Bumble's new CEO talks about her core mission: making things better at the company


Since Bumble's blockbuster At the peak of the pandemic, investors' enthusiasm for IPOs and dating services has cooled down. At least, Bumble's shares are currently trading at around $11 per share, which is a lot less than the $76 it closed on its first day as a public company in February 2021.

Of course, investors are fickle, which is a challenge for almost every publicly traded company. The big concern for Bumble is user fatigue. People are no longer downloading dating apps as enthusiastically as before, which means less subscription revenue. Young people in particular are turning to other platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat, and even Discord, to find love.

Now, it's Lydian Jones' job to reverse these trends. That's a tall order, and one that has faced many CEOs tasked with rescuing organizations from the post-pandemic recession: in publishing, in retail, and in the automotive industry, among other sectors. Of course, the outcome is not certain. But Jones, who was recruited to Bumble in January from Slack — where he was also hired as a turnaround CEO and left after just 10 months — has a game plan, as he recently revealed. I recently told about the noise of a lunch meal in a restaurant in San Francisco.

Part of this has to do with AI, which Bumble's rivals are also putting more emphasis on. Part of this has to do with “margin expansion.” A big part of it, Jones told me, is simply restoring joy to an experience that is no longer fun for about half the participants. Much of that conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Like a lot of CEOs right now, you came into a situation where, almost immediately, you had to lay off people — in Bumble's case, 30% of its workforce of 1,200. That's a lot to figure out fast. How did you manage it?

I had some onboarding going on before I even started. [Bumble founder] whitney [Wolfe Herd] I was incredibly engaged in my onboarding, which gave me a quick path to learning the organization. She has been really helpful. I think it made a huge difference. I'm also a firm believer that if you're going to make a change, do it really thoroughly and do it thoughtfully, so you don't put the company through a long multi-step process.

You're relaunching the Bumble app in the second quarter of this year. I read that you're rethinking women making the first move, which sounds like a big change.

Our brand awareness is so high, it's amazing. And if you ask anyone about Bumble, they'll say it's about women, and its core isn't changing. We are a company that truly cares about women empowerment.

But as we approach our 10th anniversary, it's a great moment to think about how we best fulfill our mission. For us, it's really about how we express women empowerment today and for the next 10 years. What we really want is to go from women making the first step to women making the decisions [who should make the first move], We're giving women more control and flexibility based on what works for them.

Do you think that by inviting women to make the first move, Bumble has made an impact on who uses the platform? Friends have told me that men they have met on stage are more passive, sometimes even nervous.

Historically, we've seen a lot of men come to Bumble who believe in empowering women. I've heard that feedback about passive [men] A few times but not that much. Of course, our ultimate goal is to ensure that our customers have a great experience.

Other areas of focus for you are security and AI. What can Bumble users expect to see with this relaunch?

If you think about this incredible technological advancement in the context of dating, it is only as good and safe as the company's data and security practices. Our customers' privacy and trust have always been incredibly strong; We have always had a high standard for healthy relationships.

Over the last 10 years, we've developed a lot of AI and a lot of technology that actually protects behavior in the app, and we can tune the model to reflect our values ​​and security guidelines. But we want to take it even further. A big part of Bumble's DNA is advocating for policies that will ensure women feel safe, and we want to be at the forefront of not only promoting great technology developments but also advocating for policy for online safety Are.

Bumble has long conducted physical verification of its users to ensure that user profiles are not bots or scams, but it does not conduct criminal background checks. Is this changing with the help of AI?

Background check is what we are looking for. This is one we will definitely partner with differently [players], But this is a priority for me. I think this is an important next step for us.

What else should people know about the upcoming update?

This is really the beginning of a new pace of innovation for Bumble. This is the beginning of a new set of experiences. We're updating the profile experience, we're updating the visual language of the app, we want to feel more connected to our users and make the tone of voice fun and enjoyable. We're looking at AI to help enhance some of the inflection points in people's lives that are particularly anxiety-provoking, like profile creation, which can be really challenging. We really want dating to be fun again – that's really the key.

There's a lot to be done when dealing with user fatigue. Are there any new user acquisition strategies with the new app?

Bumble has always been great at community-based marketing: hosting events and finding ambassadors who really want to represent the brand. This was disrupted a bit during the pandemic; We're using this moment before our launch to restart a number of community-based events because there are so many people who are excited to connect again in person, and that's the starting point.

Bumble has always been about more than dating. Dating is a big part of that, but we've always believed that connection and friendship is needed, so we're expanding our investment in our friendship potential, because we believe that too many people are just starting out with dating. Want to go out with other people. From a friendship perspective, there are plenty of opportunities and unmet needs when it comes to local and safe in-person events.

Bumble for Friends was launched last year. Will we ever see you develop it as a standalone entity?

We are still collecting customer feedback. I have heard passionate cases from both. We are still searching for him.