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Bumble Aims to Expand your Social Networks

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Dating app Bumble has seen tremendous success since its launch over two years ago, with more than 12.5 million registrations to date. Now, the company wants to expand their services to offer connections for friendship and business opportunities, too.

Bumble debuted as a dating app, differentiating itself from Tinder by putting the power of communication in the hands of women, who are required to make the first move. Since then, the company has launched Bumble BFF for people seeking friendships rather than romantic relationships, and it is about to release Bumble Biz to connect people for business networking.

According to Texas Monthly, Bumble Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe wants Bumble “to be the inverse of Facebook.”

“Facebook is really good at connecting you to people you know,” Wolfe said. “We want to connect you to people you don’t know.”

The company is going in an interesting direction. Most dating apps have tried to compete with Tinder by creating new features specifically for romantic connections, but Bumble is focused on connections of all types, catering to their female clientele. It's good to note however that they aren't the first online dating company to expand their service to include business connections. eHarmony launched Elevated Careers last year in order to connect job seekers and employers.

Wolfe spoke at SXSW last week in her company’s new home base – Austin, Texas. She said since the move from Silicon Valley, she and her staff aren’t part of the daily networking meetings, which has given them room to breathe and be creative. “In Silicon Valley you’re under constant pressure to do something or to be somewhere,” said Wolfe. “It’s given us a leg up because we’re not always focused on the opportunity to keep up with the Joneses,” she said.

Bumble also plans to expand from virtual to physical hubs, offering its members the chance to connect at specified locations for purposes of networking, sharing co-working space, and taking workshops the company plans to offer. It’s a way to get people to connect in real life, and to invest more time in the Bumble so they can solidify new relationships that develop from using the app.

It makes marketing sense to move in this direction, where more and more people are relying on LinkedIn and Facebook to point them to new relationship and business opportunities. If Bumble sees success, other dating apps might follow suit.

The challenge Bumble has faced, according to Texas Monthly, is that countries outside the U.S. can still be a bit traditional on the romantic front. French Bumble users, for instance, still prefer that men chase them, which makes asking women to reach out a difficult task.

But perhaps Bumble’s focus on women is moving other countries toward a more equitable dating culture, especially as more and more young women choose to use the app. Bumble remains an interesting company to watch.