Bumble, a 10-month-old dating app by Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe may on first glance look a lot like other digital dating tools.
But every time two parties both swipe right in mutual attraction, there is one elegantly powerful difference: Only the woman can initiate contact.
“I have so many girlfriends who are powerhouses: They have big careers, are fearless in traveling in third-world countries or a launching non-profit. But they won’t text a guy for fear of being perceived as desperate,” says the 26-year-old Bumble founder and CEO. “That is broken.”
Bumble, launched in December, is backed by Andrey Andreev, the founder of Badoo, one of the largest dating sites globally. The two met at a cocktail party not long after Wolfe left Tinder, and today reports 1 million users, and 9 million female-initiated conversations.
The site works like this: New users create profiles quickly by linking to their Facebook profiles.
Users are then suggested matches, and much like Tinder, have the option to swipe right for “like,” or left, indicating “not so much.”
When both parties swipe right on each other’s images, they are both alerted to the match, though only the woman has the option to initiate a conversation. She has just 24 hours before the guy is thrown back into her potentials pool, where she will likely stumble upon him again.
Another big differentiator is that Bumble users can report others who are disrespectful or abusive. One strike, and you’re banned from the site. “In dating, men act aggressive when they feel rejected or fear rejection,” Wolfe says. “And I know some incredibly eligible men who don’t want to make the first move because they’re afraid of coming across as creepy, or lost in the mix. This takes the pressure off.”
In developing the app, Wolfe says she researched the origins of the Sadie Hawkins dance. In the 1930s, when women were the initiators of invitations for the annual event, men were reportedly kinder and gentler during that season. So, too, is the spirit of Bumble. “In our digital age, the Golden Rule is not enforced online,” she says. Bumble technology mandates it. (After leaving Tinder, Wolfe filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company and later settled for a reported $1 million).
As of today (Sept. 25), more than 100,000 Bumble users were sent an email alerting them of their new “VIBee” status (consistent with the app’s bright-yellow bumble bee theme). The status rewards frequent and respectful interaction, and lends a profile heightened status and a sense of “being vouched for” to other users. Wolfe will appear on The Daily Show Tuesday.
I learned about Bumble through a fellow single mom friend while we hanging out at the New York City playground with our kids. In five minutes I downloaded the app to my iPhone, created a profile and swiped through the men. Both my friend and I were overwhelmed by the quality of good-looking, interesting-seeming, appealingly successful men. I also spotted three men (all handsome and professionally successful) who I know personally, including one I dated.
I surveyed some women I know in other U.S. cities and received similar reports (Bumble is Austin based, and has its strongest presence so far in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Texas, though like Tinder, it was launched on college campuses). The familiar connections can be explained by the Facebook connection, and the quality factor by the fact that every swipeable pic is accompanied by the user’s Facebook descriptor, which includes alma mater and profession.
“I guarantee that if you threw 100 people into a room, the first three questions they would ask each other are: ‘Where did you grow up?’ ‘Where did you go to school?’ and ‘What do you do for a living?’” Wolfe says. “Most people on Bumble are looking for a life partner, and those things have a huge impact on compatibility.”
I asked my friend T., a tech entrepreneur who I dated, why he is on Bumble. “I do like the idea of letting the girl message first,” he says. “I think it filters to girls who know what they want, and are confident enough to start the conversation.”