Match Group CEO Speaks Out On Competition From Bumble And Facebook

Match Group
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As one of the only female CEOs of a publicly-traded tech company, Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg was certain to make headlines. But even Ginsberg herself could not have predicted how dramatic her first year in the role would be.

In March, the company filed a patent infringement lawsuit against competitor Bumble in Texas. The suit accused Bumble of stealing trade secrets and infringing on two patents held by Tinder, a Match Group-owned company. Bumble responded with an acerbic full page ad in the New York Times admonishing Match Group for its “scare tactics,” “endless games”, and the “assumption that a baseless lawsuit would intimidate [Bumble].”

The story blew up, quickly becoming the legal scandal heard round the dating world. It was only Ginsberg’s second month as CEO.

By month three, Bumble had filed a $400 million lawsuit against Match Group in response.

Then, in May, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the 2018 F8 developer conference to announce that Facebook would launch a dating service. Match Group’s share price plunged 22% in a single day.

“Are you suggesting that drama follows me?” Ginsberg quipped when asked about Match Group’s recent travails during Fortune’s Brain Storm TECH conference in Aspen, Colo.

Though the market and the media reacted strongly to the news, Ginsberg remains optimistic that Match Group will retain its place in the industry. Serious daters know this is a volume game, she says.

“When you really want to get out there and meet someone, you’re usually on more than one [app], usually three,” she told Fortune. “While I’d never underestimate Facebook, we focus on just one thing.”

Ginsberg cites demographics as another reason to stay sanguine about competition from Facebook.

“Tinder’s our big growth engine, and Tinder tends to skew very young, so 18 to 25. Facebook does not skew that young in general,” she told Recode’s Kurt Wagner. “If you’re a 23-year-old and you’re going to be using two or three apps, definitively, we think you’re going to use one of our apps, most likely Tinder.”

She also believes that Match Group’s advertising strategy will play a role in the company’s continued growth in the face of Facebook dating. No more than 5 percent of Match Group’s revenue comes from advertising, Ginsberg claims, a stark contrast to Facebook’s astronomical 98.5 percent. The numbers may influence users’ concerns about privacy, and in our increasingly connected world, successfully safeguarding consumer data is a huge selling point.

“It used to be, prior to last year, that if you joined Tinder, you had to join through Facebook,” Ginsberg added. “When given the option for new users coming through, 75 percent of people said, ‘I’d just rather use my phone and not use Facebook,’ even though it was the second option and Facebook was the big option on top. So it was clear that they wanted to separate their dating world from their Facebook world.”

As for the turf war with Bumble, Ginsberg takes a positive approach. On the podcast Recode Decode, she opened up to host Kara Swisher about the scathing NYT letter and her feelings on Bumble’s CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd.

“It bothered me only because when people know me and meet me and especially have worked with me, they know that I have integrity, and certainly the last thing in the world you’d ever call me is a bully, for sure,” she said of the ad. “But it’s also, you know, this is a highly competitive space.”

She had kind words for Herd: “There’s not been a lot of women in the category. So it’s nice to see. And I think that, given what she’s done with this brand, [she’s] done a really nice job.”