for women.

Andrey Andreev, the founder of dating platform Badoo, met with Wolfe Herd and encouraged her to utilise her woman-first concept to build a new dating app. Initially reluctant, Wolfe Herd realised the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Andreev presented. Within weeks Andreev became Wolfe Herd's founding partner in Bumble and, together, they built what evolved into the fastest growing social network in the world.

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Above Whitney Wolfe Herd took stock of her personal experience to create a safe space online for girls

“Andrey and I saw a lot of things that were broken in the way people treated each other online, especially in terms of gender norms in dating,” she says. “We wanted to be a part of the solution and completely dismantle these archaic dynamics. We built Bumble to provide a digital space where users can connect with each other through kindness, accountability, and respect. By having women make the first move, we empower them to take control over the relationship with confidence.”

Though it was created by women for women, Bumble has proven to be an attractive social networking platform for men, too. Says Wolfe Herd, “Putting women in the dating driver’s seat takes the pressure off men to feel that they must be the ones in pursuit and essentially helps recalibrate the way that we connect. Our 2018 research findings show that 63 per cent of men are attracted to women who make the first move. The ladies-first initiative was actually influential in making them want to use Bumble.”

It can be difficult to get a conversation going online. A simple “hi” isn’t always enough to break the ice; the other party, at a loss for what to say in exchange, will offer a “hi” of their own in return. Sometimes, it does not even prompt a response. To help get the ball rolling, Wolfe Herd and her team came up with “Conversation Starters,” a list of fun pre-written questions that have, on several occasions, put an end to the unfortunate “hi-hi” situation. And if nothing seems to be going right, there’s the 24-hour time limit to the rescue. Wolfe Herd shares that this was one of the most requested features from Bumble users, pointing out that the time limit helps set expectations: you either message someone within a day or move on.

Community safety is and always will be a top priority. Block and report features are available for users to let the Bumble team know if someone has made them feel uncomfortable in any way. A real-time photo verification feature prevents the uploading of fake profiles. Wolfe Herd’s zero-tolerance policy for any form of harassment or abuse through inappropriate content and hate speech is a strict one. “Here at Bumble, we truly believe that one connection can change the course of your life and that idea fuels us every single day,” she says. “Seeing this ripple effect of change in how people treat each other online motivates us to use our mission of kindness to end misogyny in all corners of the world. This is our true north.”

Wolfe Herd’s mission began with convincing one, then two, then three, and so on, users to take a chance on Bumble. Her first move led to another, then another, and then another. With the addition of the modes Bumble BFF (for making friends) and Bumble Bizz (for growing one’s professional network), Bumble has eclipsed its beginnings as a dating app, evolving into a movement that seeks to help users build meaningful connections in all areas of their lives. The skeptics thought no woman would ever make the first move. They thought wrong.

Officially launched in the Philippines in March, Bumble is available for download on iOS and Android.

  • PhotographyKristen Kilpatrick
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