The dating app Bumble launched to much acclaim in December 2014. Based on a north-star value of female empowerment, the app was the first to offer a unique twist on the Tinder dating format: after a pair had matched online, a woman had to make the first move. But although the organization may have started by putting the ball in the woman’s court for romance, the brand had bigger ideas about how the format could grow.
“A dating app was never the end goal of Bumble,” says Emily Ramshaw—the company’s country lead in Canada—on the line from Toronto. “We always wanted to expand. I think we tend to put a lot of value on romantic relationships as the be all and end all, but, in truth, friendships and business relationships are just as important and valuable to a full life.”
Three years after it launched as a dating platform, Bumble rolled out a new focus: Bumble Bizz. Concentrated entirely on allowing individuals to find professional friendships and mentorship opportunities, Bizz was created to counter the anxieties of big-room business meet-ups and offer women a sense of certainty when navigating the grey areas of networking that can make them feel uncomfortable.
“[Bumble Bizz] is providing tools and a safe place to initiate those relationships,” Ramshaw says. “Like dating, there are lots of dynamics in the networking world, and there can be misogynistic tendencies there as well. Often women are approached to meet for coffee [as professionals], and you don’t know whether it’s really aboveboard or whether they’re straight-up asking if you’ll go out with them. The app lets women feel safe, supported, and in control.”
As in the dating portion of the app, women are required to initiate the conversation in a business context.
“The idea is that if women are making the first move in something as relatively small as just saying hello, that makes a ripple effect,” Ramshaw says. “If you feel empowered and supported to start a conversation with someone new, you might also feel able to do that in other areas of your life. If you can make the first move on Bumble, you can make the first move when you see someone at a network event and you want to talk to someone and introduce yourself. Or you can make the first move when you’re asking for a raise.”
Bumble Bizz is easily accessed via the Bumble app. Those not interested in its dating or friend-finding service, Bumble BFF, can switch those portions off. (The moment you opt out is time-stamped, so businesspeople can swipe on Bizz without worrying about upsetting their significant other.) New users add a professional-style head shot and highlights from their résumé, including education and past jobs. It’s possible to specify exactly why a person is using Bizz—whether they are looking for a mentor, a job, or a graphic designer for a logo, for example—and the app gives the option of showcasing images of an individual’s work if they’re in a creative profession. Lastly, Bizz presents the option of filtering how far away a match is, the amount of experience they have, or which industry they’re part of. Then the users swipe.
“I think it just changes the game in terms of access and makes networking available to everyone, from a 23-year-old recent graduate who might have no idea how to approach an industry they want to be a part of to someone who’s been working for 30 years and hasn’t been in touch with people on the ground in a long time,” Ramshaw says. “Especially for women, that’s so important. Often it’s difficult to navigate what will actually bring you value in your career.”
Having recently celebrated the milestone of four million Bumble registrations in Canada—more than 10 percent of the population—the company is organizing a number of events in Vancouver, where Ramshaw suggests the app has gained particular traction. After recent gatherings around Galentines Day and International Women’s Day, the company is planning to put on a meet-up to celebrate Equal Pay Day around April 9—the date that symbolizes how far into the new year women must work to earn what their male counterparts did in 2018.
“We’ve recently introduced the option just to network with women on Bizz,” Ramshaw says. “Now we have this ability, we’re doing a big focus on mentorship and giving back to women actively with your time rather than just with money, and actually making a difference in the lives of women around us.”