The business model of Bumble

  • Business Model Shifts

In a previous, less digital era, you would meet your significant other via friends and family, or at a local establishment. But ever since the introduction of online dating, the way we meet our lovers has changed drastically.


You’ve got mail

The concept of finding love online was introduced in the mid-90’s by and went mainstream when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fell in love online in the movie You’ve got mail.

However, most of the original online dating platforms came with a lot of obstacles in their business model. When you signed-in, you needed to fill in a long questionnaire in order to find your match. And even before you could start chatting with people, you had to pay-up-front, not knowing who was waiting for you. On top of the lack of trust and transparency, the average online dater back in the day was seen as desperate or awkward.  So there were many reasons why the online dating industry didn’t become very big very early on.


Swipe for action

One of the people who changed the online dating landscape forever was Whitney Wolfe. After she graduated from college, she was looking for a job when she met Sean Red. Wolfe joined his team in the development of first-ever dating app Tinder. With the introduction of the smart phone and 3G, there were way more opportunities for people to connect throughout the day and Tinder leveraged this technology development. They created a simple interface that shows you a profile picture, if you like the other person you swipe right, if you don’t you swipe left. If the other person swipes you right you have a match and can start chatting with them, or you can choose to keep on playing. Turning online dating from serious and awkward into a gamified experience. Making it interesting to play even if you weren’t looking for romance.

In 2014, Wolfe left Tinder after she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against some of the executives at the company. Leaving her with lots of media attention, something she wasn’t ready for at all. When she finally regained her motivation to start a new company she was approached by British-Russian entrepreneur Andree Andrev who asked her to become CMO of Badoo, one of the biggest dating platforms.

Wolfe didn’t want to get back into the dating game, but eventually she changed her mind motivated by the idea that the system was broken. Experiencing the problem first-hand, she discovered she wasn’t’ the only one who felt uncomfortable in the online dating space. A lot of other woman also had bad experiences, or they received unwanted message from the opposite sex. Whitney wanted to create app that restored the trust in online dating again. So together with her team, and backed by Andrev, she launched Bumble; the first ever women-centric dating app.


Who run the world?

Bumble encourages woman to break the stigma of dating in which the man is expected to make the first move, the women waits and they both play hard to get in the process.

Whitney created several features to make this work. First of all, Bumble started using verification tools, making it impossible to have a fake profile, regaining trust of its users. Second, when two people match, it’s only the girl who can start a chat. In a homosexual match, both parties can reach out to each other. In addition, after a match is made there is only a 24-hour slot to start a conversation before the match disappears. Inviting people to start making meaningful connecting rather than just swiping for the fun of it. On top of it, Bumble has a zero-tolerance policy on sexism & bad behaviour. The secure image of the app really appealed to a lot of women and because more women started using the app, more men started using it as well. However, this time it was the women who were in charge of managing the conversation.


Business model canvas of Bumble


Making valuable connections

From the start Bumble focused on breaking the traditional stigma of dating leading Bumble to be the 2nd biggest player behind Tinder, showcasing the effect of what Whitney Wolfe achieved. But she didn’t stop at making matches in the dating area only. In 2016, Wolfe and her team launched Bumble BFF. Same concept and interface, but there to match people who are looking for friends. In 2017, Bumble Bizz was launched. Again, same concept and interface but matching professionals. Transforming Bumble from an online dating app into a platform that creates valuable connections in all areas of your life.


This case is part of the research for our new book Business Model Shifts.


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