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Bumble’s new CEO talks about her big mission: making the company fun

Since the Bumble sensation The IPO came at the height of the pandemic, and investor enthusiasm for the dating service had cooled. At least, Bumble’s stock price is currently about $11 per share, a far cry from its closing price of $76 on its first day of trading in February 2021.

Of course, investors are fickle, which is a challenge for almost all public companies. Bumble is more worried about user fatigue. People are no longer as keen on downloading dating apps as they once were, which means less subscription revenue. Young people, especially, are more likely to find love on other platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat and even Discord.

Now, it’s LeDiane Jones’ job to reverse those trends. It’s a tall order, one faced by many CEOs tasked with rescuing businesses from the post-pandemic downturn: publishing, retail and the auto industry, among other industries. Of course, the outcome is far from certain. But Jones, who was poached from Slack to join Bumble in January — she was also hired as Slack’s CEO and left after just 10 months — has a game plan, as she recently told a San Francisco restaurant As explained by the din of diners at lunch.

Part of that has to do with artificial intelligence, and Bumble’s competitors are also leaning more toward artificial intelligence. Part of the reason has to do with “margin expansion.” Jones told me a big part of this was simply bringing back the fun to an experience that was no longer fun for nearly half of the participants. What follows is much of the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Like many CEOs these days, you’re almost immediately faced with having to lay off employees—in Bumble’s case, 30% of its 1,200 employees. There’s a lot to figure out quickly. how did you do it?

I did some onboarding before I even started. [Bumble founder] whitney [Wolfe Herd] I was very invested in the onboarding, which accelerated my path to understanding the organization. She was really supportive. I think that makes a huge difference. I’m also a firm believer that if you’re going to make a transformation, do it thoroughly and thoughtfully so that you don’t put the company through a long, multi-stage process.

You’re relaunching the Bumble app in the second quarter of this year. I read that you are reconsidering letting women make the first move, which seems like a big shift.

It’s amazing how well-known our brand is. If you ask anyone about Bumble, they’ll say it’s about women, and at its core that hasn’t changed. We are a company that truly cares about female empowerment.

But as our 10th anniversary approaches, it’s a good time to think about how we can best fulfill our mission. For us, this is really about how we express female empowerment today and in the next ten years.What we really want is a shift from women taking the first step to women deciding [who should make the first move]. We give women more control and flexibility based on their circumstances.

Do you think Bumble has had an impact on users of the platform by inviting women to take the first step? Friends tell me that the men they meet on the platform tend to be more passive, sometimes to their consternation.

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

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

If you think about the advancement of this incredible technology in the dating world, you’ll realize that it’s only as good and secure as the company’s data and security practices. Our customers’ privacy and their trust have always been strong; we have always had high standards for healthy connections.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve developed a lot of artificial intelligence and technology that can truly protect behavior in applications, and we can adjust models to reflect our values ​​and security guidelines. But we want to go one step further. A big part of Bumble’s DNA is advocating for policies that ensure women feel safe, and we want to be at the forefront of advancing technology and cybersecurity policy advocacy.

Bumble has long physically verified its users to ensure that user profiles are not bots or scams, but it does not conduct criminal background checks. Will this change with the help of artificial intelligence?

Background checks are something we are exploring.We will definitely work with different companies [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 truly the beginning of a new step in innovation for Bumble. This is the beginning of a new series of experiences. We’re updating the profile experience, we’re updating the visual language of the app, we want to feel more connected to users, and the tone becomes fun and happy. We’re looking to AI to help enhance some of the particularly anxiety-provoking inflection points in people’s lives, like profile creation, which can be really challenging. We really want dating to be fun again – that’s the key.

User fatigue is a lot to overcome. Is there a new user acquisition strategy for the new app?

Bumble has always been good at community-based marketing: hosting events and finding ambassadors who truly want to represent the brand. This has been somewhat disrupted during the pandemic. We’re using this moment leading up to launch to reignite a lot of community-based activity because there are so many people who are excited to reconnect in person, and that’s where it starts.

Bumble is about more than just dating, too. Dating is a big part of it, but we’ve always believed that connection and friendship are needed, so we’re expanding our investment in friendship capabilities because we believe a lot of people want to start hanging out with other people.

Bumble for Friends launched last year. Will we see you spin it off into a separate entity?

We are still collecting customer feedback. I’ve heard passionate cases about both. We’re still exploring this.

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