Bumble's new CEO talks about her critical mission: to make things better at the company | Tech Crunch

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From Bumble's Blockbuster Investors' enthusiasm for dating service's IPO amid pandemic has cooled. At least, Bumble shares are currently trading at around $11 per share, a far cry from 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. Bumble's biggest concern is user fatigue. People aren't downloading dating apps as enthusiastically as they once were, which means less subscription revenue. Young people in particular are drawn to other platforms to find love, including TikTok, Snapchat and Discord.

Now, it's up to Lydian Jones to reverse these trends. That's a tall order, and one faced by many CEOs tasked with rescuing clothing from their post-pandemic doldrums: in publishing, in retail, and in the automotive industry, among other sectors. The result is far from certain. But Jones, recruited to Bumble in January from Slack — where she was also named turnaround CEO and left after just 10 months — has a game plan, as she recently described to the buzz of lunchtime diners at a San Francisco restaurant.

Part of that has to do with AI, which Bumble's rivals are also increasingly leaning toward. Part of that has to do with “margin expansion.” Much of that, Jones told me, restores joy to an otherwise unpleasant experience for about half of the participants. Much of that conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Like most CEOs these days, you almost immediately found yourself in a situation where you had to lay off people — in Bumble's case, 30% of the 1,200-person staff. It is very fast to detect. How did you manage it?

There's a little onboarding going on before I get started. (Bumble founder) Whitney (Wolf Herd) was very involved in my onboarding, which gave me a fast track to learning the organization. She was really supportive. I think it made a huge difference. I'm also a strong believer that if you're going to make a transition, be really thorough and thoughtful so you're not putting 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 seems like a big change.

Our brand awareness is very high, which is fantastic. And if you ask anyone about Bumble, they'll tell you it's about women, and the core of it doesn't change. We are an organization that truly cares about women empowerment.

But as we approach our 10-year anniversary, it's a great moment to think about how we can best serve our mission. For us, it's about how we manifest women's empowerment today and in the next 10 years. What we really want is to go from women making the first move to women deciding (who should make the first move). We're giving women more control and flexibility based on what works.

By inviting women to make the first move, do you think Bumble has had an impact on who uses the platform? Friends tell me that the men they meet on the platform are more passive, sometimes to their dismay.

Historically, what we've seen is that a lot of men come to Bumble who believe women are empowered. I've heard feedback a few times about passive (men) but not that much. Certainly, our ultimate goal is to provide our customers with a great experience.

Security and AI are other areas you should focus on. What can Bumble's users expect with this relaunch?

If you think about the advancement of this amazing technology in the context of dating, it's only as good and secure as the company's data and security practices. Our customers' privacy and their trust have always been very strong; We have always set a high bar for healthy connections.

Over the past 10 years, we've developed a lot of AI and a lot of technology that really protects in-app behavior and can tune models to reflect our values ​​and security guidelines. But we want to take it further. A big part of Bumble's DNA is advocating for ways women feel safer, and we want to be a leader not only in developing great technology, but also in policy advocacy for safety online.

Bumble has long done physical verification of its users to ensure user profiles aren't bots or scams, but it doesn't conduct criminal background checks. Will that change with the help of AI?

Background checks are one of the things we explore. It will definitely be a different partner (with players) for us. But that's important to 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 innovation for Bumble. It is the beginning of new experiences. We're updating the profile experience, we're updating the visual language of the app, we want to connect more with our users and make the tone of voice fun and joyful. We're looking at AI to help augment some particularly worrisome inflection points in people's lives, like profile creation, which can be really challenging. We really want dating to be fun again – that's really the key to it.

User fatigue is a lot to fight. Have a new user acquisition strategy along with a new app?

Bumble has always been great at community-based marketing: hosting events and finding ambassadors who really want to represent the brand. It was slightly disrupted during the pandemic; We're using this moment before our launch to relaunch a lot of community-based events, because a lot of people are excited to reconnect 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 in the need for connection and friendships, so we're expanding our investments in our friendship capacity because we believe most people want to start by hanging out. Out with other people. From a friendship perspective, when it comes to local and safe in-person events, there are tons of options out there, and not necessarily.

Bumble for Friends launched last year. Will we ever see you spin it off as an independent company?

We are still collecting customer feedback. I have heard passionate cases of both. We are still exploring it.

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