Move Over Silicon Valley, Whitney Wolfe and Bumble Help Power Austin's Tech Scene

Whitney Wolfe's Bumble app is rewriting all the traditional rules of online dating and boosting Austin's tech-industry reputation as the new "Silicon Hills."

What inspired her to launch Bumble?

Many women have been facing a growing problem in online dating: trolling. It comes in the form of unsolicited pictures, wildly inappropriate comments toward women who are seeking long-term relationships rather than booty calls and can include misplaced aggression. When these interactions occur online, they're annoying and off-putting cases that discourage many women from using dating apps.

Fast Company reported that they found a 2013 Pew study in which 42% of women felt "harassed or uncomfortable" using dating apps, but only 17% of the men surveyed felt this way. Plus, a UKNCA report examined all the sexual-assault cases that have resulted from online dating and found that in far more than half of all assault incidents, the offender had greater expectations of some type of sexual activity during the date then the victim. It's no surprise that women are starting to feel more safe meeting people in person first rather than online since the profiles on dating apps are often misleading. The problem that has long plagued dating-app creators is how to create a place where women can feel safe and find good matches while preventing sexual harassment.

Whitney Wolfe has always felt passionately about preventing online bullying and harassment of all kinds, so she decided to create a dating app that puts women first to stop online-harassment cases. She received some good advice on getting started from Andrey Andreev, the founder of Europe's social network Badoo. They soon became business partners and launched the Austin-based dating app called "Bumble" together.

How does Bumble work, and why is it so popular?

With the Bumble app, both men and women express interest by simply tapping a photo on a profile they like, much like Tinder, and the app recognizes a connection only when both people liked each other's profiles first. However, the big difference is that only women can make the first contact after both parties have agreed they're interested in each other.

The success of this app has been tremendous. By August of 2016, the Whitney Wolfe shared with Fast Company that the app has had at least 25 billion total profile views and more than 7 million users with less than 1 percent of them complaining about the app. An average of 350,000 women initiate conversations through Bumble daily.

Another groundbreaking statistic for Bumble is that they have almost exactly an even number of both men and women using the app, a previously "unheard-of" accomplishment in the online-dating industry, according to Vanity Fair. Also, Bustle reported that Match.com has about 60% women, and the Hinge app has only a 30% female user base. The founders are especially proud of that number because one of their main goals was to bring more equality between the genders into the dating space. Whitney deliberately promotes her app as a feminist one, but it has the ultimate goal of bringing a greater balance between the sexes in the dating world.

Whitney told Vanity Fair magazine that:

"On Bumble, by having the lady make the first move, [the man] doesn’t feel rejection or aggression —- he feels flattered. That one little shift, that one little change, makes all the difference. It guides the conversation in a very different way, and that sets the tone for that conversation, that relationship, that friendship, whatever that is, to be a confident one."

Related: Whitney Wolfe, founder of dating app Bumble, has had quite the year. She just can’t discuss parts of it.

What's in store for Bumble's future?

Bumble's founders have plans to expand in creative, new ways that are very promising for changing the online social-network sphere as well. Whitney Wolfe told Texas Monthly that Bumble is becoming a place where you can make platonic and professional connections too. The friend-finder version has the name "Bumble BFF", and the upcoming professional version will have the name "Bumble Biz." In order to go even further in creating safe spaces for potential matches to meet each other in real life, Wolfe announced that Bumble will be opening what she likes to call "social hives." These hot spots in Austin can also function as co-working spaces and meet-up locations for friends and business connections as well.

Bumble is open to sexual diversity too. For example, the app is currently open for anyone in the LGBTQ community, and anyone in a same-sex match can start the conversation.

Another big factor that sets Bumble apart from other dating apps out there is that Whitney Wolfe has focused intently since the beginning on creating a solid team of people who all have the same vision. She admits that when hiring, cultural fit is a non-negotiable topic. Bumble's workers share a common value of always treating each other well and making sure that all their users treat each other well also.

Here's why Austin was the perfect home base for Bumble:

Austin's tech industry is booming from the contributions of great apps like Bumble that thrive in Austin's hot, new start-up environment. More and more entrepreneurs are considering heading out to Austin rather than settling in Northern California for a lot of good reasons. For instance, California charges some of the highest state taxes in America while Texas actually has no state taxes. Housing in Austin is also much cheaper than California real estate. The overall cost of living in Texas is also much more affordable. Plus, Austin's Chamber of Commerce has openly declared that they will go out of their way to accommodate start-up companies however they can in order to promote the local economy. Unlike other cities in Texas, Austin is a highly diverse cultural hub, attracting international events like SXSW. The city is overflowing with local talent in the tech world from the University of Texas. It should come as no surprise then that more than 4,700 tech and software companies have settled down in Austin's Silicon Hills, attracting greater than $1 billion dollars in 2014 alone.

Want to learn more about Whitney Wolfe? Follow her on Instagram.


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