When Whitney Wolfe founded Bumble, the popular swipe-based dating app where women make the first move, she wasn’t out to start a dating app revolution—she just wanted to create a way to bring accountability to the online dating realm. But the app’s major boom has shown that the dating space needed a different approach.

Now, as the company is in its second year, Bumble is expanding the platform to allow different kinds of connections instead of just romantic ones. Wolfe outlined plans for the app’s future at South by Southwest, including many new features that are just around the corner.

Bumble beginnings

Gari Askew/SXSW

Whitney Wolfe.

The idea for Bumble was born after Wolfe’s messy departure from Tinder, which has a reputation of being more hookup-focused than relationship-focused. On Tinder and other sites, it’s common for women to receive aggressive messages and (ahem) unsolicited photos from their matches, which might drive users away. 

“I asked myself, ‘How can we make the dating space safer for women?’” Wolfe said.

To avoid this problem, on Bumble, women must make the first move and initiate contact before a match can message her back, flipping the old “the man has to call first” trope on its head. Wolfe said that because of this ingrained social norm, people genuinely didn’t expect Bumble’s model to be successful at first. 

“When you do something that will challenge the status quo, you will be told ‘no,’ because people don’t like change, generally,” Wolfe said. Bumble has gained 12.5 million user registrations since its launch. 

Bumble has other features that help maintain the app’s safe environment as well—its reporting and banning system boots users out for bad behavior. A facial identification feature is rolling out soon, which will verify a person’s true identity by looking for duplicate photos and other red flags with a goal of kicking the catfishers to the curb. When a user passes the test, they’ll receive a verification checkmark.

An app for everyone 

Wolfe doesn’t see the dating app market as crowded and doesn’t necessarily see these other apps—Tinder, Match, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, and so on—as competitors, because Bumble is going after a very specific user. “This is for women. Women are 50 percent of the planet, and women are required to be 50 percent of a relationship. The market has never been geared toward us.”

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