As Bumble moves from a dating app to a professional social network, its founder has said she wants the platform to become a more positive, equal social network.
Bumble was founded in 2014 after Whitney Wolfe Herd left Tinder following a sexual harassment scandal and settlement. The app, which allows women to make the first move when a match is made, was an instant hit, attracting 18 million users as of 2016.
Since then Wolfe Herd says the platform has evolved to being used by women to find friends and even professional connections.
Speaking to Victoria Turk, senior editor at Wired, during the magazine’s Live event in London today the Bumble CEO said: “Something amazing started to happen. Women felt safe and started having positive interactions. People started taking to the platform for friendships and then networking, because there was the shield, women could make the first move and they weren't being bombarded or solicited.”
So “just as we see sexism in romantic endeavours, it exists in professional networking also".
This is where Wolfe Herd saved her barbs for what is now a rival to her company as it moves into being a professional social network.
"What happens on platforms like LinkedIn is very similar to what happens on dating platforms where men have been known to abuse the system and solicit women for endeavours which are not professional. This happens to women every day, all day."
Where Wolfe wants Bumble Bizz to be different to LinkedIn and other social networks is in how it governs the behaviour of its users, instead of hiding behind the concept of free speech. “We as a company want a platform rooted in kindness and respect and won’t allow hateful or misogynistic behaviour to happen here. So we have a duty to reconfigure digital behaviour that is pervasive with nastiness.”
Wolfe Herd is of course speaking during the continuing fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood and subsequent #MeToo social media movement in response to sexual harassment in the workplace by men in powerful positions. “There is no denying this is probably one of the most vocal times in modern history as we look in the mirror when it comes to workplace behaviour,” she said.
“This is a problem across the board and doesn’t matter what industry you are in, it exists. You can’t really say has this industry [technology] had its Harvey Weinstein moment. This is a much bigger problem than the everyday professional might realise, I think it's just time to look at behaviour across the board and that includes digitally.”
So how can Bumble change this? “I think making it mainstream and not niche or a fad means if we can find a way to engineer this to be part of our everyday behaviour.”
“My hope is that this next wave of digital connectivity is rooted in goodness.”
Wolfe Herd has big ambitions for Bumble as more than a dating app. “I think we have three main verticals, life is made up of these connections in the professional space, love and friendships. These are the foundation of your life and we believe those relationships define your mental and physical health, so now we have given you access to add new relationships into your life, now how can we keep those healthy?
“So instead of just connecting you, how can we stay a part of those connections beyond the match and initial chat and keep you on our platform in a way that adds value? So evolving more into a social network.”